But let all who take refuge in you be glad
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
Psalm 5 v11
Psalm 5 is curious. In Psalms 1,2 and 3 we are told of God's faithfulness and how he rewards those who seek him. Little demand is made on God to meet the needs of his people, the reciprical relationship is simply stated. In Psalm 4 David is finding that the promises of the first three psalms cannot be assumed. Sometimes God witholds his blessing for reasons known only to him. That doesn't mean that he is fickle or capricious - its because we are presumptious and shallow; as the saying goes: "easy come, easy go". In Psalm 5 David is in distress like in Psalm 4 but this time he doesn't demand an answer or an action, only that God listens. "In the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation." I wonder if, in the depths of despair and fully conscious of his own sinfulness - in no doubt that God is his only hope (Psalm 4), that David can see clearly the grace and mercy of God. The lack of urgency here suggests that there is no crisis but there are undercurrents that worry the king. He is still conscious of his need for God but not so conscious of God's presence.
He begins by asking God to keep an open ear and proceeds to describe those that God will not listen to - "The arrogant cannot stand in your presence." Further on he asks God to "Banish them for their many sins" but to "bless the righteous." Where is Jesus' call to love your enemies and bless those who curse you. Is this not hypocritical? Where does David get off on pointing the finger? The key, I think, is where David says, "Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies - make straight your way before me." Notice how he says 'your way' not 'my way'. In separating the righteous from the wicked he isn't making a distinction between them and us. His hesitation in demanding God come to his aid is because he's finding it difficult to distinguish who are the wicked. Don't you think he is fearful that 'they' are more righteous then 'he'. Where does he stand if God answers their prayers and not his: "Lead me BECAUSE of my enemies".
We can be so sure of the justice of our cause, while dismissing others as 'wicked'. Hosni Mubarak has stepped down and Egypt will hopefully be free from tyrany but the people of Egypt are not going to look favourably on the West because it was us who supported the dictator. Who was more wicked - the repressive regime or the Western governments that supported it for their own ends? "Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you." For me this is the highlight of the psalm. When David asks the LORD to lead him in righteousness he is asking that God cover his sin. He asks God for a straight path otherwise he'll get lost on the way. We are so hopeless and sinful we even need God to help us pray and not be too particular about who he listens to. Compare Psalm 130:
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
O Lord hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand.
Scripture quotations taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (c) 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission.