Psalm 5
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
This psalm seems to have been written for, or handed to the leader of a special choir, that he might adapt music for its use in sanctuary worship; not necessarily that of the temple - for its composition was probably anterior to the erection of that building - but for use in the services of that temporary structure which preceded it, and which, though but temporary, and even fragile in a material sense, was nevertheless in a high and holy sense the dwelling-place of God, yea, "the palace of the great King." Note: No material splendours of gold, silver, and precious stones can make a temple without the Real Presence; but however humble the structure, the Real Presence therein will make it a temple of God. Whether David was actually the penman of this psalm or no, matters not. It is evidently the composition of a true saint of God, and reflects in its several verses the spirit of the time and circumstances under which it was written. And not only so. But it shows us that the saints of olden time were wont to regard the house of God as a house of prayer, and to let their prayers be an unburdening of the heart to God on every matter of immediate and pressing concern. Note: In our prayers in God's house we have no need to include everything in one service. Nor are we bound to use the words of another's prayers, except as far as they suit our case at the line. Still less need we rack and tear such a psalm as this to find in it the whole gospel. That would not only be a strange anachronism, but we should even lose very much by missing the historic setting and aim of the psalm. Who cannot find comfort in the obvious fact that the Old Testament saints, in their prayers, used to tell God everything, just as it seemed to them, and as they felt about it? There is no greater boon in life than to have a friend who will never misunderstand us, and to whom we can tell anything, knowing that he will hide all our folly in his loving forgetfulness, and sympathize with all our cares. Such perfection of friendship is found in God alone. And we have in this psalm a beautiful illustration of the use which the psalmist made thereof.

I. THE PSALMIST LAYS THE ENTIRE SITUATION BEFORE GOD. (Vers. 8, 9, "mine enemies," equivalent to" those that lie in wait for me.") The whole of the ninth verse shows the treachery and hollowness that mark the hostile bands, and the consequent peril in which the people of God were on that account. (This verse is one of those quoted by the Apostle Paul in proof of human depravity. Nor is there any contrariety to reason in his so doing. For while the psalm speaks of all this wickedness in its relation to society, St. Paul speaks of similar wickedness in its relation to the Law of God and to the God of law. And it is because the psalmist knows how foreign to the nature of God all this iniquity is, that he brings it before God in prayer, and asks him to put it to shame.) Note: Let us learn to pray minutely, and not to lose ourselves in generalities.

II. IN DOING THIS HE RECOGNIZES AN ENDEARING RELATION. (Ver. 2.) "My King," "my God." God was not a far-distant Being, only remotely related. The name "Jehovah" brought him near as Israel's redeeming God; and that very name, which removes us infinitely from anthropomorphism, was the one in which the saints of old found their joy and glory. They could call God flair God. Under the New Testament our thoughts of God may be more sweet and endearing still.

III. HE OBSERVES A DEVOUT AND WISE METHOD IN HIS PRAYER. "In the morning I will direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up. The meaning is - I will order it accurately, and then look out to see whether it has sped, and when the answer will come. (Many of the old divines are very felicitous in their treatment of these two words.) Sometimes, indeed, the yearning Godward is too deep for outward expression (see ver. 1, "consider my meditation," i.e. understand my murmuring). "Lord, read the desires of my heart by thine all-piercing eye - and interpret my petitions in thine own loving-kindness before they rise to my lips." Happy they who know that they have a God with whom they can thus plead, and who have learned the blessed art of thus pleading with God!

IV. HE SETS HIS APPLICATION ON SUBSTANTIAL GROUNDS. (Vers. 4-6.) The psalmist knows the character of God, and the righteousness of his administration; and in these verses he shows us how real was the revelation on these great themes which God had given in his Law (see Psalm 103:6, 7). All these glorious disclosures of the holiness of God are reiterated and confirmed in the teaching and redemption of the Son of God. (For the specific phrases, see the Exposition; also Perowne and Cheyne.) It is because we know what God is, and the principles of his government, that we can under all circumstances commend ourselves, the Church, and the world to him.


1. For himself. (Ver. 8.) Beautiful! He wants

(1) to go along God's way, not his own;

(2) to be shown clearly what that way is; and then

(3) to be led along that way.

He who thus puts himself into God's hand, wanting only to be led aright, shall never be put to shame.

2. For the people of God. (Ver. 11.) He prays that in the midst of the whirl and tumult which surround them, the righteous may ever ring out a peal of joy because of God's protecting care and love.

3. For evil ones. (Ver. 10.) He prays that they may be

(1) held guilty and condemned for their transgressions. Yea

(2) rejected by God, even as they had themselves rejected God.

We are not bound to imitate the psalmist in such petitions. Jesus Christ tells us that the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than the greatest of Old Testament prophets. They could not rise above the level of their inspiration, nor advance in prayer beyond the point their understanding had reached in those days. For us it would be far more appropriate to pray for the conversion of God's enemies by the power of his love and grace.

VI. THERE IS HERE A CONFIDENT ASSURANCE EXPRESSED. (Ver. 12, "Thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous... as with a shield.") The word means, not a small shield which may be held out to ward off a dart, but a large buckler which can cover one around as with armour. So effective are the Divine protection and care with which he guards his own. May such protection ever be ours!

VII. IT IS WORTHY OF NOTE AT WHAT HOUR OF THE DAY THIS PRAYER IS OFFERED. We are twice told in the third verse, "in the morning." The early morn, when the frame is freshest and the spirit freest, is the best time for devotion. The early hours, when sanctified by prayer, will help us to sanctify the whole day for God. Before ever we look upon the face of man, let us catch a morning smile from our Father in heaven; and we shall find how true it is that -

"His morning smiles bless all the day." C.

Every new day the priests began anew the service of God in the temple. The altar was set in order, the lamb was made ready, and as soon as the sign of day was given the morning sacrifice was offered (Leviticus 6:5; Numbers 28:4). In this there was a lesson for all times. Every new day calls for a fresh consecration of ourselves to God. "When first thine eyes unveil, give thy soul leave to do the like" (Vaughan). In this morning prayer we find

I. FAITH IN GOD'S FATHERLY CHARACTER. The cry, "Give ear," is that of a child to its father. The priests stood for others. They offered sacrifices not only for themselves, but for the people. But for us there is but one Priest and one Sacrifice. Through Christ we have access to God as our Father, and can cry to him for help in every time of need (Ephesians 2:16; Hebrews 4:16).

II. CONFIDENCE IN GOD'S HOLY RULE. (Vers. 3-7.) The psalmist speaks of what he knows. God is just and holy. The more we think, the more will our confidence grow. We rise from the faith that God is our Father, to the grand belief that he is "King," and that he will defend the right. But let us keep in mind what sin is. Some in these days make light of sin. It is an inherited weakness, a necessary evil for which circumstances are to be blamed more than the sinner. These and such-like excuses are made, and, if this is not enough, it is said, "Somehow things will come right. If not here, yet in the future world all will be well. To such the "wrath" of God is but a figure of speech, and "hell" the invention of our slavish fears. Against all such dangerous teaching, let us place the wholesome doctrine of the psalmist and of our Lord.

III. EXPECTATION OF GOD'S GRACIOUS INTERPOSITION. (Vers. 8-10.) Help is needed, and earnestly implored. The cry is not for mere personal ease or comfort, but for such deliverance as shall be for God's glory. The soul is in sympathy with God, and can not only pray, but "look up" with the patience of hope.

1. Guidance. (Ver. 9.) We confess our weakness; but we east ourselves on God for help. He is our Shepherd. We trust his love, and surrender ourselves to his leading. It is for him to go before; it is for us as his sheep to hear his voice and follow him.

2. Defence. (Ver. 11.) When Luther was asked at Augsburg where he should find shelter if his patron, the Elector of Saxony, deserted him, his answer was, "Under the shield of Heaven" This shield is for all. Other defences may fail; but here we are safe from all the assaults of the enemy.

3. Blessedness. (Ver. 12.) God is pledged to his people by his character as well as by his covenant. Trust in him awakens joy - pure, ardent, comforting, not like the joy of the fool (Ecclesiastes 7:6), but real and abiding, as God's Name. Trust also calls forth praise. What Jeremiah said in the pit, God's people say in the sunshine, O Lord, there is none like unto thee. They are as Naphtali, "satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 33:23). Therefore they sing, "There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky. The eternal God is thy Refuge" (Deuteronomy 33:26, 27). - W.F.

The psalmist prays to be delivered from, not open persecution, but the scoff and scourge of the tongue at all goodness and service to God. When irreligion prevails, it is difficult to resist it and stand firm in our allegiance to God.


1. He prays God as the Highest to hearken to his meditations, his words, and his cry. All true prayer begins in thought or meditation, goes on to express itself in uttered words, and rises at last into an earnest cry. Not till we muse on our own needs and difficulties does the fire of devotion burn; then do we break into earnest pleading, and deep, if not loud, cries.

2. The urgency and eagerness of his suit. In the morning, at the earliest opportunity, at the time of the morning sacrifice in the temple, do I wait upon thee with my prayer. Urgent matters take precedence of all others, and we cannot rest till we set about them.

3. He waited expectant for the answer to his prayer. (Ver. 3.) "Watched" - or looked out, not "up" - to see what came of it, and how it would be answered. This is both natural and reasonable; for God has promised to answer true prayer.

II. THE GROUND OF HIS PRAYER. God is the righteous God, and as such:

1. He has no sympathy with the ways of the wicked. (Ver. 4.) Not when they seem to prosper - in trade, politics, or open irreligion. And they seem to prosper only for a time.

2. God has no fellowship with the irreligious. (Ver. 5.) "The foolish shall not stand in thy sight;' or before thee, as favoured courtiers stand in the presence of a king. God has no gracious intercourse or communion with wicked men. Therefore I can ask for his help with confidence; for he is gracious to the righteous.

3. The false and the cruel are doomed to perish. (Ver. 6.) Their own devices destroy them; that is God's appointment. God's action is commonly by law, anti not by personal interference; he abhors and destroys men by the opposition of his laws to all deceit and cruelty.

III. THE FREEDOM AND AWE OF THE PSALMIST IN DRAWING NIGH TO GOD. (Ver. 7, "I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy loving-kindness.") The wicked cannot stand in thy sight; but I can. Note:

1. The freedom and confidence of trite worship. He feels the infinite mercy and privilege of enjoying access to God.

2. The arm of God felt in all true worship. "In thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple." When freedom and reverence are blended, then is our worship the truest and most acceptable. - S.

This second strophe of the psalm is very much like the first in substance, the matter running parallel with vers. 3-7. The fundamental thought on which all is based is that of the righteousness of God. The whole prayer is framed on that conception.


1. For righteous guidance. "Lead me in thy righteousness; make thy way [the right way] plain to me."

2. For righteous deliverance. The unrighteous lay in wait for him - threatened his safety. There was "no faithfulness in their mouth;" they used slander and treachery when they dared not use open violence. Their inward part, their souls. were full of evil designs and purposes. "Their throat is like an open sepulchre," which yawns for his destruction. Their speech, fair and smooth, to flatter and put him off his guard and lure him on. With them, mouth, heart, throat, and tongue are all instruments of evil; and their malice was such that he needed the care and guidance of the righteous power above.

II. A PRAYER FOR RIGHTEOUS RETRIBUTION. (Ver. 10.) Punish. "The word properly signifies such a decision and judgment as would show and manifest what sort of neighbours they are when their ungodly dispositions are disclosed and every one is made known." Show them guilty. Let them fall through or because of their own counsels. Their counsels are of such an evil nature that they must in the end ensure their destruction. By means of their transgressions thrust them away - the same thought in substance as the last. But the great argument for retribution is - they have rebelled against thee. The enemies of the psalmist are the enemies of God. God's cause and that of his people are the same. Whoso toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine eye; "Saul, Saul, why porsecutest thou me?"

III. PRAYER FOR THE REALIZATION OF A RIGHTEOUS JOY. ("Vers. 11, 12.) This joy proceeds:

1. From the sense of refuge and defence we have in God.

2. From the love we have to God, for his goodness and righteousness.

3. From the knowledge we have that God does assuredly bless the righteous. - S.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
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