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The important thing is to go to God. That right there is how Psalm 5 defines righteousness. God himself does all the rest.
1 For the director of music. For pipes. A psalm of David. Listen to my words, LORD, consider my lament.
2 Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.
3 In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.
4 For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome.
5 The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong;
6 you destroy those who tell lies. The bloodthirsty and deceitful you, LORD, detest.
7 But I, by your great love, can come into your house; in reverence I bow down toward your holy temple.
8 Lead me, LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies– make your way straight before me.
9 Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with malice. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongues they tell lies.
10 Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you.
11 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.
12 Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield. (Psalm 5 NIV)
The Psalter has few characters: God, His Son, God’s friends, and God’s enemies. In describing the Psalter, no matter how politically objectionable such a description may appear, there are few to no tones of gray, just black and white. One of the basic black and white facts of the Psalter is the contrast between the righteous and the unrighteous. Psalm 5 contributes to the Psalter the first detailed portrait of unrighteousness and contrasts this portrait with details about the righteous.
I. The speaker is an unnamed single person throughout, although verse 12, the closing verse, could be spoken by the ever-present narrator/chorus common to many of the psalms, especially in the closing verses. Clearly, the speaker places himself among the righteous.
II. Contrasts between the righteous and the unrighteous.
A. The righteous speaker of the psalm–
1. approaches God to reverently speak to him in worship and humility (verses 1-3 and 7b).
2. God receives, welcomes, enjoys, blesses, and protects the righteous who come to him (verses 7a and 11-12).
3. The one and only positive characteristic of righteousness described in this psalm is the fact of the righteous ones approaching God to speak with him and shelter in his presence.
B. The characteristics of those who come are–
1. the fact that they come
2. they want to speak with God and shelter in his presence
3. they believe in God’s existence and voluntarily place him high above themselves
“… LORD …” (vss 1, 3, 6, 8, 12)
“… my King and my God …” (vs 2)
“… O God …” (vs 10)
4. they are happy and joyful when protected by God (vs 11)
5. and by inference, they are truthful, not arrogant, and not desirous of harming others (vss 4-10).
C. The unrighteous, as described by the speaker of the psalm–
1. do not please God (vs 4a) and are not welcomed by him (vs 4b)
2. they are arrogant and cannot stand before God, who hates all wrong, including arrogance (vs 5).
3. they tell lies, seek to harm others (bloodthirsty), and are deceitful (vs 6)
4. the Lord, who by inference is honest, loving, and truthful detests them (vs6)
5. they display enmity towards the speaker
6. all their words are untrustworthy, reeking of death, and deceitful (vs 9)
7. their hearts are filled with ill will (malice) toward others (vs 9)
8. they plan intrigues and they rebel against God (vs 9)
9. and their end is to be banished (vs 10).
III. What can we make of all this?
A. If the reader is already on God’s side and knows it, then Psalm 5 gives comfort and encouragement (vss 1-3, 7, 11-12).
B. It seems reasonable to conclude that Jesus Christ is the speaker of this psalm, because only a completely holy and humble one could in honest self-examination speak such stark realities, and, we know that Jesus had many enemies who verbally attacked him on every occasion. What we know of his life, words, and actions corresponds well with the portrait of the psalmist given here.
C. If the reader is not on God’s side and knows it, most likely Psalm 5 would add fuel to an already angry fire.
D. If the reader has academic interest only, there might not be a personal response.
IV. My Personal Takeaway
Love for God is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-10). Fear of God is a gift from God (Proverbs 9:10). The very best action in life that anyone can ever take is to approach God in order to ask his forgiveness and blessing. A first step is to approach God and ask him, period. What are the questions? God, do you exist? God, do you see me? A second step is to approach God with personal statements that summarize current heart conditions (confession) and combine those with a request. To request from God is to express humility before him. For example, “God, do you exist? I don’t see you, I don’t hear you, you are not real to me, but I want you. Please show yourself to me in a way that I can see, hear, and understand.” Another example, “God, right now I hate you. But I’m not satisfied with this condition. Please help me not to hate you.” Or, “God, I don’t believe in you, but if you are real, I want to know that. Please take away the hatred in my heart that I have towards you, so that I may see you.” There are endless possibilities, but one final example, “God, I think that I am righteous. What do you say?”
As I read Psalm 5, I see two kinds of people: 1) there are those who want an all-powerful, good God, and 2) there are those who don’t want such a God. In life, we ourselves cannot classify people as starkly black or white, starkly righteous or unrighteous. Our world is gray. We see so-called bad people doing good things and so-called good people doing bad things. We see all people doing both good things and bad things. This is why we are not to judge others. We can only judge ourselves, and even that judgment may be skewed; our own vision is not to be trusted.
God’s vision is much clearer than ours, and Scripture teaches that God has an exact, x-ray-like vision that makes no mistakes (Hebrews 4:12). If you want God, then go to him; he will not turn you away. If you do not want God, but you want to want him, then go to God and ask him for that. If you hate God, go to him anyway, and just say to him, “Oh all right! Why should I?” If you don’t care about God, then go to him anyway and say, “God, I don’t care about you one way or the other. You are irrelevant to me. But if you want me, here I am. You know where to find me. I’m not helping you in that. But I’m here.” The important thing is to go to God. That right there is how Psalm 5 defines righteousness. God himself does all the rest. If you don’t know how to go to God, then go to God and ask him to show you how you should go to him…and on and on and on.
19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:19-21 ESV)