Again, the psalmist (here David according to the heading) barges into the presence of God and demands attention, consideration, and an ear. Why? Because YHWH is the psalmist’s king and God and the one to whom David pleads.
What strikes me about this prayer is the rhetoric of theological reflection: David ponders the very nature of God (vv. 4-6) as he enters into his petition of protection from the slander of his enemies. David, unlike his opponents, can approach God because David is reverent before God and counts on God’s own faithfulness. He pleads his cause before YHWH for two reasons (vv. 8-9 and vv. 10-12). As always, we are reading alongside the Psalms the commentary of John Goldingay (Psalms, Vol. 1: Psalms 1-41
Goldingay observes that v 3 has an unusual order: YHWH’s listening precedes David’s prayer. Every morning, the psalmist says, You listen and therefore I enter into your presence in prayer and petition.
In vv 4-6 the psalmist enters into reflection: he knows what God is like and that means two things: YHWH will listen to him and will bring justice against his enemies — evil, arrogant and liars. There is some offputting to many moderns (and esp postmoderns) about this language for it is violent and it yearns for punishment and death of the enemies. Our squeamishness is at times deceitful for this is how we feel at times; on the other hand, this psalm is not teaching us that we should want the death of our enemies. Instead, it puts into words how the psalmist prays from the heart. And yet, our squeamishness needs to face the reality of justice.
For the music director, to be accompanied by wind instruments; a psalm of David.
5:1 Listen to what I say, Lord!
Carefully consider my complaint!
5:2 Pay attention to my cry for help,
my king and my God,
for I am praying to you!
5:3 Lord, in the morning you will hear me;
in the morning I will present my case to you and then wait expectantly for an answer.
5:4 Certainly you are not a God who approves of evil;
evil people cannot dwell with you.
5:5 Arrogant people cannot stand in your presence;
you hate all who behave wickedly.
5:6 You destroy liars;
the Lord despises violent and deceitful people.
5:7 But as for me, because of your great faithfulness I will enter your house;
I will bow down toward your holy temple as I worship you.
5:8 Lord, lead me in your righteousness
because of those who wait to ambush me,
remove the obstacles in the way in which you are guiding me!
5:9 For they do not speak the truth;
their stomachs are like the place of destruction,
their throats like an open grave,
their tongues like a steep slope leading into it.
5:10 Condemn them, O God!
May their own schemes be their downfall!
Drive them away because of their many acts of insurrection,
for they have rebelled against you.
5:11 But may all who take shelter in you be happy!
May they continually shout for joy!
Shelter them so that those who are loyal to you may rejoice!
5:12 Certainly you reward the godly, Lord.
Like a shield you protect them in your good favor.