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(Click or hover over the above Scripture reference link to read the passage.)
The fifth psalm brings with it some familiar themes from the preceding four: God not answering prayer, lament, crying out to God, and struggle against bloodthirsty adversaries. Whenever Scripture repeats itself, this is a flashing red light to take notice: God is trying to make sure we really understand something.
It’s ironic then, how these themes have been lost or minimized in much of modern day Western Christianity. We seem to have crafted a religion around comfort and God making you feel good. Like we are selling a product and we need to convince those in the pew that it works. In order to do so, we have to hide these more uncomfortable truths and only emphasize the happy ones.
I do wish this charade would stop. It may result in more or quicker converts, but it’s also the reason so many converts fall away when the struggles of life do come. They were promised (by bad teaching in churches, not by God) that God would fix all their problems and make all their pain go away. So when problems and pain come, they return the product because it didn’t live up to the hype.
God is not in the hype business. The Psalms are proof of that. It’s again important to remember that Jews would sing these psalms daily in their worship services. Their worship included a theology of pain, suffering, and lament. This would have been the way Jesus worshiped for the 33 years he walked on this earth. This gave him a vocabulary and a context for the pain he endured here. Unfortunately, most Christians today do not have this vocabulary because it’s been snuffed out by promises that we’ll find our best life now and that God will make us healthy and wealthy. Now that will get butts into church pews!
The Psalms don’t answer these questions. The Psalms just are. They don’t resolve. And don’t forget, these are God’s divinely-inspired words to us, modeling to us how we are to worship and interact with God, and instructing us in the complex path of pain that is following Jesus in this fallen world.
In Psalm 5, the psalmist begins very relationally, pleading with God to hear his lament, his cry for help. He reminds himself and God (it seems) of who God is and what truth is. He reminds himself that God is righteous and is for righteousness and that God is against evil and unrighteousness. The psalmist has to remind himself of this because it certainly isn’t obvious in our world. Other psalms (like Psalm 73:1-28) will drill this down in detail, but our external observations often indicate that a life of disobedience is actually what brings blessing and a life of obedience to God brings struggle. So the psalmist worshipfully reminds himself of what is true, despite what his five senses are telling him. In verse 7, he reminds himself of the love and grace God shows him that allows him to come into the Lord’s presence in worship. That allows him to be in a relationship with the Almighty God.
“Make your way straight before me.” What a beautiful, earnest prayer. This prayer is prayed because the current path is crooked and perplexing! Oh how we can relate to this. The psalmist is being bombarded with lies (verse 9) and is persistently reminding himself of God’s truth. This is our experience.
Verse 11 returns yet again to the Psalms’ theme of refuge. Refuge is rest, but even more specifically, it is rest in the middle of a war. The bullets are flying and bombs are shaking and God offers refuge. A safe place. The war is still raging outside of the refuge, but we can enter into this hidden place of rest and sanctuary in the presence of God. Verse 12 calls it a shield, again using war imagery.
I love that in the middle of this war imagery, we see the words love, rejoice, and be glad! I love that we have God’s joy at all times. I love that we can remind ourselves of truth and worship God. We can remind ourselves that we don’t deserve his favor, we deserve the judgment that the psalmist prays over the wicked, but Jesus has cleansed us and made us white as snow. We are no longer wicked or guilty, instead we are children who get the infinite treasures of God’s love, mercy, and grace, gifts we could never earn, but gifts that will more than sustain us through the struggles of this life. Gifts that sustain us with joy, love, and gladness.
Take a moment to worship God. Take a moment to rejoice, to love him, and to be glad.
Prayer for the day: God I worship you. Thank you that you are with me. Thank you that you welcome me into your throne room. You welcome me into your holy presence with love, joy, and gladness. Thank you that you delight in seeing me. That when you look upon me, you see the perfection of Jesus (Colossians 1:22). God I lament the suffering of this world. The suffering in my life. Give me the strength to endure it. Remind me of your love and strength. Remind me of truth. Help me when I start believing the lies of sin and Satan. When I start believing the deception that the way of sin is better than your way. Help me to confess these in things in community with other brothers and sisters in Christ. Help me not to isolate myself. Help me to live the psalms out within the church. Give me the strength to not walk alone. To be bold and courageous and to cultivate this type of vulnerable, authentic community in my life. Thank you that you love me. Thank you that I’m not alone. Thank you that you are my refuge, my safe place, my rest, my shield.
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