The Fourth Wednesday in Lent
March 10, 2010
Text: Psalm 5
Dear Friends in Christ,
Psalm 5, is in part, what we call an imprecatory Psalm. These are psalms that called upon God to attack, destroy, or harm someone. They could be called the God get ‘em psalms. We see this particularly in verse 10: Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. However, this psalm, really uses this as a foil. Some other psalms are completely dedicated to the theme of God’s judgement against His enemies and the enemies of His people.
Psalm 5 is a Psalm of David. That means that it was either written by David or part of his official collection of psalms. While we’ve usually assumed that David was the author of these psalms, that is not explicitly stated in the text. We can only state with 100% certainty that Psalm 5 was connected to David. What is likely the case is that David had an official collection of Psalms. Some were written by him, but others were simply collected by him. Both types would be listed in the Bible as Psalms of David.
Psalm 5 is about contrast. On one hand you have the righteous. On the other the wicked. The Psalm also says a great deal about the character of God. It states that God hates those who lie. In fact God destroys them. Notice it says: “You hate all evildoers.” How many times have you heard the phrase hate the sin and love the sinner? That concept is not Biblical. God hates those who do evil. We might be tempted to say, okay, bu that’s a good thing. We should hate those who do evil. I mean who would justify a Hitler, a Stalin, a Pol Pot? The problem that we are all sinners. We all do evil. St. Paul dedicates the first several chapters of Romans to making this very point. As St. Paul says: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23) If God hates evil doers, um.... we have a bit a problem. That means that God hates us.
So how does David resolve this problem? “But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you.” David answers the question by how he presents the righteous. How does David enter God’s house? How does David approach the Ark of the Covenant, which was God’s throne? Through the abundance of God’s steadfast love. Here is the contrast. The wicked come in before God boasting of their works, even as their hearts are filled with all manner of evil. But the righteous enter on the basis of God’s love. The wicked try to come before God because of something in them. The righteous enter into God’s presence because of something in God. This is the essential contrast that is made throughout Scripture. The wicked are judged according their deeds. The righteous are judged according to God’s deeds. That seems unfair until you consider that all human beings, because of the fall into sin, are wicked from their very conception. This why I often say that we flatter ourselves when we say that old Flip Wilson line - “the devil made me do it.” In most cases the devil in our own sinful hearts. Satan himself just sits back and laughs. Why should he bother tempting us when we are self tempting? We come with hearts that are the Ronco self tempting machine - it slices, it dices, and makes thousands and thousands of neat little sins. The evil we must confront is ourselves - our own sinful hearts. That is why we cannot come before God on the basis of our own works.
David does not here develop the idea of God’s love. So what is God’s love? God’s love is not an emotion. It is concrete action on the part of God. Love is God the Son becoming flesh, becoming the Lamb of God, dying for our sins, and rising to life to again, to live to all eternity as the “slain one.” God’s love is God paying the price of our sins. David hints at this in the way he presents the nature of God. God is righteous. Evil may not dwell with Him. That means that God does not tolerate sin. It is a hateful thing to Him. It offends His holiness. Thus sin cannot be set aside. It must be paid in full. And these were the last words of Christ from the cross. In Jewish legal documents, when a debt was repaid, the lender would write across the contract: “It is finished.” Christ, with His dying breath, cries out to the world: “It is finished.” The debt of sin is paid in full. Nothing more is owed. That is the love of God. And it is on the basis of that love, that we come into God’s presence.
David paints a vivid picture for us. God hates wickedness. He hates lies. He hates boasting. He hates self righteousness. And He hates the wicked. That is a terrifying picture when we understand that we are sinners. But on the basis of God’s love, we enter into His presence. We still are terrified of God and we ought to be. This is the One who sends people to hell. So we come into His presence with fear and trembling, yet, knowing that in His love, we are right before Him. We are right, not because of what is in us, but because of what is in Him.