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Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Psalm 5: What God takes pleasure in.

For the director of music. For flutes. A psalm of David.

This Psalm is similar to a large book  consisting of 2 volumes. 
A: The believer’s experience. (Volume 1)
Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.
B: The unbeliever’s problem. (Volume 1)
You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors.
C: Personal testimony. (Volume 1)
But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple.
C: Personal testimony. (Volume 2)
Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies— make straight your way before me.
B: The unbeliever’s problem. (Volume 2)
Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit. Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you.
A: The believer’s experience. (Volume 2)
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. For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favour as with a shield.
*****

Note:
Psalm 5 is an example of what is known as introverted parallelism. Section A at the beginning is related to A at the end of the Psalm. These sections are the words of the believer. The two sections headed B are related and speak of the unbeliever. Sections C come in the middle of the Psalm and relate to personal desire.
The occasion of the Psalm is again a time of trouble. Wickedness and righteousness are the theme. If Psalms 3; 4 & 5 are related they speak of a morning (Psalm 3); and the evening (Psalm 4) and then the next morning (psalm 5). There are no Selah’s in this Psalm; therefore it is supposed to be read through without pause for thought until the end.

In Psalm 5 David looks at life from 3 different aspects. It is a bit like a bookshelf in a library titled “the experience of life.” As we have seen the Psalm is split up into 6 stanzas. The first and last titled “the believer’s experience (volumes 1 &2) form the bookends of our shelf. The 2nd and 5th stanzas titled “the unbeliever’s problem (volumes 1&2)” are thick volumes that take up a large proportion of the shelf. There are 2 volumes that even though small are the focal point of the shelf; they are titled “personal testimony (volumes 1&2).” Firstly David observes life from his own experience as a believer in God. Secondly he discloses the problems that an unbeliever experiences and thirdly he looks at the testimony of the believer.

The believer’s experience:

The believer’s experience comes in 2 volumes. These are found at each end of the bookshelf. In volume 1 we have an example of David in prayer. As we have discovered in recent weeks David is not afraid to come boldly to God in his prayer. We also find that his prayer is passionate; he asks God to consider his sighing! He is expectant that God listens to his prayer and he also dares to ask that God might help him in his time of need. If this Psalm is as some believe a direct follow on from Psalms 2 & 3 then it’s setting is the following morning. The requested help in this case would be for assistance to overcome his own son Absalom as he attempts to kill David in order to gain the throne of Israel. Some may be offended at the boldness of David’s prayer but as we read on we cannot help but be struck by the reverence that David displays as he prays to God. The king of Israel was not too proud to come under the authority of God in heaven and declare Him to be King! This prayer that we find recorded in our Psalm is as good a model of prayer as you will find anywhere.

It was clearly prayed in the morning and was committing the day to the Lord in order that His glory might be made known. Some make much from this believing that morning is the most important time to pray, if you read Spurgeon’s and other such people’s comments on this passage you will probably end up in a guilt trip concerning your own efforts in prayer. I would not dare to contradict such greats, but I do not believe that David wrote this Psalm in order to instruct us that morning is the best time to pray. As we shall discover there are other important lessons to be learned from the Psalm but the time that we pray is not the point that David is making. He is not saying that getting up at some time before everyone else and sacrificially going without sleep is more spiritual than having a full nights sleep. What David actually says is that he needs God’s help to get through the day. The Rolling Stones sang of “a little yellow pill; that was mother’s little helper that helped her through the busy day.” Some believe that prayer is some sort of mystical spiritual pill that gives us energy to get through the day. That certainly was not David’s expectation. He merely trusted in God in heaven who delights in hearing and responding to the prayers of His friends. David was not asking for everything to go well during the day but simply that God would be glorified.
Some would also have us believe that we should pray great, long and pleading prayers. If this is a record of David’s entire prayer (and there is no reason to believe that it is not) then it was only 2-3 minutes long but it is no less powerful and meaningful than an hour of prayer. It does not necessarily take hours to pray, sometimes it is right to spend an extended period in prayer at other times it is right to be succinct and trust that God is answering our every thought and prayer.

Lesson:

The believer must be a person that prays. His or her prayer should be:
· Bold
· Passionate
· Respectful of God
· Expectant that God will answer and will help in their situation.

This is one of the bookends on the shelf but what of the other? David was praying in the second volume for all believers. He prayed that as they take refuge or shelter from the wars of human experience and that they are a joyful people of praise!

He prays that those who hide under the shelter of God’s wings might find security. We have here a picture of a mother bird protecting her chicks under her wings. This of course is the picture that Jesus painted on that Sunday when He entered triumphant into Jerusalem. Before entering the city He looked down on it and with tears in His eyes He took on this theme when He said to them: “I long to gather you as a hen would gather her chicks under her wings; but you will not come!” It is passages like Psalm 5 that He was alluding to. We learn much about the character of God from Jesus’ statement. Some feminists would have us believe that it displays the femininity of God. I am certain that was never the intention but that Jesus was revealing something of His perfect, protecting parenthood that any mother or father will display at a time of need! As a good parent does, God also protects and provides for His family. To David, that would mean belonging to the nation of Israel and being faithful to God and His word. Today we have a more full understanding of what it means to belong to God’s family. We are adopted into the family of God by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He died in order to remove the offence of our sin in order to make us acceptable to God.

Do you believe this and is it true of you?

The unbeliever’s problem:

Here we have 2 big volumes that are noticeable by their dark and uninviting covers. The content is miserable and the ending is desperately sad. This is the sort of book that you would not read by choice. These 2 books are like a Leonard Cohen song, which somebody once described as “miserable enough to make you want to slash you wrists!” David begins by looking at what God is like. He reminds us that God takes no delight in evil, which is bad news for sinners. But worse is yet to come; David tells us that they can have no place with God. Arrogant people will not even be able to stand in His presence! You might be thinking this isn’t as bad as you make it out to be, nobody would describe me as evil, or wicked and I am certainly not arrogant. You might also say “I might not be a believer as they seem to be here in this church but nobody would describe me as has been depicted so far!” But you need to read on: David says that God hates all who do wrong; is there any here that have never done anything wrong? Liars for instance are to be destroyed (we shall be looking at a liar tonight.) Bloodthirsty and deceitful people; are abhorred (detested) by God. This is a dark volume indeed! It ends on a black note but there is a sequel, the unbeliever’s problem volume 2. Perhaps there will be hope to be found in this book’s pages! To reach it we have to pass by the 2 slim bright volumes of personal testimony to reach the second volume titled the unbelievers problem. When we open it up we find a completely hopeless situation. In fact David is speaking from his own perspective. We might expect compassion from a believer in God but just read what he says.

· Nothing they say can be trusted.
· Their hearts are full of destruction.
· Their throats are like graves; their words have the stink of death on them!
· They are completely deceitful.
· God judge them and declare them guilty, destroy them!

These are harsh words coming from a believer in God. How dare he be so judgmental? To understand this we need to remember that God described David as a man after His own heart. This means that David had similar desires to God. Therefore under God’s supervision he is declaring judgement on all who are sinners. They will be banished from God’s presence. I said this was a dark volume and in it there is no hope. There is a paradox in that we have passed by those slim volumes of personal testimony. There are also 2 volumes titled the believers experience. If what the bible tells us that: “all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory” is true how then can it be possible for some to have the relationship that is recorded in those volumes? The truth is that the volumes titled: “the unbeliever’s problem,” are there for information and offer a challenge to all, because there is a way of escape. If you come under the category of unbeliever you can change because God hates your sin but He loves you! He does not want the story to end at judgement. That is why David put in the 2 volumes of personal testimony in order that as you look through this Psalm you might discover God for yourself!

Let us see what the 2 volumes titled personal testimony have to tell us.

Personal testimony:

Now we come to these last two volumes. They are a lot slimmer but they are absolute gems. David tells us in the first volume that by God’s mercy he is a different person! This is the key to the whole Psalm, man is sinful and so he is hopeless before God; BUT by God’s mercy a difference can be made. David is emphatic; he says that he will come into God’s house. To David that would have been worship in the tabernacle, which was a tent where the people met that had a special area set aside for God’s presence. The point is that it is impossible for man to enter into God’s presence except that by His great mercy He desires man to do so. We have titled our study this morning “What God takes pleasure in” it is this that He delights! The very fact that even though sinners are not able to naturally come to Him He has made it possible for them to do so. David can thus testify to his own personal desire and he can make promises to God that he will do certain things.

· He WILL come into the temple for worship.
· He WILL be reverent.
· He WILL bow in humble submission.

We need to remember that it is the king who is speaking and that he recognises God as worthy of his abeyance!

David’s first volume of personal testimony is all about his promises to God, so what do we find in the second volume?

We see from this volume something of God’s heart displayed through the words and requests of David. David’s testimony is completely dependent upon God’s help. Therefore he requests certain things from God:

· He requests the Lord to lead him. The leader of Israel needs leading by a higher authority.
· He requests God to make his pathway plain.

 David needs to know where he is going, not in order to promote his own leadership but for a greater purpose; that the enemy might recognise God’s guidance. David was in effect praying for the salvation of his enemies.

The personal testimony is maybe a little different to what we might have imagined. When we read books that testify to man’s achievements we are often amazed at their authority or power etc. The book will tell us what a great or bad person he or she was. But in the testimony we have here it is different. It is not about man and his achievements but it is all about God who takes delight in men and women of faith.

When we take a look along the shelf of human experience the focal point is the 2 slim volumes in the middle that are labelled Personal Testimony. David is telling us that God does not delight in evil but that by His good mercy wicked mankind is able to do something about their problem and then they will be able to worship God.

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