Toorak Uniting Church

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Talking to God about things that matter

Psalm 5
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
13 June 2004, 9am

In the psalm we encounter a whole range of emotions, at the start of sermon time we looked at them. We found desperation, attentiveness, anger, goodness, hate, sadness, happiness and joy, longing, desire.

1 Give ear to my words, O Lord; give heed to my groaning.
2 Hearken to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to thee do I pray.
3 O LORD, In the morning thou dost hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for thee, and watch.
4 For thou art not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not sojourn with thee.
5 The boastful may not stand before thy eyes; thou hates t all evildoers.
6 Thou destroyest those who speak lies; the LORD abhors bloodthirsty and deceitful men.
7 But I through the abundance of thy steadfast love will enter thy house, I will worship toward thy holy temple in the fear of thee.
8 Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of my enemies; make thy way straight before me.
9 For there is no truth in their mouth; their heart is destruction, their throat is an open sepulchre, they flatter with their tongue.
10 Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of their many transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against thee.
11 But let all who take refuge in thee rejoice, let them ever sing for joy; and do thou defend them, that those who love thy name may exult in thee.
12 For thou dost bless the righteous, O LORD; thou dost cover him with favor as with a shield.

Revised Standard Version 1971

Then we read the Psalm again and looked more closely at the text:

Verses 1-2.
Give ear in verse 1 - is more than listening, it suggests a leaning over, a getting involved.
The psalmist wants God to get involved.
Give heed to my groaning. Question: Do you ever groan in prayer? Some of us did actually, but felt it was only at times where they were really desperate.
Hearken the sound of my cry – we concluded this prayer comes from the depths. The cry for help repeated 3 times in different ways! It reads like pretty emotional praying of a person that is in deep trouble. When we pray in Church not often so much emotion behind our prayers. We talked about when we would we pray with such deep emotion? Would we write it down for everybody to read?

Verse 3. Some background – A pious Jew would say his prayers before sun up, when the priests in the temple were busy preparing the first offerings for the day. That is what this person does. He knows himself to be heard, there is no doubt about it. We were not always so sure God was listening to our prayers!
It is at the crack of dawn is when he brings his prayers before God.

And he watches.

For what?
For salvation? For the day? For something else? This is not clear, which is one of the beauties of this text. Does the re-appearance of the sun remind him of the dawn of salvation? Does it help him believe that like the sun comes up every day God’s mercy will dawn again? There is a parallel with Easter here: Because God conquered death we know He can conquer anything, even if we have to wait for a little while longer.

Verses 4-6, Gives a definition of God. It is in a way an affirmation of faith. Who is God according to this praying person? What is his "creed"?
What the psalmist says is:

I know you God as somebody that does not delight in wickedness, evil does not like staying with you, boasful people have trouble standing up before your eyes, you hate evil doers, you destroy liers, you abhor the bloodthirsty and deceitful.

Does that fit with our image of God? We often formulate more positive: loving, merciful etc. That is more in accordance with what the New Testament tells us about God. The negative does not come into our believing as much? We have learned to look at people from a positive perspective.

In verse 7, the writer contrasts and distances himself from the previous categories. He knows himself close to God, loved by God, he knows himself dependent on Gods love and indicates that he wants to be led by it.

Verse 8, Because of my enemies is intriguing. – But isn’t it harder to be righteous when others are being nasty to you? Harder to keep to the straight and narrow when others are tempting you with what they do. He prays for a straight way, an easy ride. Not too much pushing and pulling by people who are not "of God".

Verses 7 and 8 are doubles of each other, re-enforcing one another.

Verse 9, Again a description of the "others" contrasting what this person writing the prayers wants to be. Not very politically correct. No softening circumstances are brought to bear on the situation, no accepting and forgiving attitude. Black and white. Bad is bad, evil is evil. There are things that cannot exist before God.
Perhaps something we should think about. There are things that cannot exist before God. What are those things in our lives, in our world, do we dare to name them? Do we dare denounce them? Or are we a bit more cautious because we know that we are, ourselves, not wholly without blame?
We thought at this point about the things we could all agree on were bad: war and people killing each other, drug pushers, child soldiers, children in detention centres.

We’ve learned not to judge and we should not. At the same time scripture does ask us to stand up for justice and peace and denounce what wounds and hurts.
Standing up against all that is rebellion against God, against evildoers and the bloodthirsty and deceitful.

Easier to say in a situation where it is clear who the enemy is. We have to think about it, discuss it, are often not quite sure. How do we measure what is against God’s will? Jesus gave us one measure: Love.

Verse 11, Starts talking from the future. From a position of trust. May not be clear yet, here and now but I live with the certain belief that you bless the righteous.

In Jesus Christ God showed us once and for all that he does. Through Jesus Christ we received the certain hope and trust that God will, in the end bring the righteous to rights and cast out what is not in accordance with his will.

The psalm moved from deep distress via a confession of faith, contrasting evil and good, a petition to be led and sheltered by Gods love, to an exclamation of faith and trust in God’s future blessing and safeguarding of his people.

We finished with a prayer that followed the pattern of the psalm: bringing our distress at what happens in our world today before God, confessed our faith in the goodness of God, named the evil we know before God and expressed our faith and trust in God’s future blessing and safeguarding.
Amen.

© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2004


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