The scene in my life is familiar. Something weighs on my heart: a fear, a temptation, or a thought-battle. Seeking comfort, I naturally go to the Psalms.
I want to be on the path that is straight and narrow; Psalm 5 is my pick for prayer against temptation today. This Psalm readjusts my thinking about my position in this world, the heartache I’ve avoided by giving my life to Christ, and who I am before him.
My heart resonates with David’s prayers:
Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament… (v. 1)
For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness… (v. 4)
But I, by your great love, can come into your house; in reverence I bow down… (v. 7)
But then, I come to this:
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. (v. 10)
I either skim past it or take a moment to wonder how it could possibly mesh with what Jesus says in Matthew 5:43 about loving our enemies. It’s uncomfortable.
Remember God’s Old Covenant
Since there seems to be no solution, I usually choose the former—let’s move on?
This is a Psalm of David. David was the king chosen by God, the king after God’s own heart. Well, did God’s heart change from the Old Testament to the New Testament regarding how we approach our enemies?
No, not at all.
David was to serve God and do his part to uphold the covenant between God and Israel. That included a unique mission given to Israel that isn’t given to us: Israel was to continue to carve out the Promised Land by warring against the people groups that possessed it.
What? Aren’t we at an even worse place than where we started?
No, remember one of those first verses: “For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness.” Israel was given the special mission to war against nations who were committed to their wicked ways (Deuteronomy 20:16-18). God is just to judge evil whenever, in his infinite wisdom, he deems it right.
By choosing this mission for the nation of Israel, God sought to prevent the increased evil of Israel’s own disobedience—the disobedience that would threaten their ability to fulfill the conditional aspects of their blessed covenants with God (Exodus 19:5-6; 2 Samuel 7). God was being gracious to Israel with this mission.
Let’s return to the verse that gives some discomfort:
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.
David is praying that God would cause to crumble what brought wickedness into the nation of Israel; David prayed in alignment with the specific covenant mission God gave him.
Align Your Prayers with God’s New Covenant
Do you and I have this kind of mission of war today? No, of course not. We don’t have a nation to battle at God’s command; but, like David, we do have a covenant with God. We have a covenant that we participate in through Jesus Christ—a covenant through his blood, binding our hearts to his (Jeremiah 31).
Like David, we can think about what’s present in our daily lives that threatens to lead our hearts away from the depths and joys of this covenant.
I have evil pressing against me from every side. There are lies. There are half-truths posing as truths. There are vanities. There are whispers that tempt me to question the good work God has done in my life. These all threaten my heart; they pose to lead me astray.
With a new perspective on David’s prayer, I return to the reason I first went to the Psalms. Something weighs on my heart: a fear, a temptation, or a thought-battle. Seeking comfort, I naturally go to the Psalms—but now I go through the way of our new covenant. I enter into David’s prayer again:
When I read,
Make them bear their guilt (v. 10),
God, bring every evil in my life to light so that I can see it.
When I read,
O God; let them fall by their own counsels (v. 10),
God, show every evil in my life for what it is: a path to destruction.
When I read,
Because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. (v. 10)
God, let me hate everything that you hate. Cast it all aside. Defeat it in my life and in the lives of those around me as it is already truly defeated at the Cross.
Rejoice in God’s Promises
The conclusion of Psalm 5 means even more to me now.
But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield. (vv. 11-12)
He is our refuge and protection from the temptations, lies, and whispers that threaten our hearts. As David was praying for what threatened his old covenant, so we can equally pray his words against everything that threatens the depths of our joy and participation in our new covenant with God through Jesus Christ.
No longer do I feel uncomfortable with these verses in the Psalms. But, all the more, the Psalms give the comfort I first sought, for I have even more promises to claim and even more of God’s heart to see. We are on the side of Christ—the One victorious over all temptations; he is a shield against them.
As we come to him through the Psalms because we face whispers and lies that might lead us astray, he covers us with his favor and his protection. Let all who take refuge in him rejoice.