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Psalm 5

Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament. Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. 

For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you evil people are not welcome. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong; you destroy those who tell lies. The bloodthirsty and deceitful you, Lord, detest. 

But I, by your great love, can come into your house; in reverence I bow down toward your holy temple. Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies – make your way straight before me. 

Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with malice. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongues they tell lies. Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you. 

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. Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

The other day I woke up after a rough night of sleep and I just felt off. I walked to the kitchen and I thought "Maybe a cup of coffee would fix it." And so, before even waking up the kids, I made my cup of coffee. Sipping my coffee, I still felt irritable and so I thought, "Maybe I need to eat something." I made breakfast for myself and for the family, I sat down to eat and still there was something that just felt like it was grating on my heart.

When my kids didn't get ready fast enough for school and I felt my patience starting to slip, I said something in a tone of voice that was not fair to them. To be clear, I didn't yell. But the tone of my voice was not the loving expression and encouragement I would prefer it to be. My daughter looked at me and she said, “Dad, why are you so angry?” And that's when I saw with clarity: I had no reason to be angry. I didn't know why. I took 5 minutes away, cleared my head, got a sense of what was going on in my heart and prayed to the Lord for patience.

There is an expression, “I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.” It’s one of the ways that we communicate our being angry – often for unknown reasons. So far as I can tell, I had no legitimate reason to be angry. Thankfully, a little morning prayer clarified that and we could turn the morning around.

Psalm 5 is another of David's morning prayers. It is a song of prayer that is structured around contrast. It begins with David's crying out. It begins with his request for the Lord. And then it contrasts that with wickedness in the world and God's hatred of wrongdoing. We then return to David, who confesses that it is by the great love of the Lord that he can come into his presence. And he asks that from the Lord’s presence he would leave in righteousness and obedience. The contrast then returns to those who cannot be trusted, whose hearts are filled with malice. Asking for God to declare them guilty. Finally, we return in this contrasting perspective to all who take refuge in the Lord, asking that God would watch over them, that he would make them righteous, and he would be their shield.

For some of us, this darkness of the contrast may be confusing, and it may not fit the picture of God that many of us in the 21st century Western world carry. This language of God testing/judging and his hatred of sin and destroying the wicked doesn't neatly line up with the unconditional love and acceptance – as our culture defines it – of God. That God might be angry doesn't easily fit our modern frame. And yet, perhaps one of the reasons why this makes such an important morning prayer is that we are allowing the Bible to be the lens through which we look at the world from the first part of the day through to the end. 

At the risk of offending some readers, perhaps the symptoms of the modern, contemporary world is that we are too scared of offending. If the idea of calling sin explicitly “sin” is hard for you maybe the problem is that you don't have a thorough going enough doctrine of God's holiness. In the biblical frame, the language of hate and love is a Hebraism for God's covenant choosing; it is a communication of acceptance and/or rejection.[1] Jesus makes the same point in Luke 14: 26, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brother and sister – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple.” Jesus doesn't mean we must literally hate our mother and father; he means, rather, that we must always choose him first. God will always choose what is right and righteous because he is holy – perfectly so; he cannot do any other. Therefore, so too his people: to truly love God, to choose him, is to reject all evil.

And to be clear, this is the choice of discipleship – not the choice of salvation. Salvation is a gift granted by grace through faith to those who believe in Jesus (Eph. 2:8-9). Salvation is a gift granted to those who from eternity past have been elected under the grace of God (Eph. 1:4). But how we live as disciples must be a choice. Immediately after Jesus’ words about the follower of Jesus hating his mother and father, Jesus says, “Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Lk. 14:27) Obedience is the choice of daily picking up your cross and following after Jesus.

That's why you make this prayer in the morning. Because you are a disciple who wants to follow after the way of God. As Christians, we worship a God who must, by his very character, hate sin. Therefore, we too must get angry at sin. However, we do well to remember that instead of binoculars looking at the sin of others, we should hold up a mirror to the sin of our own life first. Likewise, with David, in our morning prayer we must remember it is only by the great love of the Lord that we come into His presence (vs. 7). God’s love moves first; he leads the way.

If you are prone to looking at the world in anger, perhaps Psalm 5 gives you a voice to express that feeling. But if you “wake up on the wrong side of bed” without looking at your own heart Psalm 5 is also God’s voice to invite you to choose discipleship this morning – and every morning hereafter.

Holy God, help me today to pick up my cross and follow you. Jesus, help me to be your disciple. Help me to hate the sin in my life and to choose you every morning. In Jesus’ name, Amen!

[1] Steven Lawson, Psalms, 38. Cf. Mal. 1:2-3; Rom. 9.