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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Advent, Day 3

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JOURNEY to the MANGER: Advent 2010

Psalm 5
Jeffrey J. Niehaus

Psalm 5 is what scholars call a lament, with what they call wisdom elements intermixed. The poet approaches God in prayer with his “lament” (“consider my sighing,” “listen to my cry for help”) which includes the fact that he has “enemies” (vs. 8) who cannot “be trusted,” whose “heart is filled with destruction,” whose “throat is an open grave” and who “speak deceit” with their tongue (vs. 9). David wants God to deal with his enemies, but before he asks God to do so, he builds his case before God.

He begins by establishing certain facts about God. First, God is the poet’s king and his God. If he were not David’s king and God, David could not presume to hope for his aid. Second, God is approachable. If he were not approachable, there would be no point to the prayer, “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice.” Third, God is righteous–he takes no pleasure in evil; the wicked cannot dwell with him, he hates liars and destroys them; he abhors the bloodthirsty (vs. 4-6). By contrast, David can hope for God’s help and favorable judgment: God has, by his mercy, enabled David to worship the Lord in his “house” (i.e., temple), and ask that the Lord will guide him in righteousness (vs. 7-8).

Once these facts are established–once the suppliant has built his case against his foes and for himself–he can call upon God to act according to his nature, which has been established in the preceding verses. David calls upon God, then, to “declare them guilty [and] banish them for their many sins.” He can ask God to do so because he has established that God is righteous and abhors, and judges, evil. He can also ask God to “spread [his] protection” over those who take refuge in him and love his name (name meaning, in the OT and ancient Near East, the essential nature, or character– hence, those who “love [God’s] name” love God for who he really is).

David can conclude with an avowal of confidence in God, who, being righteous, blesses the righteous and protects them (“You surround them with your favor as with a shield,” vs. 12). David began with a lament, but the wisdom that affirms God’s nature has enabled him to make a confident plea.

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

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