The way of righteousness

Psalm 5

This is one of the many Psalms which includes the instruction: “For the choirmaster” (or director of music in other translations). It is thought that these Psalms were meant to be included in the collection of works for use in Israel’s worship services, making it an act of corporate worship. For some reason it often surprises me to see this annotation, as I get used to thinking of the Psalms as personal prayers and songs, and individual crying out to God in different situations. While that is definitely true of many of the Psalms, it is striking how many are labelled as congregational, reminding us that our faith is not an individual affair, but one requiring fellowship for growth, in the good times and the bad.

Psalm 5 is titled “Lead me in Your righteousness” in my Bible, and this is David’s prayer throughout the Psalm. He addresses his application first of all to the LORD, using God’s covenant name, which emphasises His goodness, but in the next verse David calls on “my King and my God” to highlight God’s authority over him and His greatness. David has an attitude of humility – he is making the right sacrifices and waiting for God to act. He wants to be right with God. He knows what displeases God – boasting, evil, deceit, bloodthirstiness – and he knows that God’s unfailing and abundant love has made it possible for us to be right with Him. He also recognises that the right response to God’s holiness is fear and respect.

The next verse (8) intrigued me: “Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness/because of my enemies/make your way straight before me” – why because of his enemies? Was it because they were trying to lead him astray, or he was worried about his anger towards them leading him to sin? Or was it so that they would have no ammunition against him, as he would be living God’s way? Or could it be because he wanted to show them a better way to live? As I thought about this, I realised that though these are different interpretations of the same phrase, they actually don’t contradict each other – any or all of these thoughts could be accurate. David may very well have mixed emotions and motives when thinking about those who stood against him! What is clear, though, from verse 10, is that David is handing the situation over to God, and letting Him deal with them, instead of trying to seek his own vengeance. This is a pattern we see time and again in the Psalms – let God be God and let go of our own agenda.

The Psalm ends with a promise of the blessings for those who seek refuge in God, and seek after righteousness – they will be made righteous and they will be protected and favoured, and their response will be to praise.

So, what’s the takeaway from this today? First, to take requests to God freely, appealing to His goodness but with a right respect for His authority. Second, remember that God is holy and hates sin – be repentant, be humble, and seek after righteousness. Third, trust Him for justice when others seek to hurt you, but also by your actions show them the way of grace and righteousness. Finally, remember God’s unfailing love and seek refuge in Him.

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