Praying to a Holy God
(H) For the director of the choir, to be accompanied by flutes. A Psalm of David. (1) Hear my words, Yahweh. Consider my murmurings. (2) Give attention to my cry for help, my king and my God, for to you I pray. (3) Yahweh, in the morning you hear my voice. In the morning I lay my requests before you and keep watch, (4) for you are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness. With you no evil can find welcome. (5) The boastful cannot stand before your eyes. You hate all who do what is evil. (6) You destroy those who speak falsehood. Bloodthirsty and deceitful men Yahweh abhors.
This psalm is filled with beautiful examples of what those who study Hebrew poetry call synonymous parallelism. In each verse, David drives home his point by restating in the second line what he has already said in the first. In each of the first three verses, David finds parallel ways to describe his entreaties: “my words” and “my murmurings” (vs. 1), “my cry for help” and “I pray,” (2) “my voice” and “my requests” (vs. 3). In this paragraph David spells out for us how he communicates with Yahweh.
In each of the next three verses, David finds parallel ways to describe the character of God. “No pleasure in wickedness” is matched with “no evil can find welcome” (vs. 4). “The boastful cannot stand” is paired with “you hate all evil” (vs. 5). “You destroy…falsehood” and “abhor bloodthirsty and deceitful men” parallel each other (vs. 6). This paragraph emphasizes the righteous character of the God we worship.
I. David in his need seeks Yahweh in prayer. (1-3)
II. Yahweh’s holiness sets him apart from sinful humanity. (4-6)
Because of Yahweh’s settled opposition to sin, he welcomes the prayers of those who seek his protection from sinful men.
Many believers are haunted by the following question: “Will God really hear and answer our prayers since he is so holy and we are so sinful?” Some of us struggle to remain faithful in praying when we consider the vast spiritual gulf that lies between us and a holy God.
The first half of Psalm 5 brings God's holiness and our sinfulness together in a way that we would hardly expect. Instead of beginning with God’s holiness, David opens the psalm by describing how he entreats Yahweh in his prayers. He is not one to hold back. He has no qualms about coming to God with his needs, boldly declaring, “I lay my requests before you.” One faithful prayer warrior two hundred years ago described in her journal how she would write down each prayer request on a separate piece of paper. Every morning she would spread out these requests on a table and review each one with the Lord until they were specifically answered. She could literally say with David, ”I lay my requests before you and keep watch.”
Only after describing the earnestness of his prayers does David turn his attention to the holiness of God, not so much in fear, but rather in anticipating how God’s character predisposes him to respond. Because God is holy and righteous, he will quickly answer any of his servants who earnestly call upon him for help against the onslaughts of the wicked. This is precisely what Jesus taught his disciples in the parable of the widow and the unjust judge (Lk. 18:1-8). Consider Jesus’ two rhetorical questions which contain implied answers: “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?” (Lk. 18:7) The implied responses: “Of course he will bring about justice for them. Of course he will not keep putting them off.” We do well to remember the exhortation: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16, KJV).