There are psalms that we know from familiar verses, phrases and opening lines, but there are also those that we read little and only look at when they appear in the lectionary. I put Psalm 5 in the latter category. So, feeling a little guilty about that, as it appears this morning, I will pay it the attention it deserves. It’s opening line produces all the reproof needed, “Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my meditation.” This psalm asks the question of me, “Who am I to say that? “Even, to think that?”
In verse three we find that the psalmist is contemplating life at the beginning of the day, and there is a certain bitterness of spirit that is revealed. He writes of his ‘cry’ and of his ‘appeal’ and of his ‘prayer’, and he goes on to talk of his intention of going to the house of God for his devotions, and is in awe of finding the presence of the Lord.
The crux of the psalm is the author’s reflection on the wicked as he seeks the intervention of God in dealing with them. The thought that springs from this is the fact that though those who oppose God’s servants may, through devious and clever ways, deceive those whose lives are marked by goodness, that they will not deceive God. What makes it thoughtful is the underlying discomfort that is revealed, as the suspicion grows that the writer is turning his examination of others upon himself. It is like talking of oneself in the third person.
In a nutshell, it is a psalm that begins by saying that it is a good thought to go to the house of God and dwell on the faults of others and how they may be repaid for their misdeeds, and finishing with a good deal of back-peddling - still critical of what is flattery and guilt, but aware of the need for a refuge, a shelter and a shield - but, ready, I feel sure, once home from the house of God, to take out his mirror and recognise himself in what he so surely criticises.