Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Psalms of David -- Psalm 5

A good coincidence that today's psalm comes at the same time it's scheduled to be prayed in Morning Prayers.

What strikes me here--other than the repeated battle of good vs. evil that is again so clearly drawn by David--is the confidence David has in placing himself on the "good side." This man knew he was righteous. Not perfect--we all have our Bathshebas--but righteous. He was not a bloodthirsty man, not boastful or a worker of iniquity, not deceitful or a flatterer, not faithless or a wicked liar. When he did stumble into sin, he knew how to repent and accept the forgiveness and correction of God and His servants.

I have no such confidence, nor such skill in repentance. I have to say, however, that these meditations on just how much spiritual warfare Joe Christian is expected to fight--and I speak only of that within his own heart!--are strengthening me in areas where before I had simply "rolled over" and stood in the path of the sinner...which, of course, means that the enemy turns up the heat on his side.

Noteable notes from Fr. Patrick on this psalm:

"The Greek (parastesomai) [in verse 3, "direct it to You" in the NKJV]...preserve[s] the original sense [in the Hebrew] of simply standing in proper order in the presence of God. To this is added a certain note of vigilance, 'keep watch.' These two verbs...set the tone for how to begin the day of prayer."

"...the proper praying of the psalms is rleated to a certain regular and disciplined style of life. The Christian, by preference, rises early and stands in vigilance in the presence of God. When the sun rises, it shines on the believer already at prayer."

"The context for this still the life of strugle with evil. When the Christian rises, it is always on the battlefield."

"'They have rebelled against You,' the psalm says. Sin is abhorrent to God. He not only loves justice; He also hates iniquity. 'Fools shall not stand in Your presence,' our psalm goes on, 'You hate all workers of iniquity.' When the psalmist prays for the destruction of the wicked, this is not his personal sentiment...of private vindictiveness but of foundational justice. It is a plea that God vindicate His own moral order. When Jesus refused to 'pray for the world' (John 17:9), He was recognizing the existence of those who, willfully unrepentant and deliberately hard of heart, have placed themselves beyond hope...Jesus on the Cross had not one word to say to the blasphemous, unrepentant thief."

"Some modern Christians are tempted to see in such sentiments [as those mentioned above] only a lamentable vestige of Old Testament negativity and judgementalism, now appropriately surpassed by a New Testament emphasis on God's mercy and compassion...Such an idea would have surprised the Apostles...Indeed, the descriptions of sin in Romans 1 and 3 make a good commentary on many verses of Psalm 5. Similarly, when the Book of Wisdom says that 'equally hateful to God are the ungodly man and his ungodliness' (14:9), its thesis is hard to distinguish from certain verses in the New Testament, such as 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who pravctice lawlessness' (Matt. 7:23 cf. 25:41) and 'You hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate' (Rev. 2:6; cf. 21:8; 22:15). The loving mercy of God must never be thought of or described in ways suggesting that Christianity is less morally serious than Judaism. The moral sentiments of the psalms are, in this respect, Christian sentiments, and they are highly appropriate in Christian prayer."


olympiada said...

Hey Bry, may I ask, what juristiction are you under?

Ian said...

I think I need to get this book. Jim (over at neepeople) wrote about it, and now there are 3 posts from you on it. It sounds like a wondrous insight into the Psalms.

And thank you for your reflections.

David Bryan said...


Currently under OCA, was chrismated in an Antiochian parish. Frequently befuddled by the question you asked; not sure why people ask each other that.


I've been thoroughly impressed with this book thus far; I plan on citing any little bits I find particularly powerful for any of David's psalms.

And you're welcome. Glad you enjoy them.

Mimi said...

I enjoy this book and also Father Patrick's new one Christ in His Saints

Mimi said...

Ok, now I've gone and read the post actually, and I love this line We all have our Bathshebas which of course hits at the heart of why I didn't get my morning prayers done... ahem!

But anyway, great morning prayer thoughts !

Mimi said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.