Psalm 5 - Evil will not sojourn with you

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To the leader: for the flutes. A Psalm of David.
1) Give ear to my words, O Lord;
give heed to my sighing.
2) Listen to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
3) O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.

4) For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil will not sojourn with you.
5) The boastful will not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.
6) You destroy those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.

7) But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house,
I will bow down toward your holy temple
in awe of you.
8) Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.

9) For there is no truth in their mouths;
their hearts are destruction;
their throats are open graves;
they flatter with their tongues.
10) Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of their many transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against you.

11) But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
so that those who love your name may exult in you.
12) For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
you cover them with favor as with a shield.

Psalm 5 (NRSV*)
Proper 6, Sunday between June 12 and June 18, Year C, verses 1-8

If you pray this psalm, you have a choice to make. When in the morning I plead my case to the Lord, I can pray that God might spread a shield of protection over those who trust in her. May we have the grace for that kind of trust. A Guardian God, sheltering his own from the predations of the evildoers is something we can relate to. We can take that a step further and prosecute the case against the wicked, appealing to God's justice, and care for the oppressed. (You can also try Psalm 64 for that kind of prayer.

We may also take this as a caution, and perhaps as confession. Give heed to my sighing, Lord, listen to the sound of my cry. For we know we are not 100% righteous 100% of the time. In truth, you can probably enumerate your "issues" - and if you are having trouble, the people who know you best certainly can.

Lying and all forms of deceit. Undue pride. And thirst for blood. Perhaps most of us will cop to some version of the first two, but blood lust?

We needn't be genocidal killers to have this kind of problem. We all live in a world where violence is used as an effective means to manipulate and control. We accept the fruits of violence which takes place elsewhere, yet has helped build our institutions and economy. More personally, most of us can recall wishing he downfall of another, wishing for or even briefly in bad news for someone we don't like. And our anger management is often far different - misdirected, wrong-sized, mistaken - than the Lord might wish to see from us.

If one type of sin does not fit us, another will find us out. Speaking Biblically, it is possible to be righteous; yet it is also im-possible to avoid contact with sin.

We tend to think that God has no tolerance for evil. You can find the texts for that view, even here. "you are not a God who delights in wickedness." Yet long before Jesus, God was reaching out to call people back into lives of wholeness. God is willing to work with those who have fallen into sin, without necessarily pressing judgment about how they got there. (See Jonah's trip to Ninevah, or God's many attempts to bring the nation of Israel back onto the path of torah, or how from Abraham onwards the redeemer and rescuer has been valued and lauded.)

Yet this psalm is making another point entirely, and one which is much more useful to us. Our problem is less that God hates evil, but that evil cannot tolerate God and good. "Evil will not sojourn with you," O Lord.

While we think about the pernicious ability of evil to worm its way into things, sin is actually more like an infection or parasite that finds it hard to survive in a healthy person and community. We think about the contagious power of wrong-doing... But we under-appreciate the infection-fighting powers of a healthy, wholesome, righteous person embedded in a community which lives rightly. Evil cannot flourish in the midst of good.

Think about how these wicked practices (pride, deceit, lack of love) compromise our sin-immune systems. If we are full of ourselves, where is the room for others, or for God? If we practice deceit and make a habit of lying, how can we be able to tell what is honest and true? If we participate in violence, what is our capacity to live in trust?

Going down this road with the psalm is very different indeed. "Listen to the sound of my cry, my cry." We are not focused on some other evildoers, even though they are real. Instead we are pleading guilty, and seeking some kind of pre-trial intervention, a God-ordered and Spirit-supervised sin treatment program.

Let your blessing fall upon me, God. Let my refuge be in you, that I may give sin no foothold. Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness.

Credits:
Melissa Hillier, Blue mason jar cookie (edited). Used under (CC BY 2.0).
* New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV), copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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