A Psalm of Lament


A Psalm of David

Psalm 5

Psalm Wallpaper
Artist: Georgy N Joseph 1


The psalm is a prayer uttered in the Temple in the morning, a solemn address to God, at a time when the psalmist was brought into distress by the malice of his enemies. 2

By God’s favor the psalmist can enter the Temple, and he asks that Yahweh guide him in trials and punish his deceitful enemies. He petitons the Lord, confident in the prayers of the just. 3

Psalm 5

Verba mea auribus

1 For the leader; with wind instruments. A psalm of David.

2 To my words give ear, O Lord,
give heed to my groaning.

3 Attend to the sound of my cries,
my King and my God.

4 It is you whom I invoke, O Lord.
In the morning you hear me;
in the morning I offer you my prayer,
watching and waiting.

5 You are no God who loves evil;
no sinner is your guest.

6 The boastful shall not stand their ground
before your face.

7 You hate all who do evil;
you destroy all who lie.
The deceitful and bloodthirsty man
the Lord detests.

8 But I through the greatness of your love
have access to your house.
I bow down before your holy temple,
filled with awe.

9 Lead me, Lord, in your justice,
because of those who lie in wait;
make clear your way before me.

10 No truth can be found in their mouths,
their heart is all mischief,
their throat a wide-open grave,
all honey their speech.

11 Declare them guilty, O God.
Let them fail in their designs.
Drive them out for their many offenses,
for they have defied you.

12 All those you protect shall be glad
and ring out their joy.
You shelter them; in you they rejoice,
those who love your name.

13 It is you who bless the just man
you surround him with favor as with a shield.

Athanasian Grail Psalter 1

Analysis and Commentary

The Psalm is divided into two parts:

  1. Verses 2 - 7 reference the many attacks on David, such that there was scarcely any time of David's life that was not in distress. In such times David brings his plea to God, confident that God will hear him. This contrasts markedly with the wicked, whose prayers are not heard because they refuse to listen to the Lord, or to be faithful to His commands. In this David was a type of Christ, in that he was continually beset by his enemies.
  2. Verses 8 - 13 expresses David's confidence that his prayer will be heard, foreshadowing Jesus' powerful and prevalent appeals to God, when he was so beset. David's dependence on God's mercy and protection mirror Christ’s union with His Father that triumphs over the powers of darkness in the midst of His sufferings. 4

Part 1:

In most of the psalms, the wicked are reprobated, and the sentiments of the faithful expressed. This psalm contains an excellent form of morning prayer, as an armour against all our spiritual enemies. The psalm begins with David's cry to God. This is the cry of the heart which the spirit forms within us. God cannot reject such prayers. And, if He seems inattentive, it is because we ask amiss. God hears and attends to the prayers of the Church, and of every faithful soul. He even exhorts sinners to come to him, that they may emerge from the abyss.

This hour of prayer is also specified, indicating David's compliance with the Jewish tradition of morning, noon, and evening prayer. Those who neglect prayer fall in confusion, but God allows those who are diligent to see wonderful things.

"You are no God who loves evil; no sinner is your guest", though God loves them as his creatures, and wishes their conversion. God suffers them to remain for a time, but those who kill their own, and other's, souls will be treated like those who have committed murder and will not be welcomed at His table.

Part 2:

The just trust in God's mercy, not in man’s power. They trust not in their own merit, but with the greatest awe appeal to His Mercy at His Holy Altar, in His Temple, in His Holy Church. They are always on the watch to discover any fault. Grant me thy preventing grace. Let me not stumble, but cause me to walk cheerfully in thy paths. Make clear your way before me.

In contrast, the heretic flatters his cunning. He sharpens his tongue, and polishes it like a sword, that it may cut more easily, David begs that God would frustrate the designs of his enemies; and, by treating them with some severity, He will hinder the execution of their wicked schemes, which would bring on their own ruin. Though the just desire the conversion of all, yet if any die impenitent, they confer on themselves God’s judgment, manifested at the end of the world. A Hebrew proverb states: "I forgive them for what they have done to me. But I grieve at thy offence; make them return to a sense of their duty." The just will rejoice under thy protection, and at the conversion of the sinner, for the just shall receive the sentence of eternal glory.

Taken from: Haydock's Catholic Commentary. 5