Exploring the Meaning of Psalms 5
By Rev. Julian Duckworth
Psalm 5 is essentially a prayer for guidance.
The message is encapsulated in verse 8: “Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness, because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face.”
When we follow the Lord’s guidance, we can develop a clearer understanding of those things that come from the Lord, and those things that are in opposition to His design. It's important for us to discern the nature of what comes into our hearts and minds.
In the first verse, we hear the words: “consider my meditation.” Meditation in a biblical sense has a different meaning from the way it is understood today. Rather than the modern idea of simple awareness, this kind of meditation is more a reflection and exploration in the mind. This whole psalm is like such a meditation. We, too, must make use of this practice in our spiritual lives; this kind of mental examination helps us understand which deeper desires our thoughts stem from (see Swedenborg’s work, Divine Providence 61).
The speaker says in verse 3 that he will pray to the Lord in the morning. The morning is significant because it is a time of awakening. It represents a new spiritual state of personal renewal, based on the Lord, His love, His truth, and His presence with us.
Verses 4 through 6 list many things that are not acceptable to the Lord: wickedness, evil, boastful arrogance, iniquity, falsity and deceit. Many of these attributes feed our inclinations toward self-righteousness; these influences are at play whenever we try to convince others (and ourselves) that we always know what is right, and that we are superior to others. They are the ingredients of a hellish life.
A list such as this one helps us to recognize what is contrary to the Lord’s life in us, so that we may be genuine followers of the Lord and the Word. This process involves a great deal of self-examination, and indeed, meditation of our own thoughts and spiritual states.
Verse 7 follows with a promise to come and worship in the house of the Lord, and verse 8 is a prayer to be led by the Lord in His righteousness “because of my enemies.” These enemies are really our internal battles; “a man’s foes are those of his own household” (see Swedenborg’s work, Arcana Caelestia 8282 ).
Verses 9 and 10 move on to recognize the self-destructive path of those caught up in evil. While all of us have our hereditary evils and a lower nature before regeneration, it is intentional evil, as the psalm declares, that can lead us in the direction of hell (see Swedenborg’s Heaven and Hell 532).
The psalm comes to an end with an affirmation: let all those who trust in the Lord rejoice! For He blesses us when we live in righteousness, and protects us as with a shield. This simply reminds us to have confidence in our commitment to the Lord, and to trust that He works for our eternal life more than we will ever know (Divine Providence 46).