Psalm 5
3. The God Who Leads

What is leading you? And is it leading you down the right path? Join Pastor Dan Bidwell as he tackes this important question at the heart of Psalm 5.

Songs of Jesus
3. The God Who Leads Dan Bidwell, Senior Pastor Psalm 5 10 July 2022

A couple of years ago, there was a crash on the main road leading into Denver International Airport. The crash blocked most of the access to the airport and caused a huge traffic jam outside.1

You can imagine the chaos it caused, especially for all the people trying to get to the airport for their flights, and for those trying to pick up arriving travelers.

And so a number of drivers did what you and I would do – they looked up Google Maps to see if there was detour or a shortcut. And sure enough, Google came up with an alternative route.

The problem was, the detour led to a dirt road. It had been raining heavily, and almost 100 cars ended up getting stuck in a muddy field.

So why would you drive down a road that looked sketchy?

One of the drivers who got stuck said that crowd psychology played a role. Connie Monsees who was on her way to pick up her husband reported, “Well, all these other cars are in front of me, so I thought, it must be OK.”

Once the road turned to complete mud, she realized the mistake, but there was no place to do a U-turn.

Google said that they take many factors into account when determining route guidance, but “issues can arise due to unforeseen circumstances, such as when weather conditions affect the quality of roads." Google encourages "all drivers to follow local laws, stay attentive, and use their best judgment while driving."2

Connie Monsees doesn’t blame Google. She said: "I don't know that it's so much about Google, it's about us. We want so badly for life to be efficient that we try to take shortcuts that aren't really necessary."


I love this story because it’s exactly the sort of thing I’d do – in fact I have done exactly the same thing before, I’ve just never been stuck because we’ve always driven 4WDs. (But that’s not the point!)


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No - I love the story because it reminds me how easily we can be led astray.

So as we open the Bible this morning, I want us to ask ourselves the question that is at the heart of Psalm 5: What is leading you? And is it leading you down the right path?

That’s what I want to answer from our Psalm today, so why don’t we pray that God would speak to us as we open his word.

Our heavenly Father, we ask that you would speak to us today. Show us what leads our lives, what leads our hearts, and would you lead us towards yourself. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen

Well we are in the middle of our summer sermon series in the Psalms. We’re calling it ‘Songs of Jesus.’ The idea is that we all have songs that form the soundtrack to our life: songs that bring back significant memories, songs that lift us when we are down, songs that inspire us, songs that move us.

And for Jesus, those songs were the Psalms. Songs that he had grown up singing, songs that taught him about God, songs that taught him about himself, songs that taught him how to pray. I’m hoping that these Psalms will teach us how to pray as well.

So how does Psalm 5 teach us to pray?

Surrounded By Prayer (v1-3)

The first lesson it teaches us is to start the day surrounded by prayer.. (v1-3)

1 Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament.

2 Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.

3 In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you

and wait expectantly.

(Psalm 5:1-3)

King David, who wrote this Psalm, records one of his morning prayers. In fact, he turns it into a song for the director of music, to be played on the pipes.

David asks God to consider his lament in v1, and to hear his cry for help in v2. David’s morning prayer is a ritual asking God to listen and hear. David brings his requests to God, and he lays


them before God in expectation, just like worshipers would lay their sacrifices at the altar in expectation of God’s mercy...

This morning prayer is all about coming into the presence of God as you face the day ahead of you. Bringing your hopes and fears to God during the calm before the storm. Giving your day to the only one who can make a difference. Asking God to be with you, and waiting expectantly to see how he acts...

That’s a pretty good way to start the morning, if you ask me.

And so that’s our first big idea from vv1-3. Start your day surrounded by prayer.

Surrounded By Wickedness (v4-6, 9-10)

Second big idea comes from the middle section of the poem: v4-6, 9-10 Surrounded by wickedness.

I grew up surfing on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Newport Beach particularly. It’s a bit like Newport Beach here in Southern California, but just with much warmer water.

Anyway when you grow up surfing, you’re always aware that you might not be alone in the water, if you know what I mean. I’m talking about sharks. The men in the grey suits, we sometimes call them. You know they are there. Every time a school of fish jumps out of the water, you imagine what might have been chasing them. And even when the water is perfectly clear, you never see them until they are right there.

I was surfing one morning, and a pod of dolphins breached just yards away from me. I hadn’t seen them at all (and dolphins need to breathe!). But there they were – 10 or 12 dolphins riding in on the wave that I was about to paddle for. (It was actually a really amazing experience, but it reminded me that you would never see a shark until it wanted to be seen...)

Another time I was watching from the beach when all of a sudden, the guy next to me pointed to a massive dark shadow swimming under a group of surfers. He started yelling and shouting. This thing was huge – like 12, 14 maybe even 16 feet. The surfers noticed it just as we did and then it turned and surfaced. It was a pilot whale, I think, clearly just wanted to say hi to the crew.

And now with drone technology, the internet is awash with videos of surfers paddling unaware of the great white sharks swimming all around them.

Whenever you go in the ocean, you are surrounded by all kinds of wildlife, whether you know it or not.


David was surrounded by another kind of wildlife. And we see that in vv4-6, and vv9-10. David is surrounded by sharks. He is surrounded by wicked people intent on doing him harm. Listen to how he describes them (starting at v4):

4 For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome.

5 The arrogant cannot stand in your presence.

You hate all who do wrong;


you, Lord, detest. [...]

9 Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with malice.

Their throat is an open grave; with their tongues they tell lies.

10 Declare them guilty, O God!
Let their intrigues be their downfall.

Banish them for their many sins,
for they have rebelled against you.

David is surrounded by wickedness. Look at the words he uses: evil, arrogant, wrongdoers, bloodthirsty, deceitful, malicious, liars.

David was a king, which meant he was a politician. Sadly we see these wicked behaviors play out in politics all too often.

And David was a leader. Sadly some leaders attain their position through the wicked behaviors described here. And almost every leader will find themself under attack at times from the kind of wickedness that David finds himself surrounded by. It’s the downside of having power and authority – there is always someone who wants what you have.

But you don’t have to be a politician, or a leader to recognize the wickedness that surrounds us every day. Wickedness touches everyday people, like those gathered to celebrate the independence of a nation this week in Highland Park, Illinois, and like the schoolchildren in Uvalde, Texas earlier last month.

Wickedness surrounds us whether we see it or not. And sometimes it surfaces right in front of us, reminding us that the world is not as shiny and perfect as we want it to be.

And this reality of good and evil, it creates dissonance for those who want to say that the world is only getting better. You know the rhetoric – with enough education and opportunity, with enough love, with enough goodwill, we can end wars and poverty and human suffering.

you destroy those who tell lies. The bloodthirsty and deceitful


The reality is, we live in the most technologically advanced society in history, with the highest levels of education and still we can’t hold back the darkness.

And that brings us back to a word that David used in v1: lament.
The traditional definition of lament, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is;
‘A passionate

expression of grief or sorrow.’ We might lament the death of a friend, for example.

But David’s lament in this Psalm is a bit different. David laments the evil that surrounds him. He laments the fact that the wicked are still in positions of power and influence. He laments the fact that God has not yet brought an end to all the evil that taints the goodness of God’s good creation.

And this is where Psalm 5 teaches us to pray in the midst of evil. It teaches us the biblical idea of lament.

Pastor Aubrey Sampson describes lament like this. She says:

For those of us who follow Jesus, we live with down payments on the “Already” of God’s Kingdom on earth. We see glimpses of God’s healing power, his love, and his victory over evil. But we also live in the “Not Yet” of a broken, sinful world.

It is in between the Already and the Not Yet where we wait expectantly for the return of Jesus, who will one day make all things right, whole, and complete. Thankfully, we experience glimpses of gospel hope every time we see bits and pieces of God’s reign and presence and power at work. But that final redemption—God’s Kingdom arriving in full, all brokenness redeemed, all evil thwarted, all suffering ended—is our ultimate hope.

Lament, meaning a crying out of the soul, creates a pathway between the Already and the Not Yet. Lament minds the gap between current hopelessness and coming hope. Lament anticipates new creation but also acknowledges the painful reality of now. Lament helps us hold onto God’s goodness while battling evil’s evil at the same time.

[...] Lament is actually a godly concept, a spiritual discipline, and a powerful handhold in our seasons of sorrow. God has given us the biblical language and practice of lament as a way to express our pain and survive our suffering.

Aubrey Sampson, Renewal Church West Chicago3

David uses this morning prayer to make sense of the reality of evil, but without forgetting God’s ultimate plan to bring evil to an end.

3 5


Scanning from v4, David says:

4 For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome.

5 The arrogant cannot stand in your presence.

You hate all who do wrong;


you, Lord, detest. [...]

10 Declare them guilty, O God!
Let their intrigues be their downfall.

Banish them for their many sins,
for they have rebelled against you.

Psalm 5 reminds us that God will not let evil go unpunished. Evil will not surround us forever – that’s not ultimately the world we will live in. One day, the evil will be banished for their many sins...

And that’s where this Psalm sneaks up behind us and taps us on the shoulder, doesn’t it?

Because this Psalm reminds us that the evil isn’t just ‘out there’. It’s in here, in our hearts. Perhaps we haven’t been bloodthirsty, but who of us has never acted with arrogance, with deceitful intent, with trickery. And who among us has not rebelled against God?

When you come to the New Testament, the Apostle Paul uses part of Psalm 5 (specifically v9) to show that all of us are by nature unrighteous, all of us by nature rebel against God. None of us deserve to stand before God.

Listen to what Paul writes in Romans 3:10 “There is no one righteous, not even one;


12 All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;

there is no one who does good, not even one.”

13 “Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.” (Romans 3:10-13)

you destroy those who tell lies. The bloodthirsty and deceitful

there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.


If we read Psalm 5 correctly, we are counted among the wicked. We are part of the evil that surrounds the good of this world. We are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

It’s a terrifying truth to find out. When we read the Bible, we always want to play the part of the hero. But it turns out we’re the villains...

Unless someone saves us from ourselves.
And that brings us to the third big idea, Surrounded by favor.
Surrounded By Favor (v7-8, 11-12)

The first time I went to Germany in 1997, I remember arriving in Frankfurt at 7 in the morning. I don’t think they had direct flights back then, so I’d already been traveling for 24 hours, and I arrive exhausted and it’s only 7 in the morning. The youth hostel didn’t open until 4pm, so I was wandering the streets of Frankfurt trying not to fall asleep.

And I have this distinct memory of a bakery and they had these round, hot donuts covered in sugar. It was winter and it was freezing, so I got this donut and a coffee. And I remember the feeling of biting into the donut and getting this incredible surprise. The donut was filled with warm strawberry jam. It was heavenly!

Sometimes the best surprise is right in the middle, and that’s true with Psalm 5. The Psalms are often written where the middle is the most important part.

And right at the middle of this Psalm is a truth that cuts through all the wickedness that surrounds it. Have a look at v7:

7 But I, by your great love, can come into your house;

in reverence I bow down
toward your holy temple. (Psalm 5:7)

David knew his own capacity for evil. He had committed adultery, then when he found out the woman was pregnant with this child, he had her husband killed to cover up the affair. David knew his own capacity for evil.

But... and this is one of the best buts in the Bible ;-)
‘But (look at v7) I, by your great love, can come into your house.’

David comes into the presence of God, not because of his own righteousness or goodness or virtue. No, (v7) he comes into God’s house because of God’s great love.


This love of God, it’s the central theme of the entire Bible. God, in his loving kindness, will invite forgiven sinners to return to him. God’s love will undo the sin that began with Adam and Eve, so that one day, many will again live with God in paradise for eternity.

That is God’s promise. And God is faithful to his promise.

The word in the original language for ‘great love’ is hesed – it means God’s covenant faithfulness, his love expressed in actions, his promise to his people that is unbreakable, his loving kindness that comes from the heart of his character.

‘God is love’, it says in 1 John 4:8. And John goes on to say:
9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the

world that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9)

Jesus died on the cross to demonstrate God’s love for us. He died in our place, so that we might live through him. And that’s what David’s prayer in Psalm 5 anticipates. The great love of God that would bring forgiveness, to all who put their trust in Jesus.

David begins the psalm laying his lament our before God – I am surrounded by wickedness.

But the psalm finishes with a new perspective. It finishes with gladness and joy and blessing, with David surrounded by the favor of God, protected like a warrior behind a shield.

11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.

Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

12 Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor as with a shield. (Psalm 5:11-12)

What is leading you?

I began the sermon today by asking what leads you. What is leading you, and is it leading you down the right path?

In Psalm 5, we see two distinct pathways. The pathway of the wicked that leads to destruction. And the pathway of those who approach God because of his loving kindness.

Those who rebel against God. And those who return to God in reverence. Those who are banished, and those who are blessed.


Two distinct pathways, and two distinct outcomes.

And so this psalm asks us, what pathway are we going down, and who is leading us down it? Because just like David, we all have the capacity to choose the pathway that ignores God, because we are surrounded by people who are going down that same pathway to destruction. Like a faulty GPS, the wickedness can cause us to take the wrong pathway and we might not realize it until it’s too late.

Or we can follow the route guidance that can be trusted. We can listen to God and allow him to lead us down the pathway that comes back to him...

In v8, David says:

8 Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness
because of my enemies—
your way straight before me. (Psalm 5:8)

This week, will you ask God to lead you in his righteousness, and to lead you towards Jesus? Will you pray with me?