I think we’ve all had some version of the same conversation, where someone asks the question, “How are you doing?” And another person responds with something like, “I can’t complain, wouldn’t do any good if I did.” It seems like the noble response, and often, it is. This world has plenty of negativity, and we don’t want to add our voices to the chorus of the complainers. But if complaining is unproductive at best or counterproductive at worst, then what do we do with Psalm 5?
1 Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning.
There’s no question about David’s intention here. He has some issues to address, and he begs God to hear him out. He pleads with God to hear his cry. Why? What good is David’s groaning going to do? Shouldn’t he be working for justice instead of just praying? Here’s where we see the difference between so much of the complaining we’re tempted to do on a daily basis and the holy complaint that David is voicing.
David’s complaint isn’t about his own comfort or power or reputation. David’s focus is on God. He is crying out because of who God is. God does not delight in wickedness and does not dwell with evil. God is uncompromisingly committed to truth and justice, abhorring violence and deceit in any form. David declares the holy character of God without any illusions of his own righteousness. By God’s grace, David is keenly aware of his own shortcomings. It is only through the abundance of God’s steadfast love that David enter’s God’s house. It’s grace that leads David to cry out, “8 Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.”
David’s complaint begins with who God is and who God has called him to be, and then it moves to those he calls his enemies. In this Psalm, we aren’t told the specific circumstances of David’s cry. We don’t know the names of these enemies or the specifics of their sins, but we know who they were. They were those who lied indiscriminately, those whose highest priority was self-promotion at the expense of others, those whose words were more about what they wanted than about what they said. They’re those who lived and worked in ways that were counter to the character of the God who hates evil, violence, and deceit. That is who David’s enemies were. That is what drove David to the point of groaning. We don’t know the specifics of David’s circumstances then, but we know our circumstances now. We see the effects of those who embrace the lie that others are less than human because of the color of their skin, of those who use the Bible and the people of God as cover for their own dishonest gain, of those who excuse violence and deceit as long as the end result is to their benefit. And like David, we recognize that we too often fall short of God’s glory.
David’s complaint isn’t just about signaling his own superiority. It’s a cry of humility and dependence upon God. It isn’t an excuse for inaction. It’s a call to action. It’s a cry for justice and a call for mercy. David wasn’t just praying, but he was praying. He was praying because he saw the overwhelming horror of injustice AND because he knew the God who can and will make all things right, the God who calls us to join Him in the work of justice.
Lord, give us eyes to see as you see and ears to hear as you hear. Show us the injustice around us and also within us. Lead us in the way of justice and righteousness, and bring healing to our world that is broken and hurting. We need your grace where we come up short. We need your protection in a fallen world. We need your joy in the midst of our sorrow. We need your strength to walk in the way you’ve set before us. Give ear to our words, O Lord.