1 Give ear to my words, O LORD,
Consider my meditation.
2 Give heed to the voice of my cry,
My King and my God,
For to You I will pray.
3 My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD;
In the morning I will direct it to You,
And I will look up.
4 For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness,
Nor shall evil dwell with You.
5 The boastful shall not stand in Your sight;
You hate all workers of iniquity.
6 You shall destroy those who speak falsehood;
The LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.
7 But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy;
In fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple.
8 Lead me, O LORD, in Your righteousness because of my enemies;
Make Your way straight before my face.
9 For there is no faithfulness in their mouth;
Their inward part is destruction;
Their throat is an open tomb;
They flatter with their tongue.
10 Pronounce them guilty, O God!
Let them fall by their own counsels;
Cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions,
For they have rebelled against You.
11 But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You;
Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them;
Let those also who love Your name
Be joyful in You.
12 For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous;
With favor You will surround him as with a shield.
The People of God Vs. The Workers of Iniquity: Who’s Who, and Why Does It Matter?
Whereas the Man who does these things (of Psalm 15) is never shaken (by dint of His own righteousness), in Psalm 5 we read that David will enter the Lord’s house by the mercy of God; in fear and reverence, he will worship toward the Lord’s temple, and be led by God’s righteousness. David’s trust is not in himself, but in God, who justifies sinners (cf. Romans 8:33). The “workers of iniquity” that David mentions in v. 5, therefore, are not simply men who do not perform morally upright actions, but those who are not justified by faith in Christ. How do we know this? Well, simple: Paul tells us this much in Romans 3:13, where he quotes v. 9 of our Psalm, applying it to all men outside of Christ. All men, not some especially wicked group of men but all of them, who do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ are “workers of iniquity.” However, those who have trusted in Christ are His own, His saints declared righteous by Him, and being led by His righteousness.
David makes this clear by identifying these men by their speech, or, as the Lord Jesus later calls it, the fruit of their lips (cf. Matt. 12:33-37, which I’ll delve into a little more in just a few paragraphs). In verses 1-5 we learn that the just live by faith, showing their faith by prayerful dependence upon God, while verses 5-6 & 9 show us that the wicked are identified by their boastfulness, lies, scheming, and faithlessness. This underscores the fact that the focus of Psalm 5 is not some almost-Pelagian moralism, but the contrast between those who have trusted in Christ and those who have not, and the Lord God who justifies (those who have believed on Christ) and condemns (those who have not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God, cf. John 3:18).
Psalm 5 is about judgment: Those who have not believed, and persist in not believing, in Christ are “workers of iniquity” upon whom the wrath of God abides; those who have trusted, and perpetually trust, in Christ are the righteous, those who have been shown infinite mercy, invited to dwell with the King of kings, and to rejoice in the salvation He has graciously granted them.
Psalm 5 is about Christ, for it is He that “prounce[s] them guilty…!” (v. 10), and it is He who cloaks us with His righteousness, whereby we are pronounced righteous. [Amen!]
So why is this important? Well, there are many who would like to see in the sermon on the Mount the idea that those who truly belong to the Lord Jesus Christ can somehow lose their salvation, or be damned to hell after having truly trusted in the merits of Christ Jesus alone. The passage they try to use to support their idea is Matthew 7:21-23, which reads:
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
What these Arminians fail to realize is that their interpretation denies justification by faith alone, salvation by grace, and completely misses the very specific language our Lord is using here. Those who “practice lawlessness” (or “work iniquity,” as the King James Version renders it) are those who, as we see in Psalm 5, are bad trees who can only bear bad fruit. These who are rejected by the Lord are not, nor have they ever been, true believers. They are, rather, men who hung around Christ, who saw Him, heard Him, but who had no saving faith in Him. A correlative passage can be found in Luke 13:22-30, where we learn that the King of kings will reject all “workers of iniquity” and let in only those whom He has savingly known – those whom He has justified once and for all. We read:
22 And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ 26 then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ 27 But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ 28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. 29 They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. 30 And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.”
Let no man deceive you: No one who has been born again is a “worker of iniquity.” There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, our King and our God.
Psalm 5 is about Christ, Our King: YHWH God of Israel
Right alongside those who deny the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice for the sins of His people are those liberals who would like to present the Lord Jesus Christ as a mere man who was only deified later by His disillusioned disciples (something I touch upon here and here). They attempt to do so by trying to attribute a portion of New Testament sayings to Christ that they think He actually uttered (as opposed to those things they suppose His disciples put in His mouth (for the logical inconsistency [i.e. the illogical thinking] involved in this, please see here). There are others who would deny that Christ thought Himself to be God.
How do we respond?
Take Christ at His Word.
And what does He say?
He says that He is YHWH God of Psalm 5, the King who mercifully saves some and judges the wicked in righteousness.
Psalm 5 presents us with two types of men (trees): the righteous (justified by faith in Christ) and the unrighteous (“workers of iniquity”). It also presents us with a King who allows some into His house by an act of mercy and punishes the others for their sins, “cast[ing] them out” eternally for their rebellion (cf. v.10). And the Lord Jesus uses these exact images in Matthew 7:21-23 and Luke 13:22-30 (quoted above) when speaking of His reign as King, His mercy shown to some, and His judgment shown to others. Those who have been “blessed of [His] Father” are granted entrance (cf. Matt. 25:34), while those who are “cursed” are told to depart from Him eternally (cf. Matt. 25:41). When the Lord Jesus tells us that He will tell the workers of iniquity to depart from Him, and that they will be “cast out” (cf. Luke 13:28), while the righteous will be saved, He seems to be strongly echoing Psalm 5 and, thereby, emphatically declaring Himself to be YHWH God of Israel, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Judge of all men.
Those who want to say that Jesus didn’t teach that He was God are just plain wrong.
He practically shouted it in every word He spoke.