Commentary on Psalm 5:8

8. Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before my face.

David’s prayer continues with a request to be led in the righteousness of God. Whereas the sacrifice offered by David has reference to the imputed righteousness of Christ, as typified by the substitutionary sacrifice of the lamb, this reference is to God’s guidance of His people by His Word. This is evident from the second clause of this verse which serves as a parallel. Comparing the two petitions, we can clearly see that the petitions “Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness…” and “…make Your Way straight before me” hold roughly the same meaning. God’s way is the way of His Law, the way of righteousness – it is the good works prepared beforehand for God’s people that they may walk in them as they are transformed by His Holy Spirit.1 The way of God is righteousness, and God’s Way is His Word. Hence, we read that “the Lord knows the way of the righteous” in Psalm 1:6a, where “the way of the righteous” has immediate reference to the righteous man’s obedience to God’s Word. In other words, the sacrifice offered by David highlights the imputed righteousness of Christ to the sinner; the straight way of righteousness highlights the ongoing process of sanctification, where the Spirit transforms the sinner, imparting righteousness to him. In the first instance, David is declared righteous and accepted by God through the death of an innocent substitutionary sacrifice; in this verse, David is made righteous by God, who leads His people by His Word through the world of sin from which He has delivered them.

Note that David’s prayer is that God would lead him by His Word because of his enemies who, as he explains in the next verse, are liars, deceivers, men filled with destruction, seeking to overthrow the kingdom of God and to ensnare and destroy God’s people, to whom David belongs. He is petitioning God to lead him because the wicked too have their way – the way of destruction. The contrast given here is the same one we encounter all throughout the Divine Word: There is God’s revealed Way and, standing in opposition to God’s Word, “…there is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is death.” Complete antithesis exists between the way of our Lord God and the way of the world; there are no shades of gray. Note, furthermore, that the antithetical contrast is between the Word of God and the words of men. The righteous trust in God’s Word, but the unrighteous trust in man’s word; consequently, therefore, the righteous believe and repent and do good works for which they have been predestined by the Trinity, whereas the wicked believe lies and refuse to repent and hate God and His people. The apostle Peter explains that:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.2

God, by His Word, has granted us all things that pertain to (a.)life and (b.)godliness. We are saved through faith, and we are then urged to

…make every effort to supplement [our] faith with virtue,and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affectionwith love.3

Justification precedes and grounds sanctification. David’s righteousness was both forensic (imputed righteousness) and demonstrative (imparted righteousness). We are not saved by our good works; nevertheless, we are saved unto good works. Let us, then, pray with David for the Lord’s leading in His righteousness. Our enemies are legion, but Christ is “…able to keep [us] from stumbling and to present [us] blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy…”4

1cf. Eph 2:8-10

22 Pet 1:3-4

32 Pet 1:5-7

4Jude 24

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