Commentary on Psalm 5:9

For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue.

The total exclusion of truth from the mouth of the wicked does not mean that they do not at times accidentally speak the truth. By their perversion of the truth, the wicked further indict themselves as open rebels against God and His Christ. In addition to their hearts being deceitful above all things,1 their mouths are devoid of truth and their inmost self is destruction.As God declares to Noah, “…the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth…”2 and that evil finds expression primarily in his vain imaginations3 and deceptive words.4 The mouth, the throat, and the tongue are servants of the destruction-saturated hearts of the wicked, and this is why the wicked are said to completely lack truth. What can be known about God, Paul tells us, is made obvious to them by God. Wicked men, therefore, know infallibly that God is their Creator and rightful Master to whom they are accountable and against whom they are rebelling. Nevertheless, they suppress the truth in unrighteousness.5

Further underscoring what we have already been saying, David tells us that it is by flattery that the wicked spew forth destruction. This is to say that the deception they practice is internal (i.e. they are deceiving themselves by foolishly denying that God will judge them for their sins)6 and it is also external (i.e. they lie to others). Given this psalm’s context, i.e. David’s recognition of his own guiltiness before God which occupies the first seven verses, it is difficult to not see flattery as speech that denies what David has already told us he knows is true about himself. To put the matter more simply: The wicked flatter David by heaping illegitimate and undeserving praise and honor upon David, a sinner, and so dishonor and curse God by implying that He is a liar. The wicked also flatter David in order to attempt to conceal their true intentions toward him, viz harming and killing him. And is it any surprise that man is willing to flatter his brother and kill him, when they attempt to do the same to God? For it is written:

These people honor Me with their lips,

but their heart is far from Me.7

Such behavior finds its origin in none other than the devil himself. Our Lord makes this clear when He identifies the Pharisees as children of their father, the devil,8 a truth which John the Baptist had also made very clear when he identified them as a “brood of vipers.”9 And this is the destruction that is the inmost self of the unregenerate man: The entirety of his life is death. His mouth is a yawning chasm,10 his heart is fully corrupt. Like the Pharisees, he is a whitewashed tomb; he conceals the decay, rot, and the abominable odors that arise therefrom beneath a thick coat of flattery.11 Unregenerate man’s words stand in sharp antithesis to our Lord’s Words, for unregenerate man’s words are death but Christ’s Word is the Word of Life.12

1cf. Jer 17:9

2Gen 8:21b

3cf. Gen 6:5; Ps 2:1; Ps 94:11

4cf. Ps 10:7; Ps 36:3;Prov 12:5; Prov 12:20a; Mark 7:14-23

5cf. Rom 1:18-21ff

6cf. Ps 10:3-4; Ps 14:1

7Mark 7:6b

8cf. John 8:42-44

9cf. Matt 3:7-10; Luke 3:7-9

10Keil and Delitzsch:

The substance of their inward part is that which is corruptible in every way, and their throat, as the organ of speech, as in Psa 115:7; Psa 149:6, cf. Psa 69:4, is (perhaps a figure connected with the primary meaning of הוות) a grave, which yawns like jaws, which open and snatch and swallow down whatever comes in their way.

11cf. Matt 23:27-28

12cf. John 6:63 & 67-69

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