1 Give ear to my words, O Lord;
give heed to my sighing.
2 Listen to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
3 O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.
4 For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil will not sojourn with you.
5 The boastful will not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.
6 You destroy those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.
7 But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house,
I will bow down toward your holy temple
in awe of you.
8 Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.
9 For there is no truth in their mouths;
their hearts are destruction;
their throats are open graves;
they flatter with their tongues.
10 Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of their many transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against you.
11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
so that those who love your name may exult in you.
12 For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
you cover them with favor as with a shield.
I was taught long ago to be nice to everyone. Correction: I was taught to “be sweet” to everyone. Being a big personality from birth, my family’s catch phrase to me quickly became, “be sweet” (they weren’t wrong haha). Lord knows this was exactly the message I needed to hear as I was learning how to treat others and be in relationships. I eventually did learn that you do indeed attract more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. But the things we are taught as children do eventually find an end to being useful, or at least there are caveats. Though being sweet is something that is important in a relationship with other people, feigned sweetness is not helpful in our relationship with God. I’m not sure that God needs our sweetness at all. The psalmist gives us many clear examples of this. One might look at the Psalms and see that perhaps one of the most important things we can give to God is our honesty. Honesty is a key ingredient needed in the recipe of giving all of ourselves to God.
When one reads the psalms there’s not much “sweetness” present in David’s words. In fact, we’ve been studying the Psalms for weeks now, and there seems to be way more vinegar than honey. If we have lived a life of honesty with God we can easily find ourselves in the place of the psalmist. However, even when I first read this psalm I think, “oh, I don’t have any enemies.” This thought immediately leads me to, “Wow doesn’t David know he’s not supposed to hate anyone?! Doesn’t he know he’s supposed to be sweet?!” This line of thinking can completely derail the message of this psalm and block us from the inner work into which God invites us. Honesty with God helps us to look inward. But that honesty leads us into a safe space in which we then can be honest with ourselves.
Have you ever hated someone? Like someone who’s really gotten under your skin? It’s exhausting. It hijacks our daily routines and maybe even our other relationships. That’s the thing about hate. It doesn’t stay locked up in secret—not for long. It comes out sideways and seeps into our way of being with others. That’s the kind of stuff we’ve got to get honest about and take to God. In this honest space, we can pray honest prayers. It is a faithful response to take these thoughts and feelings to God and allow God alone to deal with that person or situation. It is only in a space of honesty that we can release others to the care of God.
Have you ever prayed such an honest prayer like this one? I invite you to try and experiment. Try using Psalm 5 as a template if you’re wrestling with unforgiveness and resentment. Be honest with God. It’s been my experience that God doesn’t let me stay in verses 9 and 10. God moves me into a place of forgiveness, release, and freedom to live my life in praise and thanksgiving. Honey is necessary to make friends, but vinegar is necessary to be set free.
Merciful and wonderful God,
You desire all of me. You welcome my gifts and shortcomings, my victories and my secrets, my honey and my vinegar. I confess that I could be more honest with you in my prayers. Bring me into a place of rigorous honesty so that I might come to know you more. Save me, of Lord, from unforgiveness and resentment. Set me free so that I may worship you with all that I do. Amen.