psalm v – from hell to heaven

It seems that every time I come back to Psalms like these, I identify more and more with David’s enemies rather than David. If evil cannot dwell with God, then I can’t dwell with God. Even thinking that thought is despair. How often do I lie? How often do I boast, if not in word then in thought? As I look at God’s hatred for evil in one part of this Psalm, I see I should be cast out. In this Psalm, you could say, I descend into the flames of hell.

Yet, in the fire I read on. David enters God’s house. How is that possible? By the abundance of God’s faithful love. Christ descends, and a strange thing happens. The flames no longer burn and are cool to the touch. The natural human aversion to fire is strangely missing, as I sweep my hand through it. The flames rage higher as I touch them, frustrated by their inability to reclaim me. Then I see my hand is not my own, but Christ’s, pierced. Through the holes I see the full blaze of the fire contained. My sin, the Devil, the sins of those I love, all trapped within Christ’s wounds. Now I see this Psalm is heaven, too. It is hell that leads to heaven, as the condemnation is replaced with acceptance.

Yet it would not be right for me to go right to heaven without passing through hell, for I would not desire Christ nearly as much. Neither would it be right to remain in hell, and refuse grace. But it is good to descend there at least for a little while, and experience conversion again and again.

I doubt it would do me good to forget the flames, lest I grow accustomed to the cool and think it belongs to me as if it is my property and not to Christ in me, who unites me to Him.

Meditation: Do you see yourself in this Psalm as David (the author) or his enemies? You are both, yet they are not of equal weighting. God promises deliverance from your enemies, external and internal. But don’t jump too quickly to your rescue, and reflect for a while on where you fail. Let yourself descend to hell to be raised back up, or the Gospel will grow mundane.

Listen to my words, Lord;
consider my sighing.
Pay attention to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for I pray to you.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I plead my case to you and watch expectantly.

For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil cannot dwell with you.
The boastful cannot stand in your sight;
you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who tell lies;
the Lord abhors violent and treacherous people.

But I enter your house
by the abundance of your faithful love;
I bow down toward your holy temple
in reverential awe of you.
Lord, lead me in your righteousness
because of my adversaries;
make your way straight before me.

For there is nothing reliable in what they say;
destruction is within them;
their throat is an open grave;
they flatter with their tongues.
Punish them, God;
let them fall by their own schemes.
Drive them out because of their many crimes,
for they rebel against you.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them shout for joy forever.
May you shelter them,
and may those who love your name boast about you.
For you, Lord, bless the righteous one;
you surround him with favor like a shield.

psalm v (csb)

<— psalm iv psalm vi —>