In Psalm 5 we encounter the first of the imprecatory Psalms — Psalms which call down God's judgment. This Psalm calls upon the Lord to pronounce the wicked 'guilty' and 'cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions' (v.10). But how could we, who have been boastful (v.5), who have spoken falsehood (v.6), who have been unfaithful (v.9), who have flattered others with our tongues (v.9), who have rebelled against the Lord (v.10) ever call down God's guilty verdict on others who have sinned like us? Parts of this Psalm sit uneasily on our lips.
And yet, they don't sit in any way uneasily on the lips of the Chief Musician — Jesus, our true worship leader. As the Sinless One, He can call down God's judgment on sin without hypocrisy. As the One to whom the Father 'has entrusted all judgment' (John 5:22), He can justly pronounce the guilty verdict.
And yet, this Sinless One who can call down God's judgment in this Psalm, is the One who bears God's judgment against sin, by bearing 'our sins in His own body on the tree' (1 Pet. 2:24). This Just One to whom the Father 'has entrusted all judgment' is the One who takes upon Himself our guilty verdict so that we can be pronounced righteous in Him.
The One who can truly pray Psalm 5, and all the other imprecatory Psalms, is the one who in taking this judgment on Himself, prayed from the cross, 'Father, forgive them' (Luke 23:34). And it's only in this light that we can pray these Psalms. These can never be expressions of our thirst for revenge (for that's actually what God's judgment is called down upon —v.6). Rather, such prayers for God's justice should always take us to the cross and the true expression of God's justice there in the death of Jesus, the Just for the Unjust (1 Pet. 3:18). Our longing for justice in this world should lead us to plead the blood. Yes, cry out for justice and lament where it lacks, but don't end our cries in condemnation, but by pleading the wonder-working, cleansing blood of Jesus.
In fact, that's what the Psalmist does here in Psalm 5, for the Psalm doesn't end with the cry for justice, but with the prayer for mercy.
But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them (v.11)
The prayer isn't 'let all those rejoice who aren't wicked and don't deserve judgement.' No. Those who have acted wickedly, those who have sinned, those who deserve God's judgment, can become those rejoice and shout for joy. How? By putting their trust in the Lord. By running to the Lord as their only defence. By finding refuge in the Lord's Anointed — the Lord Jesus, God's own Son (Ps 2:12). By receiving God's grace in Jesus as their shield (cf. Ps 3:3).
Now we who have put our trust in Him should 'in fear ... worship toward [His] holy temple' (v.7) But how can we do that? There isn't a Temple standing anymore to face towards. No, indeed. But we do have a temple. And we can set our faces toward that true temple. For Jesus is the true Temple — specifically Jesus who died and rose again in three days (John 2:19-21). So, in our worship and in our Christian walk, we're called to set our faces towards the One who died and rose again for us. Turn your eyes upon Jesus! Set the Lamb of God, who was slain and lives, who takes away the sin of the world ever before your face. Let Jesus, the crucified and risen Lord, be at the centre of your worship, of your praise, of your prayers, of your service, of your obedience, of your life, and even at the centre of your singing and praying of the Psalms.