Psalm 5 (NIV)
1 Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament.
2 Hear my cry for help, my King and my God,
for to you I pray. 3 In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.
4 For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;
with you, evil people are not welcome.
5 The arrogant cannot stand in your presence.
You hate all who do wrong; 6 you destroy those who tell lies.
The bloodthirsty and deceitful you, Lord, detest.
7 But I, by your great love, can come into your house;
in reverence I bow down toward your holy temple.
8 Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies—
make your way straight before me.
9 Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with malice.
Their throat is an open grave; with their tongues they tell lies.
10 Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall.
Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you.
11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
12 Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
Does this Psalm sit well with your view of God? Is the God we see in Jesus a God who hates? We’ve been told that God loves the sinner, even as He hates the sin. We read “love your enemies,” “For God so loved the world…” “God is love,” “Turn the other cheek,” “Do not repay evil with evil…” How do we reconcile these truths with…
“with you, evil people are not welcome.
5 The arrogant cannot stand in your presence.
You hate all who do wrong; 6 you destroy those who tell lies.”?
Let’s take a closer look at what the David is saying, and also let us dare to question our own notions of real love.
First, and at the risk of sounding like I’m watering things down, let’s examine the word “hate.” In the Bible, it is true, God hates. However, I think it is wise to consider that what we think of as hatred may not be exactly what God experiences. You and I can be taken over by a deep, evil revulsion towards one another, and this can consume and control us. I don’t believe this to be true of God. Sometimes when we speak of hatred, what we have in mind is “a deep opposition towards,” or “to stand opposed.” This idea might be more in line here. There are actions, situations, people, even parts of my own heart that stand totally opposed to God’s nature and character. God stands opposed, and for this, I am eternally grateful.
A God who does not hate is no God of love at all. A love that does not oppose anything isn’t worth dirt.
On the very first page of our Bible, God declared His opposition towards the shroud of darkness, the formless chaos, and the lifeless void. He opposed darkness by creating light and said it was “good.” He opposed formless chaos on days 1 – 3 by creating “forms” that would sustain and house life and said it was “good.” He opposed lifeless void on days 4 – 6 by creating life to fill and/or rule in those “forms” and said it was “very good.” God is for order and peace. God is for life. God, therefore, hates that which promotes chaos and destructiveness and inhibits the flourishing of life.
I cannot love my child without opposing the child predator. I cannot love my child without attempting to teach and correct the self-destructive tendencies of her own heart. It just wouldn’t be love.
David is in a situation of extreme oppression and duress. Have you ever been in a situation like that? When we find ourselves in tough situations, where do we turn for comfort? David turns to the Lord. More specifically, he turns to remind himself and God of the traits he knows to be true about God. In this instance, comfort doesn’t come from a warm, fuzzy god. David is comforted and banking on the God who opposes wickedness, evil, arrogance, wrongdoers, liers, the bloodthirsty and deceitful. Why? Because when you are a victim of destructive chaos and violence (formless and void), and the darkness surrounds you, it is reassuring to know that the God of the universe is opposed to things that are oppressing you.
We are called to turn the other cheek. But when you are the victim of abuse, where does the ability to turn the other cheek come from? Does it come from a God who is okay with chaos and violence? Certainly not! We can turn the other cheek and lay down the sword because we believe in a just God. “Vengeance is mine, declares the Lord.”
Only when we trust in His divine justice will we surrender the need to be the arbiter of justice.
There is only one major problem here: My own heart. We are all sinners, guilty of evil, lies, wickedness, etc. As much as we try to tame our sin and make it palatable, we often find ourselves aligned with that which God hates. If God does the good thing and enacts justice upon sinners, there would be no one left. Romans 3 says that through the cross of Christ, God satisfied the need for justice, AND justified the ungodly.
Notice David’s words: “But I, by your great love, can come into your house;” He doesn’t say “by my great righteousness, as opposed to all those sinners you hate, I can come into your house.” No, it’s only by God’s great love. Then he goes on to pray, “lead me in your righteousness.”
Only God’s great love can rescue us from His great justice and transform us into people who genuinely seek to walk in His righteousness. He is our rescue: His hatred towards evil should be a reassurance of love for those who are victims. But his love and mercy are also reassurance for us as we face the evil in our own lives. To close, if you’ve ever questioned whether a God who hates can be good, consider this quote from Miroslav Volf, a man who experienced real horror and violence in Eastern Europe:
My thesis is that the practice of non-violence requires a belief in divine vengeance… My thesis will be unpopular with man in the West…But imagine speaking to people (as I have) whose cities and villages have been first plundered, then burned, and leveled to the ground, whose daughters and sisters have been raped, whose fathers and brothers have had their throats slit…Your point to them–we should not retaliate? Why not? I say–the only means of prohibiting violence by us is to insist that violence is only legitimate when it comes from God…Violence thrives today, secretly nourished by the belief that God refuses to take the sword…It takes the quiet of a suburb for the birth of the thesis that human nonviolence is a result of a God who refuses to judge. In a scorched land–soaked in the blood of the innocent, the idea will invariably die, like other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind…if God were NOT angry at injustice and deception and did NOT make a final end of violence, that God would not be worthy of our worship. – Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace.
Truth Mike- Thanks for taking the journey that lead to this devotional. Sometimes we want Mary Poppins to add a “spoonful or sugar to make the medicine go down” because at first glance the truth looks distasteful. However, as you’ve clearly explained, the truth about God’s nature isn’t distasteful at all; indeed it is a complex, perfectly blended feast that gives life to all who hear and follow. Love you brother.