This is a psalm that challenges our paradigm of how we often view the world. Are we ready to reckon with the fact that according to Psalm 5:5, God “hates all evildoers”?
For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. (Psalm 5:4-6)
What in the world does this mean? How are we to understand this? What are the implications of this for our relationship with others?
The first thing we should say is that according to many, many other scriptures, this includes all of us. Just consider Romans 3:10-20. We are all evildoers. We are all God’s enemies. Therefore, the only way that we can “enter God’s house” is through the “abundance of his steadfast love”. The psalm goes on to say:
But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you. Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me (Psalm 5:7-8).
As the psalm continues, in vs. 9-10, we see David’s expression of the paradigm given in vs. 4-6. David does not desire that those whom God abhors be absolved of their guilt. He actually requests that God would “make them bear their guilt.” He asks God to “cast them out” because of their rebellion.
For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you (Psalm 5:9-10)
What are we to make of these verses? How should we pray this same psalm? It is the Word of God! Shall we overlook it and just conclude that to pray in such a manner is incomprehensible to us? Actually, I think that might be a good way to respond. Let me explain:
If we have trouble praying according to a certain scripture because it seems in our minds to contradict other biblical truths, then we should be careful not to discard those other truths in favor of the scripture we are seeking to follow. If we cannot pray from a pure heart with no doubts asking God to “cast out” evildoers, then we should refrain and simply ask God to give us insight into what he is revealing of himself here.
That said, here is my best understanding of how we can reconcile these strong verses with those verses that talk about God’s love for sinners and his lack of pleasure in killing the wicked (Ezekiel 18:32; 33:11). What we are asking God to do is to not forgive sin where there is no repentance from that sin (see also Psalm 7:12). This is why he says, “let all who take refuge in you rejoice…”
But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield (Psalm 5:11-12).
David asks for salvation, joy, protection, love, blessing, and favor for ALL who take refuge in the Lord. Our prayers for evildoers, then, should be that God would graciously bring them to repentance. We should pray that God would give them a heart that flees to him for refuge. May God give my non-believing friends a heart that loves his name and exults in Christ Jesus.
Only when we let verses 4-6 sink in to our hearts can we begin to understand the depths of God’s love and grace.