"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." Psalm 5:11
We don’t know when King David wrote Psalm 5, or what particular trial he was writing about when he sang,
Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.
For there is no truth in their mouth;
their inmost self is destruction;
their throat is an open grave;
they flatter with their tongue. (Psalm 5:8–9)
That we don’t know who or what attack he might be writing about tells us a great deal about David’s life. This was a man opposed, a man deceived, a man betrayed, a man persecuted, even hunted down. And all of this happened, not once, but with bitter regularity. He didn’t, like so many of us, learn about danger by reading the news. From a very young age, danger had been his nearly daily portion.
When a man with a life like his talks about where to find refuge, the wise slow down and listen more carefully.
What Awaits the Wicked
Psalm 5 teaches a pivotal (and subtle) lesson about reality: As dangerous as David’s life was, there were (and are) greater dangers than the armies he faced. There’s a pain worse than a knife wound. There’s a heartache worse than betrayal. There’s a fate worse than death. As awful as it was to have enemies in this life, the judgment that lay ahead of them was far worse than anything he had to endure for now.
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 5:10)
David might be despised and disowned by his own king. He might be stabbed in the back by a friend, or even a son. He might be cut down on the front lines, and left to die on the battlefield. But those who reject God and oppose his people will wish that’s all that had happened to them. Because they would not bow in worship, they will bear their guilt and be forever cast out of the warmth and security of God’s presence.
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)
To be abhorred in the eyes of heaven is infinitely worse — literally, infinitely worse — than to be hated in the eyes of anyone on earth. On the last day, when they try to stand before God, feeling more vulnerable, shameful, and alone than they have ever felt, they will feel their need for refuge in every fiber of their being — and yet find none.
What Awaits the Humble
Those who humble themselves before God, like David, experience vulnerability very differently.
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)
The wicked rejoice in unrighteousness for now and forfeit the fullness of security and pleasure to come. Those who believe in Jesus hide themselves in him — from sin, from shame, from weakness, from sickness, from crisis, from conflict, from death — and because they do, they are always finding fresh reasons to rejoice, even now. And without end: they ever sing for joy.
Notice, he doesn’t say those who take refuge in God on their worst days will merely survive or get by. He says that they’ll rejoice. They’ll exult. What they experience by faith — again, even while their lives are in real and serious danger — is so compelling and satisfying that, even while they wait in the valley, they can’t help but smile and sing. They see and experience something in Christ that makes them strong enough to endure anything.
Front Door of Refuge
So how do we find our way into this refuge? If we’ve fallen back into cycles of anxiety and instability, how do we rediscover the reassuring safety of his presence? David reminds us that prayer is the front door to his sanctuary.
“Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning,” the psalm begins (Psalm 5:1). Before his voice broke out into singing, it began with groaning. Before he could experience meaningful relief, he had to first cast his cares upon the God who cared for him (1 Peter 5:7). He continues in the next verse, “Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray” (Psalm 5:2). Even when he had good reasons to groan, he maintained a heart and posture of worship before God: You are King, not me. You are God, not me. As I come with my requests, I am yours. Do with me as you please.
And then he prays, “O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch” (Psalm 5:3). Morning and evening, day by day, David prays for God to rescue and deliver. He didn’t pray once and give up; he prayed with persistence and patience. He prayed, he worshiped, and then he watched.
Where will we find refuge from our own trials? We’ll find refuge and joy when we keep getting on our knees and waiting for God to meet us.