17.11.13 – God Blesses. God Hates – Peter Cheyne

Read Psalm 5 using 2 voices. Voice 1 read verse 1-3, 7-8 and 11-12. Voice 2 read verses 4-6, and 9-10.

Did that sound a little like a good cop/bad cop routine? This psalm switches backwards and forwards between two very different lines of thought. There are huge contrasts. It describes polar opposites.

Some of it initially made me think, “I don’t want to preach on that.” What do you do with this material that says that God hates people, He detests certain people and that calls for judgement. That is not nice comforting stuff. It is not even politically correct to talk of God hating. Saying those sorts of things doesn’t make you popular. But the question is not whether it is politically correct but whether it is correct. What is the truth that we learn from this psalm? What does God’s word say?

Let’s go through it again and get a bird’s eye view of it.

Section A, vv.1-3 are David’s plea that God will hear his prayer. King David addresses God as his king and his God. That suggests a relationship and submission. David says that in the morning he lays his requests before God and waits expectantly. He is in need. God has not yet answered, yet David continues to trust God. He prays expecting that God will answer.

The reason he expects an answer is that God is not pleased with wickedness and so we are brought to the character of God and His attitude to evil. What is God like?

Habakkuk 1:13a  Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.

That is what the psalmist also says. God and evil are polar opposites. They can never be combined. There is no sin in God. Actually there is hatred of sin in God. Sin is abhorrent to God.

God is not pleased with wickedness. People are. People laugh about, and find pleasure in, things that are wrong but God never will. He is too pure. He cannot be a mixture of good and evil. He is pure good.

Evil people are not welcome in God’s presence. We cannot bring sin into God’s presence as if it doesn’t matter. To God it does matter. The arrogant cannot stand in God’s presence.

That is where it then says, “You hate all who do wrong.” We will come back to that but for the moment hold it in this context of God’s abhorrence of sin. “You destroy those who tell lies. The bloodthirsty and deceitful you, Lord, detest.” There it is again. “Detest” is another word for “hate” and notice that it doesn’t say that God hates the sin but loves the sinner. It says that God hates/detests the sinner.

So, Section A : Lord, hear my prayer. I trust You. Section B: Lord, You hate sin (and sinners).

Section C: another contrast. Evil people cannot stand before You but I come into Your house. I bow before you in the temple. Lord, lead me in righteousness and make my path straight.

If that sounds arrogant (“I am righteous. I live in God’s house.”) look carefully at the words. David says that it is by God’s great love that he comes into His house. David doesn’t claim access to God because of his own goodness. It is by God’s great love. There is another contrast. We have just heard about God’s hatred. Now we are told about His great love. David bows in reverence. There is no arrogance here. There is humble submission to God.

And then he prays for God’s leading in righteousness and for his path to be made straight. David knows that if he is to remain righteous, he needs God’s help. Unless God makes the going plain, David is bound to stumble and fall. Lord, lead me.

Then we hear about the evil again in vv.9-10 (Section D). Their wickedness is described. Their mouths are full of lies. Their hearts are full of malice. At their very core is a desire to hurt others. Their throats are open graves. I am not sure what that means but it is certainly not good. Maybe it means their words bring death. And just in case you think this is only an Old Testament understanding, this verse is quoted by Paul in Romans 3:13 as evidence that no one is righteous. This is actually a description of all mankind. We are liars. We hurt people. Our throats are open graves – whatever that means.

The psalm describes the extent of people’s sin and then calls on God to punish them. “Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall.” In other words, may they be caught in their own traps. Banish them. Just like Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden because of their sin, the psalmist calls for God to again banish evil people from His presence.

But notice the reason: for they have rebelled against you.

Then, in the last section (vv.11-12), David prays for God’s blessing on those who take refuge in God, those who love His name.

There are strong contrasts: God’s hatred – God’s love; God’s judgement – God’s favour; people banished from God and people in God’s presence; people who rebel against God and people who take refuge in God; wickedness and righteousness. Of course, you can line those things up. Sections A, C and E are about God’s favour on those He loves who are righteous and who can come into God’s presence. Sections B and D say God’s judgement is on those He hates because they rebel against Him. They are evil to their very core and will be banished from God. Sections A,C and E are about the love and mercy of God. Sections B and D are about the holiness and judgement of God. Both are real.

A little while ago I read through all of the psalms and I made notes as I went. I thought, “I need to figure out what is going on here. I need to know really what the psalms are saying.” One of the impressions I had was that there is a strong theme of justice. That is often expressed in terms of two groups of people – those who trust in God and those who rebel against God. Very often the psalmist is in some situation of suffering at the hands of other people, so the call for justice is expressed in terms of “Lord, I trust you. I do what is right. Rescue me. These people are full of evil. Judge them.” This psalm is an example.

So let us think in terms of justice. What would justice mean for those who rebel against God and who perpetrate all sorts of evil against other people? What would be justice? We wouldn’t consider it justice if evil went unpunished. If a murderer or a swindler was proven guilty and then released, we wouldn’t consider that justice. Justice requires judgement.

What would justice mean for those who put their trust in God and honour Him? Well, there is a problem, isn’t there? Even those who put their trust in God have also rebelled against Him. As I mentioned a moment ago, the Bible teaches that no one is sinless. “All we like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to our own way.” (Is 53:6). “There is no one righteous, not even one.” (Rom 3:10)”For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).

So, what does justice require? What does a perfectly holy God require? We are all guilty of rebelling against the holy God who is too pure to have anything to do with sin. None of us has any right to stand in the presence of God.

Yet David talks about standing in God’s presence. He talks about knowing God’s favour.

Listen to those last two verses.

Psalm 5:11-12     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 favour as with a shield.

What a contrast to these pictures of judgement: gladness, singing with joy, protection, surrounded by God’s favour as with a shield. Isn’t it amazing that, although we have rebelled against God, if we take refuge in Him, we instead experience God’s favour?

On the one hand we have God’s justice; His holiness, that can never countenance sin. But on the other hand, we have God incredible mercy so that even sinners can be forgiven. As David said in this psalm, it is by God’s great love that we can come into God’s presence.

So, let me get this straight. Does God hate sinners? Yes He does. The Bible say He does – and not only here. There are other passages that say that God hates sinners. Sin is part of who we are. You can’t separate the sin from the sinner. God hates those who plot evil and hurt other people and lie and deceive.

God hates sinners. Does God love sinners? Yes, He does. God wants every sinner to turn from their sin. God wants everyone to come to repentance. Think of the joy in Luke 15 where Jesus says that there is rejoicing in heaven over every sinner who repents. God loves it when we repent.

[As David Platt (see video below) says] Does God hate sinners? Look at the cross. See the wrath of God poured out on a sinner. That sinner was Jesus who had never sinned but was a sinner because He took our sin on Himself. Look at the cross. See the hatred of God towards sin. Does God love sinners? Look at the Cross. God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life.

Even John 3:16 contains those two polar opposites: perishing versus eternal life. Drop down 20 verses

John 3:36            Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life for God’s wrath remains on them.

That is why this psalm keeps switching between polar opposites. The realities portrayed here are dramatic opposites. The wrath of God towards sin is real. The great love of God is real. Banishment from God is real. Closeness to God is real. God’s judgement is real. God’s favour is real.

Two realities! Which reality is yours? Can you say, with David, “I trust You, Lord. By Your great love I come into Your presence.” Do you know that you are welcome in the presence of God by God’s grace? Can you say, “In reverence I bow before You. Lead me in your righteousness. I want to do Your will.” Is that your reality? What is the reality for your family and friends? We need to know because the alternative is horrible.

How can we be amongst those who know God’s mercy and favour? The one condition in John 3:16 and 36 is belief. Biblical belief is not just a head thing: mentally I believe Jesus is the Son of God; I believe He died for the sins of the world. It is more a lifestyle thing: I trust Jesus; I follow Jesus.

Those are the things we see in Psalm 5. Verse 11 talks about those who “take refuge in God”. That is trust. It means those who believe that their security is in God alone and so they put themselves in God’s hands. They trust in God. They commit themselves to God believing that with Him they will be safe.

That is exactly what David is doing in praying this prayer. He is under pressure from all those who are persecuting him. What does he do? He prays because he believes that God is his hope – his refuge.

Secondly, the psalm talks about the righteous: those who do what is right. “Surely, Lord, You bless the righteous.” Just as it was last week it is trust and obey, faith and works. When Jesus invites us to follow Him, it involves trust and obedience. To follow we must trust Him. But following means doing what He does and doing what He says.

For those who trust and obey, one side of that psalm is true: the side that talks about God’s love, God’s favour, closeness to God, protection, joy. For those who don’t, the other side is their reality: the side that talks about God’s hatred, banishment from God, judgement.

People often say that they find great comfort in the psalms. That surprises me because the psalms also contain material that is hard-hitting. They regularly talk of judgement on those who are evil. But I guess the comfort is, for those who trust and obey God and often have to put up with the injustices perpetrated by those who reject God, that those injustices will come to an end. The comfort in this psalm is in the last two verses. After talking about much that is uncomfortable, David says:

Psalm 5:11-12     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 favour as with a shield.

Further material

  1. Other passages that say that God hates, not only sin, but sinner.
    • Psalm 5:5, “The boastful shall not stand before Thine eyes; Thou dost hate all who do iniquity,”
    • Psalm 11:5, “The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and the one who loves violence His soul hates.”
    • Lev. 20:23, “Moreover, you shall not follow the customs of the nation which I shall drive out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I have abhorred them.”
    • Prov. 6:16-19, “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, 19 A false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.”
    • Hosea 9:15, “All their evil is at Gilgal; indeed, I came to hate them there! Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of My house! I will love them no more; All their princes are rebels.”
  2. Does God Hate Anyone? – Matt Slick
  3. Does God hate Sinners? – an alternative explanation – Kyle Butt
  4. God hates The Sinners – a study of the relevant verses, church fathers etc. – Josef83
  5. 5.      God Hates and Loves Sinners – video – David Platt
  6. 6.      God Loves The Sinner, But Hates The Sin? – audio– John Piper
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