There have been many times when I felt that a great injustice has occurred, either to myself or to someone else. Often times, however, the “great injustice” is really just me being a soft and selfish person. But there are times when something truly painful and unjust occurs. Nonetheless, in either situation a desire arises in me to have my complaint heard. But who will hear it? To whom do I go?
On the juvenile end of the spectrum I know complaining to a referee for a bad call is futile, he won’t listen, I’ve tried. I also can’t complain to the clouds for raining on my parade (not that I have ever had a parade), they won’t listen either. And I certainly can’t complain to anyone about the aches and pains I’m beginning to feel having just passed the half-century mark! Where do I go? Who is responsible for such things? But those are just minor issues compared to when life really deals me a bad card. Granted there are many times that my being an idiot is the cause of pain, but there are other times when the blame rests elsewhere. Sometimes I know the source, but often I don’t. In either case, where can I go, and honestly, will it do any good?
As a believer in Christ, I know God is willing and ready to hear all of my complaints, but that doesn’t mean I always feel like he does. Most of the time it feels like I am shouting into the darkness and hear only the distant echo of my own words in return. In fact, there are times when it seems as if the silent darkness mocks me, and there, standing at the edge of life’s dark abyss I am torn between my mind telling me God is present and my heart sensing abandonment. It is then that I have a desire to go elsewhere, but where would I go and who would listen?
I might be wrong, but I think the Psalmist feels the same way. He doesn’t shy away from bringing his laments (complaints) to God, in fact he’s quite deliberate. In the first three verses of Psalm 5 he tells God six times he is bringing his request and is now expectantly waiting. Think about those two words for a moment. Expectantly. Waiting. Change the emphasis, and the phrase “expectantly waiting” has two different shades of meaning. “Expectantly waiting” means I knows God’s answer is just around the corner and I expect it at any time. But “expectantly waiting” means I’m still waiting. He hasn’t answered yet, and most likely I don’t know if or when he will. Expectantly waiting. The Psalmist is expectantly waiting, I am expectantly waiting, and I can only assume that many other people are expectantly waiting. In this, we are not alone. We stand together at the edge of life’s often dark abyss crying to God, expectantly waiting for his answer.
We expectantly wait, but we don’t always get an answer. In fact, I don’t think the psalmist ever receives an answer. He tells of the wicked who seek his demise and that God will judge them (4-6, 9-10). He tells of God’s great love that enables him to enter God’s presence and seek guidance (7-8). He even tells how he will respond to God’s gracious refuge by singing a song of joy to the Lord (11-12). But it doesn’t seem to me that he tells of an answer to his lament.
For me, expectantly waiting doesn’t turn into song, but for the psalmist it does. He sings for joy, not over the things God has done, but over those things God will do. And even though Psalm 5 doesn’t use this term, I like to think the psalmist implicitly asks us to expectantly sing to the Lord. Just as we expectantly wait for God’s answer, we should expectantly sing his praise. We aren’t told that waiting for things that have not yet come is easy, but we are told that we are to sing his praise nonetheless.
But such singing, while difficult and important, is most likely not the primary song called for by the psalmist. As is often the way with Hebrew writing, the most important point is found in the middle of the chapter, (this is called a Chiasm). The psalmist utters a plea to be heard (1-3) and trusts that plea is heard (11-12). He tells of how the wicked cannot stand in God’s presence (4-6) and then asks for God to judge them. But in the midst of these pleas we find that it is by God’s great love that we are allowed to come into his presence (7-8). Instead being abandoned to the dark abyss of life with only the “benign indifference of the universe” to hear us, (as Camus would say), we are invited into his presence. And even though I may still be expectantly waiting, the fact that I am allowed into his presence is truly praiseworthy.