March 9, 2020

Careful of the Truth

Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.
For there is no truth in their mouths; their hearts are destruction; their throats are open graves; they flatter with their tongues.
—Ps. 5:8-9

When praying the psalms, I try my best to focus on the more uplifting verses. This morning, however, I can't help but be intrigued by Psalm 5:9—especially the fact that the psalmist's enemies' "throats are open graves." It's an odd verse, but it was important enough to be quoted by the Apostle Paul (Rom. 3:13), who didn't use it to refer to his enemies, but to help prove the unrighteousness of all humans and our need for a savior. Knowing this, however, doesn't help me understand the meaning of the idiom, "their throats are open graves."

The commentaries help answer this question. Most agree that this expression refers to liars, and that the cemetery imagery refers to the stench of a grave that has been opened. With a little inspiration from the New Living Translation, I might render v. 9 this way:
The truth is not in my enemies; their hearts are set on destroying others; their talk is foul, like the stench issuing from an open grave—all this while their tongues speak flattery.
So after thinking about this, I now need to look at the verse that led up to it—the one asking for God to guide me along a direct path, despite those who would lead me astray. Though contemporary members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ are discouraged from seeing those we disagree with as enemies, this psalm helps reïnforce in us just how careful of the truth we ought to be. And just as importantly, we should take note of the fact that the scriptures (as well as real life, if we'd only admit it to ourselves) tell us that the most dangerous lies are those that make us feel good.

When an acquaintance or a business or even especially a preacher tells us only what we want to hear, then we should beware of being led down the wrong path. The truth is life-giving—even if it's like medical treatment sometimes, causing pain before it brings healing. In the same way, dishonesty—especially when it comes in the form of manipulative speech—is like a drug we can abuse to make ourselves feel good. And usually the only way to tell the difference is divine guidance in the form of the God-given ability to discern truth from falsehood.


Just as you ask me to speak the truth, O God, help me to listen for it, to discern it, to understand it, and to honor it, in Jesus' Name who taught me to pray: Our Father...


Crossposted to Psalm Today

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