The Friend Who Defends

By Pamela Lewis

A Reading from Psalm 5

1 Give ear to my words, O LORD;
consider my meditation.

2 Hearken to my cry for help, my King and my God,
for I make my prayer to you.

3 In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice;
early in the morning I make my appeal and watch for you.

4 For you are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness,
and evil cannot dwell with you.

5 Braggarts cannot stand in your sight;
you hate all those who work wickedness.

6 You destroy those who speak lies;
the bloodthirsty and deceitful, O LORD, you abhor.

7 But as for me, through the greatness of your mercy I will
go into your house;
I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you.

8 Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness,
because of those who lie in wait for me;
make your way straight before me.

9 For there is no truth in their mouth;
there is destruction in their heart;

10 Their throat is an open grave;
they flatter with their tongue.

11 Declare them guilty, O God;
let them fall, because of their schemes.

12 Because of their many transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against you.

13 But all who take refuge in you will be glad;
they will sing out their joy for ever.

14 You will shelter them,
so that those who love your Name may exult in you.

15 For you, O LORD, will bless the righteous;
you will defend them with your favor as with a shield.


In his essay “Of Friendship,” 16th-century philosopher and statesman Francis Bacon wrote of the value of a true friend “to whom you may impart griefs, joys, fears, hopes, suspicions, counsels, and whatsoever lieth upon the heart to oppress, in a kind of civil shrift or confession.” Bacon was writing solely about what constitutes a true earthly friend, but he was also writing about God.

God in this psalm is the true friend Bacon describes in his essay, for the psalmist can pray and cry out to him with intense honesty. Beset by the “bloodthirsty and deceitful,” the psalmist begins his day by praying and crying out to God for help against these enemies. But he can also tell God that he is a God who takes no pleasure in evil, and does not condone or even excuse the smallest sin. The author’s enemies are also God’s enemies, and using legally-tinged language the psalmist exhorts God to be sensitive to their sin and to declare them guilty, because their rebelliousness is their greatest transgression.

The importance of communication is the common thread that runs through many of today’s books about cultivating healthy friendships. This psalm’s author models this understanding through his consistent behavior toward God: regular prayer, spending meaningful time in God’s house, and placing his trust in the Lord. He also consigns his enemies to God, who will know how best to handle them. At the end, the psalmist asks that all who take refuge in God find joy, and he affirms that God defends and blesses the righteous. This sounds like the kind of friend Francis Bacon had in mind.

Pamela A. Lewis taught French for thirty years before retirement. A lifelong resident of Queens, N.Y., she attends Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, and serves on various lay ministries. She writes for The Episcopal New YorkerEpiscopal Journal, and The Living Church.

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