If the previous psalm is to be understood as a request for God to vindicate David before his enemies, Psalm 5 may be understood as David’s request for God himself to be vindicated against those who rebel against him. The psalm begins with an appeal to God as King. The language portrays David the anointed king of Israel coming before the throne of the true King and making petition before his throne (vv. 1, 7).
Throughout the entire psalm, David acknowledges God’s kingship above his own. He does not make his appeal for the sake of his own cause. Instead, he appeals to the cause of the true king! Notice the multiple uses of the conjunction “for” scattered throughout the psalm, which are all followed by reminders of who God is and what God values or does not value. God is “not a God who delights in wickedness” (v. 4), but he “bless[es] the righteous” (v. 12). The King’s wrath burns against those who have “no truth in their mouth” (v. 9, see also Rom 3:13) and have “rebelled against [him]” (v. 10). David’s request here is not for himself to be declared righteous. Rather, David prays that God reveal himself to be righteous by answering those who have rebelled against him.
But isn’t David’s opposition towards his own enemies as if they were God’s enemies a form of self-righteousness? After all, whatever happened to all of the commands to love your enemies (Matt 5:44, Luk 6:27, Rom 12:20) found in the New Testament? And after all, wasn’t David also a sinner deserving of God’s wrath? Yes, he deserved God’s wrath, but here David is right as Israel’s head to consider his enemies to be God’s enemies. He has been anointed as king over Israel, and as such those who reject his kingship are to be considered as reprobates. David here is not boasting in his own right standing with God. Instead he is trusting in God’s commitment to his own righteousness, as if to say, “God, do not judge those who oppose me for my sake. Instead, judge those who oppose you for your own sake!”
When I feel slighted by others, may I be reminded that God will vindicate me; I don’t need to justify myself. Also, may I also be reminded that, because he is righteous, God will vindicate himself against all who sin against him. When others sin against me, may I see their sins against me as sins against God. Yet this should not cause pride in my heart, since I too sin against God. May I have confidence that no sin will ever go unpunished. Ultimately, may I have confidence that God has vindicated himself through the cross of Christ!