There are ultimately two ways that God can deal with an individual person. The fifth Psalm, a psalm of David, succinctly phrases each of these options and contrasts God’s disposition between the people who at the last are to meet with one of these treatments from the Almighty Judge. And the contrasts could not be more opposite. God, we learn, hates evildoers and abhors bloodthirsty and deceitful people. This, of course, includes everybody, for there is not a righteous person on earth who does good and never sins (Ecc. 7:20). Everyone is corrupt as far as God is concerned (Ps. 14:2-3; 53:2-3), because God’s standard is sinless perfection. God, then, hates all humanity it would seem. And rightly so.
Yet there are those whom he does not hate. There are those, says the Psalmist, whom he blesses (5:12), whom God protects, whom he treats with undeserved kindness and towards whom he is no longer hostile. God’s love toward these people is steadfast and abundant (v. 7). He not only puts up with them, but loves them dearly, and overflows with this love.
What is the difference between these two groups of people, those whom God hates, and those whom he loves? It does not have to do with something intrinsic to the people themselves, for the law equally condemns everyone as a lawbreaker. But it is just this, that God has placed those he loves in his beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and loving the Son with all that is within him, God cannot do anything other than love the souls that abide in his Son, for they and his Son have been united. God has effectively covered these people’s vileness with the beauty and perfection of Jesus Christ, and so he graces them. He covers them with favor, like a shield.
Ultimately, there are two ways God can treat a person. Psalm 5 offers these two summaries: He can “make them bear their guilt,” or he can “cover them with favor as with a shield” (v. 10, 12). The former is to deal with a man as he deserves, and the latter is to deal graciously with him and cancel the record of debt that stands against him. God is free to do either and thus to demonstrate the full expression of his attributes. O you who are the objects of the wrath and perfect holy hatred of God, repent and flee to Christ; be found in him, put him on, and God will clothe you in robes of righteousness, he will heal your wounds, he will remove your guilt, he will save you from himself—he will cover you with favor like a shield!