Psalm 6: a voice in our tears
Psalm 6 For the director of music. With stringed instruments. According to sheminith. A psalm of David. (1) LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. (2) Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint; heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony. (3) My soul is in deep anguish. How long, LORD, how long? (4) Turn, LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. (5) Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave? (6) I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. (7) My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes. (8) Away from me, all you who do evil, for the LORD has heard my weeping. (9) The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer. (10) All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish; they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.
Lord, may these words touch our hearts today.
Wow, here we go . . .
History assigns this psalm to David, and Jewish tradition holds that this particular psalm is the first of seven “Penitential Psalms,” meaning songs of confession and humility before God. The early church used these during the season of Lent (40 days of reflection and personal preparation before the celebration of Easter).
Well, today (March 2, 2020) is the first Monday of Lent, a good time to read this particular psalm and try to discern it’s meaning to our hearts and lives.
The “sheminith” meaning is lost in antiquity. Some things we just aren’t certain of, and that is okay. And also kind of cool.
Bible scholars don’t agree on what was going on for David when he wrote Psalm 6. Some believe he was physically sick or someone he loved was sick, and he called upon the Lord for healing as well as the forgiveness of sins. Possibly David felt that the illness was a result of his sin, that God had allowed an illness to afflict him as a natural consequence. Or maybe he believed that God actually rained punishment upon those he was angry with.
One Bible scholar believed that it was David’s soul that was in torment for some reason. Like he made himself physically sick because of inner turmoil.
Whatever the real reason for David’s distress, if you read this psalm, his heart is filled with pain and fear. Whether physical pain or emotional pain. Or both.
To the point of not having any more words.
Have you felt that pain before? That you cannot even put your feelings or your thoughts into words to cry out to God? May this psalm reassure you . . . God knows.
Is it not sweet to believe that our tears are understood even when words fail! Let us learn to think of tears as liquid prayers.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
How long, LORD, how long? Psalm 6:3b
We believe in God’s goodness and faithfulness. We believe that He hears and answers prayers. But have you said this before:
“How long, Lord, how long? When will you answer me? When will you help me? Are you even listening?”
Certainly, it is reassuring to find the same uncertainty in the Bible. And from the great king David, “a man after God’s own heart.”
One thousand years after David, Paul and Barnabas were preaching the Good News about Jesus in the synagogue:
" . . . he made David their king. God testified concerning him: 'I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.'" Acts 13:22
David was a sinner. His sins are listed in the Old Testament, and they are big. David’s dirty laundry has been read by generations. But sometimes, he couldn’t sleep because he worried so much. Sometimes, as we see in these psalms, his anxiety could cripple him. He worried, he feared, and even felt like he couldn’t make it. Sometimes he could not even get up off the floor.
And sometimes, he could not even put his prayers into words.
Does any of that sound familiar? Do you relate?
The very center of Psalm 6 is:
I am worn out from my groaning . . . Psalm 6:6a
Whatever was vexing David was powerful, and he felt the weight of the world on his shoulders. You can feel it in his words. He felt God had turned His back, that God was rebuking him. Punishing him.
David did not know Jesus. He knew God; he had a relationship with God. But he did not know the forgiveness and grace that is evident and real and so powerful in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. All of God’s anger toward sin was poured out upon Jesus as He hung on that cross for you and for me. Surely, we face consequences for sin. Like a loving Father, God steps back and lets our choices fall where they may.
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? Hebrews 12:7
Personally, I do not believe that God curses His children as punishment for their sins. But I certainly do believe that He allows consequences of our actions to fall upon us.
David is so bold with his words. He says it. He names it, and he calls upon God’s goodness and faithfulness to see him through.
David shares his weakness and then claims God’s goodness. The sun comes up in the morning, and he gets up, dries his face, and takes a deep breath . . .
Depart from me, all ye works of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping. Psalm 6:8 KJV
Our heavenly Father hears a voice in our weeping.
Even when you don’t have the words, lay your requests upon the morning altar and look up. In your fear or pain or sickness or joy, the Lord hears words when you cannot speak at all.
He hears a voice in our weeping.
Ah! My brothers and sisters, sometimes we cannot put our prayers into words: they are nothing but a cry: but the Lord can comprehend the meaning, for he has heard a voice in our cry. To a loving father his children’s cries are music, and they have a magical influence which his heart cannot resist.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Heavenly Father, we call upon you today. Hear our cries, the voice of our weeping. When we cannot find the words, hear our hearts. Let us be bold and claim your goodness and faithfulness, like David. In the midst of illness or grief, joy and prosperity, let your blessings fall upon us. Give us strength to face the day and to love and care for those around us. Your will be done on this earth, Father. You are faithful and good. Help us to cling to that today. Amen.