Psalm 6 — Rescue My Soul From Dismay
O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.
2 Have mercy upon me, O Lord; for I am weak: O Lord, heal me; for my bones are vexed.
3 My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O Lord, how long?
4 Return, O Lord, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies’ sake.
5 For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?
6 I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.
7 Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.
8 Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping.
9 The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer.
10 Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly.
Stress is a real part of life. It is born out of relationships with agendas and demands. At times we feel as if we are obstacles to be removed from the plans of others. The collision of wills manifests, and God is displeased. David was all too familiar with strained relationships. The words and actions of his opponents were killing him. The weapon of choice in this warfare was prayer, “Remove my reproach.”
David prayed for mercy instead of wrath from YHWH (v. 1). It is likely David listened to the taunts of his enemies, especially when he labored with illness. Speculation by his foes, regarding which sins David was being punished for, drove him to seek mercy from God. It is reasonable for believers to double-check with God in prayer regarding any offense that would prompt His displeasure.
Illness is sometimes linked to God’s judgment and at other times there is no correlation. Speculation by us is vanity. God’s wrath is directed against all unrighteousness (Rom 1:18); but Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice appeased the wrath of God for the children of God (Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10). Christ died for us (Jn 10:11, 15; Rom 5:8; Eph 5:25). In response, Paul said it was his ambition to please God (2 Cor 5:9). Trust in God is imbedded in the kind of faith required to please God (Ps 118:8–9; Heb 11:6).
David established his lamentable status and need for deliverance (v. 2). The cry of the righteous is heard. David’s well-being was hindered in wholeness. Separating the body from the spirit is not necessary as some commentators do with this verse. Whether physical or spiritual anguish is felt here, David was hurting. He needed a reversal in providence, and He knew who to call in his time of need.
The use of synedoche is vivid here. This is a literary device, taking a part of something and making it representative of the whole, as shown by bones representing the body. If one member suffers, we all suffer.
David inquired with grief at the extent of his wait for salvation (v. 3). The question was not of the will but of the length of time God would wait to remove the thorn in David’s side. Christians are chastened by the love of God (Heb 12:4–11). Sanctification comes with the heat of resistance. Conformity to the perfect image requires the pressure of humility. In humility comes the lament, but the point is they were uttered to the One who hears and answers prayer.
David made his request for God to relent toward him (v. 4). God’s presence is the key to the life of the believer. Blessing is truly God Himself, not the incessant quest for what God can give. David claims his trust is in the Lord. God’s covenant love is the crucial element to this relationship. David used this as his first warrant to support his claim. God’s faithful love compels His people to worship Him (2 Cor 5:14).
David argued against the loss of worship because of the potential loss of his life (v. 5). His second warrant for deliverance is a well-known fact. David loved the plenipotent Lord and ministered the knowledge of Him through his life example, poetry, songs, and words captured as Scripture during poignant times of his life. The argument is that David was a faithful worshiper and deliverance would only enhance this aspect of his life.
Sheol is synonymous with death and the grave in some instances, but it was more fully developed in Old Testament times as an afterlife experience of semi-life. It did not resemble the tortures of hell nor the joys of heaven, which were elucidated extensively by Jesus’ teaching on the resurrection and eternal life/damnation (Mt 8:12; 22:13; 25:30, 41, 46; Lk 16:23–24, 28; Jn 5:28–29). Hence, Paul’s eager anticipation to exit this life to go and be with the Lord (Phil 1:23).
David revealed his heart status of grief and tears (v. 6). The heavy heart of stress, disappointment, suffering, and grieving loss led to deep emotions depicted in crying. The frequency of “every night” adds to the understanding of severity, along with “beds that swim in tears.” Today, emotions are muted in political correctness. Boys are still taught not to cry. Tears make us human, however. Jesus wept (Jn 11:35).
David exposed his enemies as the cause of his regrettable state of dismay (v. 7). The Psalms are inevitably about relationships. God and man are estranged to the point of enmity (Rom 1:30; 5:10; Jas 4:4). Man laments, “You sit and speak against your brother; You slander your own mother’s son (Ps 50:20).”
Some of David’s closest family and friends betrayed him. You could see it in his eyes. There is life in the eyes as the window to the soul. David’s eyes were darkened with despair. Swollen rivers of tears gave way to reddish hews of an exhausted day at sunset. His eyes were tired of bearing his burden. All of it was getting old.
David changed the tone from lament to confidence because of answered prayer (v. 8). The form critics often belittle such radical shifts, but Psalm writers were never as persnickety about form as content. Lament should yield to confidence, regardless of the velocity. In the twinkling of an eye, grace can prevail with an answer to prayer.
How numb the Christian can get to the miracle of a prayer heard and answered by Almighty God. It is personal with His people. David had regained his momentum. Thrice he taunts his opponents with this fact. David demanded, with the flare of sovereignty, for his foes to retreat.
Jesus demanded departure from the demon in Peter’s logic, “Get behind me, Satan!” In the same spirit, those illustrious souls infiltrating the place of grace, without a personalized invitation, will judder at the ominous judgment, “Depart from me, I never knew you (Mt 7:21–23).”
David added emphasis to the reason for his confidence — God’s gracious answer to his prayer for deliverance (v. 9). With a child weeping in another room, his parent seeks out the sobbing. The inquiry is made, and the resolution is now pending. Soon, all will be well again. It is customary for repetition in Hebrew poetry to add emphasis, but a three-peat is like adding a plethora of exclamation points to the end of a sentence.
David closed his song with a warning and prophecy for his foes (v. 10). The sentences in Hebrew are very brief and shame is the prevailing theme. There is a universal thrust from David, a message to all who trouble him.
The prophetic nature of this final verse leads us to the imagery of the future when the nations will convene at Har Magedon for the final assault on Jerusalem and her King (Rev 16:16). Shame and humiliation await the enemies of God arrayed against His anointed King of kings (1 Tim 6:15; Rev 17:14; 19:16). Then, they will know dismay as the tables are turned in the just vengeance of our God. The bride and the Spirit say, “Come (Rev 22:17).”
In sum, we see David unsure of his offense against YHWH. He acknowledges no sin, nor does he balk at his sufferings, but David is acutely aware of who is in control. He pours out his status in lament and probing inquiry. How long must he wait in his current state? He argues for his relationship with God and his uselessness in death.
The lament intensifies with images of profuse weeping. The catalyst for radical change in attitude and outlook is the recognition that God has answered his prayer, although the circumstances are not fully resolved.
In conclusion, we join David in suffering because of sinful people. We, too, must pray and wait for God’s reply. Our prayer is simply, “O Lord, rescue my soul from dismay.” Confidence comes with trust in the Lord. We believe His promises to us, and we are delivered by His Word of assurance, as an answer to our prayers. The dark dismay of doom gives way to the glorious light of hope, “I am not ashamed.”
Spokane Valley, Washington
May 24, 2021