Psalm 6 is the first of seven “penitential psalms” in which the writers are being disciplined by God and experiencing suffering. The other psalms are Ps. 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143, and all of these psalms are helpful to us when we need to confess our sins and draw closer to the Lord. In this psalm, David records the stages in his difficult experience of moving by faith from trial to triumph.
LORD, don’t be angry and rebuke me!
Don’t punish me in your anger!
Psalm 6:1 (GNT)
David wasn’t rejecting God’s correction. He was just asking for the Lord to be gentle or merciful as He gave the correction. We as New Testament believers have God’s promise that He will never be angry with us or rebuke us (Isaiah 54:9-10). It is not true that God corrects us with sickness, disease, poverty, or tragedy. God’s method of correction is His Word (2 Timothy 3:16). We don’t need any more than that. God’s Word will make us perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:17).
This is not to say that we can’t learn by hard knocks. This is just saying that the Lord isn’t the one who is causing these hard knocks. We bring tragedy on ourselves, either by our direct acts or by our failure to successfully resist the devil. In the midst of our failures, we can learn to do things God’s way, but its wrong to blame God for those calamities.
David didn’t have these New Testament advantages, and therefore it was proper for him to pray this prayer. Under the Old Testament, God judged sin harshly as evidenced in David’s own life (2 Samuel 12:7-12). Praise God for our better covenant (Hebrews 8:6) in which Jesus bore all our sin and punishment so we don’t have to.
Have compassion on me, LORD, for I am weak.
Heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony.
Psalm 6:2 (NLT)
Most people seek the Lord’s help when they are weak or sick, because they know they can’t get over these things on their own. Prosperity has destroyed more people than adversity ever has, because when things are all good, people don’t recognize their need for the Lord. We need the Lord in good and bad times.
Notice David was pleading for mercy, not justice. None of us deserve God’s goodness.
My [inner] self [as well as my body] is also exceedingly disturbed and troubled. But You, O Lord, how long [until You return and speak peace to me]?
Psalm 6:3 (AMP)
Under the New Covenant, all the things that David was praying for have already been granted through Jesus.
The Futility of Death
Come and save me, LORD;
in your mercy rescue me from death.
In the world of the dead you are not remembered;
no one can praise you there.
Psalm 6:4-5 (GNT)
David felt that God had turned His back on him and deserted him, so he asked Him to return; and then he began to reason with Him. Every Jew knew that the Lord was “merciful and gracious” (Ex. 34:6-7), so David asked God to manifest that mercy to him and spare his life.
Furthermore, what would the Lord gain by allowing David to die?
King Hezekiah used a similar approach when he prayed for deliverance from death (Isa. 38:18-19). The word “grave” in verse 5 (KJV) is sheol, a word that can mean “the grave” or “the realm of the dead.” Here it means the latter. In Old Testament times, people didn’t have the clear revelation of the afterlife that was brought through Jesus (2 Tim. 1:10), although there were glimpses of what God had in store for His people. A body in the grave can’t praise or serve God, and David wasn’t certain what his spirit could do for the Lord in sheol.
Conclusion: it would be wiser for the Lord to deliver him and let him live. David still had work to do.
The Strain of Despair
I am worn out with grief;
every night my bed is damp from my weeping;
my pillow is soaked with tears.
I can hardly see;
my eyes are so swollen
from the weeping caused by my enemies.
Psalm 6:6-7 (GNT)
We have gone from a morning psalm (3:5) to an evening psalm (4:8) and back to a morning psalm (5:3). Now we have another evening psalm (6:6). But whereas in the previous psalms, the Lord gave sleep and peace to David, here we find the king sleepless because of fear and pain. He was worn out from groaning, tossing and turning, and he spent a good deal of time weeping. Sleeping had been replaced by suffering.
Sleep is important for healing (John 11:11-12), so David’s lack of sleep only made the condition worse. David’s weakened condition was revealed by the dullness of his eyes (v. 7; see 1 Sam. 14:27, 29). It’s remarkable how much physicians can discover about our physical condition by looking into our eyes.
The Lord may not do what we ask, when we want it, but He will do what needs to be done and help us glorify His name. The question we should ask isn’t
“When will I get out of this?” but “What can I get out of this?”
The Joy of Deliverance
Go away, all you who do evil,
for the LORD has heard my weeping.
The LORD has heard my plea;
the LORD will answer my prayer.
May all my enemies be disgraced and terrified.
May they suddenly turn back in shame.
Psalm 6:8-10 (NLT)
At this point, there’s a sudden and surprising change from suffering to joy, an experience recorded in other psalms (22:22; 56:10; 69:30). It doesn’t matter whether this change occurred later or immediately after David prayed, but he felt healing in his body and peace in his heart and mind. Perhaps word came to him that the enemy had retreated or, better yet, had been defeated, and he knew God had heard his cries. Or maybe his circumstances hadn’t changed at all, but David felt God’s witness in his heart that all would be well. The Lord had heard his weeping and requests and had accepted his prayer.
He used this experience to glorify the Lord as he witnessed to his enemies. How this message was conveyed to them, we don’t know; but David was quick to honor the Lord for what had occurred.
DECLARATION OF FAITH
The Lord has heard my supplication and has risen in my defense. All of my enemies shall be defeated before my face. They have met with the fierce anger of my Father and run from me utterly terrified. Sudden disaster has come upon them and they shall not escape.
I prayed this declaration of faith in Jesus’s name!