29th October 2006
Psalm 6: From trouble to triumph.
For the director of music. With stringed instruments. According to sheminith. [a]A Psalm of David.
A cry of desperation:
O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long?
A plea from the heart:
Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. No one remembers you when he is dead. Who praises you from the grave? [b] I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.
A triumphant faith:
Away from me, all you who do evil, for the LORD has heard my weeping. The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer. All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace.
a. Psalm 6:1 Title: Probably a musical term
b. Psalm 6:5 Hebrew Sheol
This is one of seven Penitential Psalms; these are Psalms 6, 32, 38 51, 102, 130 & 143. Five of the seven were written by David, Psalms 102 &130 are anonymous. All of them are deeply personal, it has been suggested that Christians should read one of them every day as part of our prayer for forgiveness.
When we are in any kind of trouble it is often difficult for us to see any way that good can come from such circumstances. How can we go from trouble to triumph?
The occasion of this Psalm is unknown but we can clearly see from the content that David is again in trouble. In the previous Psalms he has been in trouble from human relationships. We can readily associate with such difficulties and if you are anything like me you will have been encouraged by the way God so graciously dealt with David in such difficult times. David again is in trouble when he wrote this Psalm but the circumstances are very different. He is on this occasion troubled by an illness. In the first stanza we discover that it is a debilitating illness; he is faint or weak, his bones are in agony and his soul is affected. He is in anguish or severe pain of the soul. This is serious for David and it seems from his comments in stanza 2 that it has been an ongoing process. This Psalm is a great encouragement for all of us but I believe it is even more so for those of us who have been struggling with our health for an extended period of time and especially for those who have no promise of respite from our problems. So what can we learn this morning from David’s Psalm?
A cry of desperation:
As I have already indicated this is a penitential Psalm. Another penitential Psalm is the 51st Psalm, which is related to a situation where David had sinned and brought about the problems that he was experiencing; he consequently repented and recorded his penitence in the Psalm for our benefit. Can we therefore say that at the time of writing Psalm 6 David was experiencing ill health due to sin? That is certainly not what I believe is the thrust of what David is saying! Look at the first stanza; David begins with a plea to God from a desperate heart. He is recognising that he is a sinner and that sin deserves God’s wrath and anger. As a sinner he does not deserve favour or acceptance from God but rather a rebuke and discipline. But it seems from the context that even though he believes that he deserves such treatment he is appealing to God for mercy. He believes that he has suffered enough and to have God’s righteous judgement also would be too much for him to bear. There is no evidence that he is saying that his illness is due to sin as some might have us believe. The two things are totally unrelated!
David actually pleads with God for mercy simply because he can take no more. He is faint; his bones are weary and his soul is distraught. His request is for healing but his question is “how long will I suffer?” If we consider David for a while; we know that he was king of Israel, he was set apart by God and he was promised that he would have a long and successful reign over his people. Now he is blighted by illness and his work is under threat. How does this square up with God’s promises made to David?
From the way that David is praying we observe a number of things:
· He completely trusts Yahweh.
· He has a relationship with God that allows him to plead for mercy.
· His illness is an inconvenience both to him and for his work as king of Israel.
· His illness is getting him down; he is severely depressed by it.
· He sighs, “How long will it last?”
David is clearly downcast but he is not without hope. His hope is still clearly in Yahweh who is completely in control and is currently allowing him to go through problems. His prayer is a little bit like the man who came to Jesus for his son to be healed (Mark 9:14-28) When challenged by Jesus about his faith the father exclaimed “I do believe, help me in my unbelief” David clearly trusted in God, he believed that God had a purpose for him as king but now his life is under threat from illness and David is saying to God, “even though I do not deserve it; have mercy on me, do not judge me, please heal me and how long will it take?” His words are full of faith but there is a very human element of unbelief in the whole prayer.
Lesson: We cannot claim illness to be the direct judgement of God due to personal sin. It is true that illness came into the world as a result of original sin but God does not generally sit in judgement in heaven throwing ailments and problems at His people when they transgress. It is true to say that at times we do something which will cause us to suffer due to our wrongdoing. For example: if we are promiscuous we should not be too surprised if we contract a sexually transmitted disease! God may also at times allow us to suffer in order that we might know that His grace is sufficient for us in good times and bad times alike. David pleaded for God’s grace in very difficult circumstances!
A plea from the heart:
In many respects the second stanza is a continuation of the first but here David exposes something of his hearts desire! David is concerned about his reputation that would be left behind should he die. He still believes that he has a purpose to fulfil and so his request is for God to turn in favour towards him and to deliver him from his difficulties. He continues to tell God of his state of health. He is worn out from the pain as expressed in his groaning. He has often cried himself to sleep with pain and anguish. His bed is flooded by his tears. This is the leader of the people; if they had known how weak their king had become; how much confidence would they have had in his leadership? It is a good thing that we are often shielded from the frailty of our leaders. We observe in all of this that God’s appointed people are not exempt from the normal and natural difficulties of life. David’s difficulties were not only encountered at bedtime we find that his couch was also drenched with the tears of pain and anguish. This means that his problems were with him all of the time. Ongoing illness at times is more difficult to bear than oppression from an enemy! At least with oppression there is often respite when other issues crowd in and take our minds away from the issues but pain never goes away, day or night, it reduces us to tears at any time! So much so that David says “his vision is impaired.” He is not talking about his sight here but is referring to his enemies. He is saying that his vision for the safety and security of his people is impaired by his weakness in the sight of his enemies. This is the purpose of his cry from the heart. I am reminded as I read this that the Lord Jesus who during the ultimate battle never lost His vision for His people. John records in chapter 17 of his gospel; what has become known as Jesus’ High Priestly prayer. Just before His arrest Jesus prayed for His people that God would care for them. His concern was for their salvation. He cared for them at the time of His greatest personal need. This is what David is in effect doing when he in effect said; “I have suffered so much that I am now in danger of losing sight of the most important thing.” The most important thing to David was the safety and security of the nation and that God’s glory would be seen through his own life! The sight of his enemy is rapidly becoming bigger than his faith could cope with and so he is making a heart felt cry to God for help.
Lesson: We have a God who is concerned for us in our problems. As we have learned in recent weeks we can approach God boldly in prayer. David in this Psalm demonstrates that if this is our normal way; then it is natural when illness strikes that we come to Him with our concerns and needs. God is always pleased to answer such a prayer, not necessarily with a healing hand but with an injection of his grace, which will be sufficient in all eventualities. The Apostle Paul was never healed from his thorn in the flesh but he learned by God’s grace to live with it and to glorify the name of Jesus through it!
A triumphant faith:
This is one of the big issues of the Christian faith. “How do we live a victorious Christian life?” Look at the change that comes over David at the beginning of the final stanza. We have just observed his fear that the enemy has the upper hand. He has prayed and now he has a complete change of mindset. Instead of being fearful of the enemy he comes to them with authority and expels them from his presence.
What is it that has changed?
He simply says that the Lord has heard his plea from the heart. There was a song once written “what a difference a day makes.” The song says that just 24 hours can change things drastically. We all recognise the truth in that but a more stark reality is found here in David’s words. His song of prayer pre-dates “what a difference a day makes” by 3000 years and says “what a difference a prayer makes!” God has heard David’s weeping, he has heard his cry for mercy and the most amazing thing is that He has accepted his prayer. The answer that comes is also surprising; there is no mention of David having been healed! Some might believe that healing would be of prime importance but to David it seems to have been inconsequential! Look again at the end of the final stanza, David is concerned only about the effect that God’s answer will have upon the enemy. They will be ashamed of themselves, confused and dismayed and ultimately defeated. David’s main concern was for his people and for the glory of God. God is never ashamed to answer such a prayer. As for his illness, by his silence on the matter David is now clearly resolved to leave that in God’s hands. For those who know Joni Eriksson’s testimony you will remember that it took her a number of years to reach that same level of understanding and faith in God. She eventually had to put aside the idea that her accident (even though it was the result of a momentary lapse of reason) was not God’s judgement upon her due to her personal sin. God had allowed it to happen, He had entrusted her to cope with all of the problems and heartaches that it brought to her and that even through such a disability God would use her to glorify His name. David was saying just that as He recognised the smallness and impotence of his enemy before God and at the hands of a very much-weakened human king.
Lesson: I know there are many of us who are currently going through debilitating circumstances. Some of them are illnesses; others are difficult people or situations. Like David our difficulties are not the result of personal sin they are merely life’s problems. We need to be like David who prayed and cast his cares upon God and recognised just as Paul did that God’s grace is sufficient for all who trust in Christ Jesus. This always flags up the question; are you trusting in Christ Jesus? Why not trust in Him and as did the Apostle Paul and other Christians like Joni then you also will be able to know that God will glorify Himself through you even when life deals you a rough blow either through illness or difficulty!