“My Soul is Greatly Dismayed” – Psalm 6

“My Soul is Greatly Dismayed”
Psalm 6

Critics often portray God as distant, callous, and cruel. We sometimes feel the say way, at least to a small degree when it feels like God is not answering our prayers.

When I was young, I feel like I got spanked a lot. A lot. At that time, certainly, I did not feel like I deserved what I got. In hindsight, as an adult, I look back and say, “Yeah, probably I did not get disciplined as much as I should have.” My parents, like all Christian parents, did the best they could. Maybe not perfectly. Probably not perfectly. But the best they could. God, however, disciplines perfectly. It just doesn’t feel like it all the time.

In Psalm 6, David acknowledges the fatherhood of God, that God disciplines whom He loves. That is a theme the Bible teaches from beginning to end. In Deut 8:5, we read Moses telling Israel about the 40 years in the wilderness, “you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.”

Solomon wrote in Proverbs 3:12, “For whom the Lord loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.”

Then, the Hebrew writer quotes Proverbs 3:12 and elaborates on it, telling us in Heb 12:7-11:

“It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

Let us study Psalm 6 and listen to David’s thoughts to and about God after David was punished for his sins.

Verse 1 starts with David appealing to “Jehovah” but the very next two words are: “not in your anger…" That emphasizes David’s appeal not to be disciplined in God’s anger. My mom told the story periodically of how I was misbehaving in church one time and, having had enough, she got up and headed out the door. The whole way up the aisle, I was saying, “I’ll be good, momma. I’ll be good.” But, of course, by the time Mom stood up with me, her patience was already gone. “I’ll be good, Momma!” David cries, “Not in your anger, Jehovah, do not rebuke me.”

David uses a synonym for God’s anger and again, David puts the emotion before the verb: “not in your wrath, do not chasten me!” I don’t know how many times I was spanked when I was growing up, spanked out of Dad’s anger or wrath. Would it have made a difference if Dad had sat me down and explained to me lovingly, patiently, and calmly what I did wrong and how I needed to behave differently? What if Dad was omniscient and he could see exactly where my bad behavior would lead me and he explained my bad behavior in that light? Would that have made a difference? Perhaps it would but that is exactly what God, the Father, does for us in His word. He explains to us where our bad behavior is going to lead.

David asks not to be rebuked in God’s anger and not to be disciplined in God’s wrath.

On the contrary, verse 2, David calls on God to be gracious to him because “feeble, I am,” David says. The NASV translates this “I am pining away.” “Heal me, Lord,” David prays. “Because my bones are terrified!” Here, David throws the subject / noun after the verb to emphasize how deep his fear goes - right down to the bone! David is afraid of God’s anger and wrath. Are we that terrified of sinning against God? There would be more people in worship if we were that terrified of God’s wrath!

“My soul,” David writes in verse 3, “is terrified extremely.” This verb is the same he used about his bones in verse 3. “But you,” the pronoun is emphatic, “But you, Jehovah, how long?” That’s all the question says: “How long?” How long is God going to delay comforting David in his discipline, showing David His love and grace?

When I taught the parenting class this fall, I strongly suggested to our parents that when we discipline, especially after we spank, we should hold our kids in our arms and show them we love them, that we aren’t mad at them. A child who gets disciplined and left in the bedroom for hours is going to seriously question whether Mom and Dad love them. That is kind of the motivation here behind David’s question: “How long?” “How long are you going to leave me in time out, before you hold me again?”

In this small paragraph, there are three imperatives that David gives God: “Return (#1), Jehovah! Rescue (#2) my soul! Save (#3) me because of your lovingkindness!” Here is that beautiful word from the Hebrew language that cannot be translated by one single English word: lovingkindness, love, grace, loyalty. God had made a promise to David that God would bless David and David’s family for generations. But when you get disciplined, disciplined severely, you wonder if God is going to change His mind. David calls on God not to change His mind because God is loyal to His covenant. That’s the idea behind this word: “lovingkindness.”

This psalm seems to have been written when David was being threatened by enemies (vs 7). David fears death, perhaps even death at the hands of God! He wants God to return to him, rescue him, and save him “because (verse 5), there is not in death memory of God. In sheol (the unseen world equivalent to “hades” in the NT), who, David asks, will praise God?” Now, there are those religions who do not believe in consciousness after death, especially in hell. So, they point to verses like this and say, “See, there is no memory of God in death.” But, this is poetry and David is not making a theological statement about life after death. David is lamenting that if he is dead, he can’t worship God.

How many times have I heard a Christian say, “I am tired.” “I am tired of fighting.” “I am tired of there not being any answers.” “I am tired of there being no solution.”

That’s David. David says that, right here. “I am weary,” David says, “with my groaning.” This is audible sighing from pain, from frustration - not just being worn out physically but being worn out emotionally. David is such an emotional person. He is so scared. He is so upset at what he has done to God to cause God to discipline him, that he cries - all night long. “I make swim all night long my bed with my tears!” With his tears, he dissolved the couch on which he lay. You can’t sleep at night in your bed because you cry. So you get up and sit on the coach or the recliner but you can’t find any comfort emotionally. You cry there just as much, so much that you dissolve the couch with tears. You can’t sleep because of crying.

“My eyes are consumed from irritation (vs 7),” David laments. “My eyes have become old because of my enemies.”

In this paragraph, even while David is “smarting” from God’s discipline, he turns to his enemies and challenges them to leave him alone. “Turn away from me, all those who perform evil and wickedness.” Why?

“Because Jehovah has heard the voice of my weeping.” When you hurt, I can’t always give you the answers. But I can assure you, if you are a faithful Christian, that God hears you. God hears your weeping.

David says again (vs 9), “Jehovah heard my plea.” “Jehovah, my prayer, He took.” Jehovah God took David’s prayer. Will you picture that for just a moment? David sent his prayer to God in heaven and God took it. God holds David’s prayer in His hands. What’s He doing with it? He’s examining it. He’s evaluating it. God is deciding how He is going to answer that prayer in David’s best interest. Why? Because of God’s lovingkindness and loyalty and grace and mercy!

The last verse, verse 10, is David’s thoughts directed back to God, but about his enemies. “Let them be ashamed! Let them be troubled exceedingly - all my enemies! Let them return! (That is, go home. Go away. Leave David alone.) Let them be ashamed immediately!”

David is in pain. He has been touched by his enemies, which he interprets to be God’s punishment. But David understands it to be discipline. He refocuses his heart on God. He knows God hears his prayer and he challenges his enemies to leave him alone. He has a Father who cares.

There is biblical truth in the statement, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” As we see in the account of Job, God restrains Satan from destroying us. God will not allow Satan to overwhelm us beyond our ability to refuse. Trials and temptations can make us stronger. They can make us better quality Christians. They can make us more determined to follow our Master.

Sometimes, again Job is a good example, we can’t explain why we experience what we experience except to say there is sin in the world and Satan is the prince of the powers of darkness.

But when we do suffer, we need to know that we have a Father who is in heaven to whom we can call out for grace and mercy. Paul will tell us in Colossians 3:10 that we are being formed into the image of Christ. Our trials and sufferings are a part of that and we have to trust God that He knows what He is doing.

Take home message: When God disciplines us, we need to know that He does so out of love, with grace and mercy. Be patient and learn.


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