BOOK ONE Psalms 1–41 – PSALM 6
David, as well as Jeremiah, was a weeping prophet, and Psalm 6 was penned in a time of great trouble. As with other Psalms it begins with sorrowful complaints but ends with joyful praises. David complains of sickness in his body and trouble in his mind, arising from the sense of sin, the likely cause of much pain and sickness. Here he pours out his complaints before God and begs earnestly for favour. He assures himself that an answer of peace will come quickly. This psalm is like the book of Job.
Psalm 6 – Psalm of David
O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger, Nor chastise me in Your hot displeasure. Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled; But You, O Lord—how long? Return, O Lord, deliver me! Oh, save me for Your mercies’ sake! For in death there is no remembrance of You; In the grave who will give You thanks?
I am weary with my groaning; All night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears. My eye wastes away because of grief; It grows old because of all my enemies. Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity; For the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping. The Lord has heard my supplication; The Lord will receive my prayer. Let all my enemies be ashamed and greatly troubled; Let them turn back and be ashamed suddenly.
Those who sow in tears..
Henry says – These verses speak the language of a truly humbled heart and of a broken and contrite spirit under great afflictions. Often these are sent on purpose to awaken our conscience and put to death any corruption. They who sow in great tears, get ready for great mercy from God’s rebuke, as David does here. He pours out his complaint before God. Where else should a child go with his complaints, but to his Father? He complains of bodily pain and sickness in verse 2: My bones are vexed. His bones and his flesh, like Job’s, were affected. Though David was a king, yet he was sick and in pain. His imperial crown could not keep his head from aching.
Great men are just men and subject to the common calamities of human life. Though David was a stout man, a man of war from his youth, yet this could not prevent sickness, which makes even strong men bow low. Though David was a good man, yet his goodness could not keep him in good health. Lord, look, he who You love is sick. Let this help to reconcile us to pain and sickness, that it has been the lot of some of the best of saints. Like them we can present ourselves before God in our troubles to the One who is for the body, and is aware of its ailments.
O Lord, how long?
But David complains of inward trouble: My soul is also sorely vexed which can be much more grievous than physical pain. The spirit of a man will sustain him in his infirmity. But if that be wounded, the grievance is intolerable. David’s sickness brought his sin to remembrance, and he looked upon it as a token of God’s displeasure against him. This made him cry, I am weak, heal me. It is a sad thing for a man to have his bones and his soul vexed at the same time. But this has been sometimes the lot of God’s own people.
He had obviously been in struggle for some time which is intimated by verse 3, O Lord! how long? At such a time we must address ourselves to the living God who is the only physician both of body and mind. David groaned till he was weary, wept till he made his bed to swim, and watered his couch, wept till he had almost wept his eyes out. My eye is consumed because of grief. Sin sat heavily upon his conscience and his soul was wounded with the sense of God’s withdrawal from him. He grieves and mourns in secret, and even his soul refuses to be comforted.
Great sorrow for sin
It has often been the lot of the best of men to be men of sorrows as it was with our Lord Jesus Himself. Our way often lies through a valley of tears, and we must adapt ourselves to it. The greatest of spirits are those that have been tenderised through suffering. David, who could face Goliath himself and many other threatening enemies with an undaunted bravery, yet melts into tears at the remembrance of sin. It was not a weakness of character to do so. He mourned in the night upon his bed communing with his own heart.
Just like the Apostle Peter who covered his face and wept after denying Christ. Sorrow for sin ought to be great sorrow. David wept so bitterly and abundantly that he watered his couch. Adding to his sorrow was the triumphs of wicked men. David’s enemies rejoiced in his afflictions and so in this great sorrow David was a type of Christ, who often wept, and who cried out, My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, Heb 5:7.
Misery is the right object of mercy
However that which David dreaded the most was the anger of God. It was the infusion of this that made it a bitter cup indeed; and therefore he prays, O Lord! Do not rebuke me in Your anger, though I have deserved it, neither chasten me in Your hot displeasure. He does not pray, “Lord, do not rebuke me or chasten me;” for, as many as God loves He rebukes and chastens, as a father the son in whom he delights. He can bear the rebuke and chastening if God, at the same time, lift up the light of His countenance upon him. If by His Spirit He makes him to hear the joy and gladness of His loving-kindness. The affliction of his body will be tolerable if he has comfort in his soul.
David was a type of Christ, whose sorest complaint was of the trouble of His soul and the withdrawal of his Father’s smiles. Christ didn’t even whisper a complaint of the rage of His enemies—“Why do they crucify me?” or of the unkindness of His friends—“Why do they desert me?” But He cried with a loud voice, My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me? That which he desires as the greatest good is the favour and friendship of God. He prays that God would pity him and look upon him with compassion. Misery is the proper object of mercy and so he prays, “Have mercy on me, O Lord! in wrath remember mercy, and do not deal with me in strict justice.”
It is our duty to go to Him
David asks that God would pardon his sins which is often chiefly intended in the request, Have mercy on me. David desires for God to show His power for his relief: “Lord, heal me, save me, speak the word, and I shall be made well”. He longs to be at peace with Him: “Return, O Lord! receive me into Your favour again, and be reconciled to me. You seemed to have departed from me and neglected me and set Yourself at a distance, as One angry. But now, Lord, return and show Yourself as close to me.”
He asks that He would especially preserve his inner man and of whatever might become of the body: “O Lord! deliver my soul from sinning, from sinking and from perishing for ever”. It is an unspeakable privilege that we have a God to go to in our afflictions, and it is our duty to go to Him and so wrestle with Him. We shall not seek in vain.
Our best encouragement in pleading the mercy of God is: Save me, for Your mercies’ sake. He pleads God’s glory in verse 5: “For in death there is no remembrance of You. Lord, if You deliver me and comfort me, I will not only give You thanks for my deliverance. But stir up others to join with me in these thanksgivings and spend the rest of my life in Your service and to Your glory. All the remainder of my days I will preserve a grateful remembrance of Your favours to me, and be quickened in all instances of service to You. But, if I die, I shall be cut short of that opportunity of honouring You and doing good to others, for in the grave who will give the thanks?”
That is hell itself
The souls of the faithful joyfully remember God and give thanks to Him. But in the second death (that of eternal death) there is no pleasing remembrance of God. Perhaps David, being now troubled in soul under the wrath of God, had some dreadful apprehensions of. Devils and damned spirits blaspheme Him and do not praise Him. “Lord, do not let me lie forever under this wrath, for that is sheol, hell itself, and prevents me from praising You.”
Those who sincerely seek God’s glory, and desire and delight to praise Him, may in faith pray, “Lord, do not send me to that dreadful place, where there is no devout remembrance of You, nor are any thanks given to You.” The death of the body puts an end to our opportunity and capacity of glorifying God in this world, and serving the interests of His kingdom among men. We do so by opposing the powers of darkness and bringing many on this earth to know God and devote themselves to Him.
We are employed in a war
Some have maintained that the joys of the saints in heaven are infinitely more desirable than the comforts of saints on earth. Yet the services of saints on earth resound more of the glory of divine grace, than the services of the saints in heaven. For we are employed in maintaining the war against sin and Satan and in edifying the body of Christ. Courtiers in the royal presence are most happy, but soldiers in the field are more useful. Therefore we may pray that if God has any further work for us or our friends to do in this world that He will spare us to serve Him. To depart and be with Christ is better for the saints themselves, but for them to abide on earth is more profitable for the church.
This is what David had an eye on when he pleaded this, In the grave who shall give You thanks? Ps. 30:9; 88:10; 115:17; Isa. 38:18. And this Christ had an eye to when he said, I pray that You do not take them out of the world. We should sing Psalm 6 with a deep sense of the terrors of God’s wrath which we should therefore dread above anything else. If we be troubled, let it comfort us that our case is not without precedent. If we humble ourselves and pray, as David did, it shall be dealt with in due course.
He is confident of a good outcome
Then comes a sudden change for the better! He who was groaning and weeping and had given all up as gone then speaks more pleasantly in verse 6 and 7. Having made his requests known to God, he is very confident of a good outcome and his sorrow is turned to joy. He distinguishes himself from the wicked and ungodly, and fortifies himself against their insults. Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity.
When he was in the depth of his distress he was afraid that God’s wrath against him would give him his portion among sinners. But now that this cloud of melancholy had blown over. He was assured that his soul would not be gathered with sinners, for they are not his people. He began to suspect himself to be one of them because of the heavy pressures of God’s wrath upon him. But now that all his fears were silenced he knew that his lot was among the chosen. The workers of iniquity had teased him, and taunted him, and asked him, “Where is your God?” triumphing in his despondency and despair. But now he was able to answer those who reproached him, for God had now comforted his spirit. His complete deliverance would shortly come.
God has done great things for us
Perhaps David’s enemies had tempted him to do as they did, to quit his religion and take for himself the pleasures of sin. But now, “depart from me; I will never lend an ear to your counsel. You would have had me to curse God and die, but I will bless Him and live”. We too should have our resolution strengthened never to have anything more to do with sin and sinners. David was a king, and he takes this occasion to renew his purpose to suppress sin and reform well-doing, Ps. 75:4; 101:3.
When God has done great things for us we should seek out what we can do for Him. Our Lord Jesus seems to borrow these words from the mouth of His father David. When, having all judgment committed to him, He said, Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity (Luke 13:27). He now teaches us to say the same, Ps. 119:115.
He is confident of a gracious answer
David assures himself that God would be gracious to him despite the present intimations of wrath which he was under. He is confident of a gracious answer to this prayer. While he is yet speaking, he is aware that God hears (as Isa. 65:24; Dan. 9:20), and speaks of it as a thing done, and repeats it with an air of triumph, “The Lord has heard” in verse 8, and again in verse 9, “The Lord has heard“. By the workings of God’s grace upon his heart he knew his prayer was graciously accepted. He therefore did not doubt that in due time it be answered. His tears had a loud voice, in the ears of the God of mercy: The Lord has heard the voice of my weeping.
Silent tears are not speechless ones. David associates the favourable response of all his other prayers. “He has heard the voice of my supplication, and therefore he will receive my prayer. For He gives, and gives again. He then prays for the conversion or predicts the destruction of his enemies and persecutors in verse 10. It may very well be taken as a prayer for their conversion. “Let them all be ashamed of the opposition they have given me. Let them be (as all true penitents are) vexed at themselves for their own foolishness and return to a better temperament. May they be ashamed of what they have done against me.” If they will not be converted, it is a prediction of their confusion and ruin. They shall be ashamed and sorely vexed.
His enemies rejoiced that David was vexed in verses 2 and 3, and therefore, as usually happens, the evil returns upon themselves, they also shall be sorely vexed. Those who will not give glory to God shall have their faces filled with everlasting shame. In singing and praying over this Psalm, we must give glory to God, as a God ever ready to hear prayer. We may own His goodness to us in hearing our prayers, and must encourage ourselves to wait upon Him and to trust in Him in the greatest of difficulties.
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
Comfort and Joy I am with you from suffering to health Through pain to ease. I will help you from sorrow to joy Through despair and disease. You shall be comforted; You can rest your weary head For throughout life You are quite definitely being led. Without previous experience, you could not dream Of the fullness of day, of the glorious dawn That from the blackest of nights there follows The most beautiful, tranquil morn. Regard this experience not as sadness But as dawn, the first glimmers of light Will always follow in My Kingdom The blackest, darkest of night. You have passed from darkness to light. My guidance is there, you cannot see The full day is not yet But you can experience the dawn with Me. By the late Andrew Feakin [passed away 16th March 2019]
Prayer for the Day
Father I come to You. Grant me a truly humble heart and a broken and contrite spirit. May my conscience be awakened and any corruption in me be put to death. Grant that I feel the sting of sin that I may sow in great tears and so reap Your very great mercies. Where else should a child go with their complaints, but to their Father? Make me to melt into tears at the remembrance of any unconfessed sin. Let that sorrow for sin be great sorrow, for as Your Word states, ‘as many as You love You rebuke and chasten’.
Pardon my sin and have mercy on me. It is an unspeakable privilege that I have You to go to in all my afflictions. May I fulfil my duty to go to You, and so wrestle with You. For I know I shall not seek in vain. Lord, when You deliver me and comfort me, may I never forget to give You thanks for my deliverance. Stir me up to stir up others to join with me in thanksgiving and spend the rest of our lives in Your service and to Your glory. Let me recall Your favours to me in all the remainder of my days and be quickened in all instances where I may be of service You. May I be one who sincerely seeks Your glory, and desires and delights to praise You.
Like David intimated, I pray, “Lord, do not send me to that dreadful place, where there is no devout remembrance of You, nor are any thanks given to You.” But may I live to serve the interests of Your kingdom among men. Let me be in violent opposition the powers of darkness, bringing many on this earth to know You and devote themselves to You. Help me remember that I am employed in maintaining the war against sin and Satan and in edifying the body of Christ. May I be a useful soldier in the field. If You have any further work for me and my friends to do in this world, then spare us to serve You and reveal it to us.
When I am troubled by evil cause me to humble myself and pray, “depart from me; I will never lend an ear to your counsel, you would have had me to curse God and die, but I will bless Him and live.” May my resolution be strengthened never to have anything more to do with sin and sinners. When You do great things for me cause me to seek out what I can do for You. May I be active in praying for the conversion of sinners. I give all glory to You, as a God ever ready to hear my prayers. I will wait upon You and trust in You in the greatest of difficulties. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.