DAVID’S PITIFUL CRY
“O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger, Nor chasten me in Your wrath. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am pining away; Heal me, O LORD, for my bones are dismayed. And my soul is greatly dismayed; But You, O LORD—how long?” Psalm 6:1-3
First we should probably identify when this most likely happened. This is one of seven “penitential psalms” that David wrote during the time when he was dealing with his sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the subsequent cover-up where he sent her husband Uriah to his death in battle. David was dealing with a horrific sin he had committed - and was struggling to come to grips with repentance and receiving God’s forgiveness.
His first cry is for God’s mercy - that the Lord would not rebuke him and chasten him in anger and wrath. This is something we just don’t grasp as well as we should in this current day. God is angry with sin - every day. God’s wrath is not something comes when He supposedly loses it over our sin. It is a settled disposition that He has always had toward our choice to disobey and embrace sin in our lives. David feels the displeasure of God very consciously in his heart and spirit. He cries out for God’s grace as he is “pining away.” This word speaks of a weakness and despair that seizes us when we grasp when God’s powerful hand begins the process of chastening us. David also complained of problems he felt physically. Not all sin leads or causes sickness - but in this case David here and in other places speaks of how his health was affected by his sin. His bones were dismayed. That word means to disturb or to terrify - and speaks of something that comes upon a person suddenly. Possibly for David an illness he could feel in his bones came upon him with a suddenness that terrified him. But the malady in his physical body was nothing compared to what was going on in his soul. David uses the same word again to speak of how his soul was greatly disturbed. His soul was filled with an even greater sense of being terrified and sick. He was a mess both spiritually and physically. The cry of his heart at the thought of all that was rightfully coming upon him was this - But You, O Lord — how long? David finishes this first section with a literary device called aposiopesis, “sudden stop.” It is a dramatic stop in something said - and it reveals just how devastated David is as he faces God’s chastening and realizes his sin which brought it to pass.
DAVID’S 3-FOLD PLEA
Return, O LORD, rescue my soul; Save me because of Your lovingkindness. For there is no mention of You in death; In Sheol who will give You thanks? I am weary with my sighing; Every night I make my bed swim, I dissolve my couch with my tears. My eye has wasted away with grief; It has become old because of all my adversaries. Psalm 6:4-7
David, after initially reacting to the chastening of God, makes a three-fold request of God. He first makes a please based on God’s grace. He calls for God to rescue and save him because of God’s covenant love. The word “lovingkindness” speaks of God’s grace and the covenant He made with His people. David appeals to this covenant and cries out for God’s grace in light of it. When we deal with chastening it is wise for us to follow David’s example and cry for mercy on the basis of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. The second plea of David is that God would rescue him and give him a second chance to serve God and honor Him. David speaks of death, which would be his eventual end if God refused to heal him. David’s life and voice would be silenced by death - and in the place of the dead (Sheol) there would be no opportunity to serve and honor God. We too should plead with God for a gracious second chance (or third or fourth, etc.) so we can honor and glorify Him as He deserves. David’s third plea is one based out of grief over sin. We could call it the deep repentance plea. David speaks of how his sin has made him grieve - sighing and weeping over his godless behavior. He uses a strong figure of speech in stating this - saying that he has so many tears that they dissolve the couch upon which he sheds them.
Here is where I want to take a moment to ask us to consider David’s example. Too often I hear preachers and teachers say that crying, tears, and weeping are not necessary for us to experience repentance. In principle I agree with this - because becoming upset does not necessarily mean that we’ve come to repentance. But - with that being said - I am concerned that we are encouraging a tearless repentance and confession as the norm. What I see in Scripture seems to disagree with that premise. When I read of those experiencing confession and repentance in the Word - I see people weeping and experiencing tears of sadness and grief. Could it be that we are setting ourselves up for failure by not embracing the grief that should be attending our realization and confession of sin? I fear the answer to that is seen in the current spiritual condition of the church.
Depart from me, all you who do iniquity, For the LORD has heard the voice of my weeping.The LORD has heard my supplication, The LORD receives my prayer. All my enemies will be ashamed and greatly dismayed; They shall turn back, they will suddenly be ashamed. Psalm 6:8-10
One of the dangers of sinning is that rather than repent and respond to God’s chastening, a person would turn away from God further and begin to embrace the lifestyle of those who live their lives in sin and iniquity. David responded to the chastening of God in a way where he saw the folly of this kind of choice. There is a radical change in this psalm where David experiences a breakthrough with God. He turns and finds mercy, grace, and forgiveness. He begins by telling those who want him to come over to a sinful lifestyle to depart from him. He has broken through the to LORD and knows that God has heard his voice, heard his weeping, heard his request. Rather than be rejected by God - David knows that God has accepted him and receives his prayer! What a glorious thing to remember in times of chastening! God hears us as we pray and weep before Him. We don’t need to heed the siren call of the devil and the world when we find ourselves far from the Lord due to sin. That call tells us there is no hope - and that we might as well hang it up and quit. Nothing could be further from the truth. God disciplines and chastens those He LOVES! The very chastening the devil says means God hates us is actually proof that He loves us. He is using it to lead us to repentance and bring about a return to Him. God receives our prayer! He accepts us! He welcomes us back in our repentance! That is a truly glorious truth we need to embrace!
David also knows that his enemies, who saw his sin and spiritual demise as an opportunity to bring him down, will be turned back by his restoration to God. They saw this as a chance to not only bring David down a few notches - but also to bring his God down as well. But when God restores us and revives our hearts our enemies take a huge shot that will dismay them. The world’s thought is this - you mess up - you are done. A mess like David’s must surely mean his is history - washed up - over. But God’s grace and forgiveness changes everything. We are restored - and our enemies are ruined. They see God’s work and are dismayed that He receives us again. They turn back from their attack - and are dismayed at grace.
Chastening seems bad at first to all who receive it. Even Hebrews 12 acknowledges that. It is not pleasant to be chastened - it hurts. Oh, but what wonderful fruit it brings to us. What a marvelous harvest of forgiveness and grace is ours as God’s chastening plows our hearts, plants the seeds of repentance, and waters them with our tears. Knowing this should make us far more receptive to God’s love in the future when, due to our sin, our spiritual welfare requires that we sing the chastening song.