Series on the Psalms, Text: Psalm 6, Title: God Dwells with the Contrite


The first two Psalms we studied were introductory to the book of Psalms and emphasized the wisdom of the Word of God applied to life and the development of the kingdom of God. The next three Psalms all revolved around David’s trials and his relationship to his persecutors. That theme is still present in Psalm 6, but now there is a much stronger emphasis on David’s personal suffering and the relief he seeks. This is designated therefore as the first penitential Psalm. The mention of his enemies is clearly the occasion for David’s self examination and his sense of sin. V.7 is very interesting because it appears to merge David's own  suffering because of his sin with the persecution of his enemies.  My eyes grow weak with sorrow, they fail because of my enemies. He also concludes with the declaration, Away from me all you who do evil verse 8.  A believer under trial becomes more conscious of his own sinful failings and questions his integrity before God. Furthermore, he sees his sin in the light of the corrupt behavior of those who persecute him, and the criticism  by his adversaries is the harder to take because of his own failures. The soul is troubled  because the believer realizes he does not deserve any better treatment than his enemies. Thus the victory which he achieves is the more glorious because it is a victory not only over his sin, but also over those who hate him. I would divide this Psalm into the agony verses 1-7, and the absolution verses 8-10.

I The Agony

This Agony is expressed first in the admission of sin, secondly in the anguish, and thirdly in the apprehension. All of these elements are present in the man who honestly confronts and confesses sin in his life.

A The Admission

This is found in verse 1 and 2, 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. It is such an admission that it pleads the mercy of God. In other words, David knows that he cannot stand in the judgment. Never ask God to give you what you deserve. Amy Carmichael once wrote, “If I can easily discuss the shortcomings and the sins of any; if I can speak in a casual way even of a child's misdoings, then I know nothing of Calvary love.” David does not mention his transgression lightly. He knows that his sin deserves the full weight of God’s wrath. It deserves the ultimate sanction of God’s law. We must not be tempted by our culture to use euphemisms for our sin. We call abortion a right to privacy, homosexuality an alternative lifestyle, pornography freedom of speech, adultery living together. This is a culture that knows nothing of the awfulness of breaking God’s commandments.

B The Anguish

This is found throughout the Psalm in verses 2, 3 and 6, 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? I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. The Psalmist is faint, literally wilting like a plant, his bones are in agony, literally shaking, his soul is in anguish so that he cannot stand the misery and cries out how long?  And in verse 6 he is worn ought from groaning, his bed is made to swim with tears and his eyes are weak from weeping. It is of course possible that David had a serious illness which he perceived to be the judgment of God, but the language here does not clearly indicate sickness. All that can be said with assurance is that the effect of his sin was overwhelming him physically. In Psalm 32 David points out, When I kept silent my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. Therefore the condition David describes here is one which has resulted from not dealing with this sin. Now he is changing that. One afternoon the members of a health club assembled..  The dietitian leading the discussion asked the participants to describe their daily routine.  The first admitted to a number of excesses, including overeating. Others joined in. But one seriously overweight member reported, "I eat healthfully and moderately, I drink moderately and I exercise frequently." "I see," said the dietitian.  "Are you sure you have nothing else to tell us?" "Well, yes," said the man. "I also lie extensively."  That comment probably brought some laughter, but it underlines an important truth. Honesty is important to spiritual health as it is to physical health.

C The Apprehension

This is described in verses 4 and 5, 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? Save me because no one remembers you or praises you from the grave. Sometimes people get involved in lengthy discussions over David’s view of the resurrection, or of life after death, or something similar. All are beside the point. What we have here is a fear of death as a temporal punishment and even perhaps a fear of being lost. David is not like some modern Christians who presumptuously assumes his assurance of salvation cannot be affected by his sin. David is deeply troubled here and wonders about his commitment to the Lord. Still he cries out for mercy as we must also cry for mercy, but he cries out of a genuine  fear of being cast off.

II The Absolution

A Assurance
What we find here is that the confession of sin brings hope and assurance. God’s grace is greater than all our sin. Again refer to Psalm 32: 4,5, For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. The crucial thing here is David’s reflection on the mercy of the Lord. If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, I John 1:9. Even in David’s time it was clear from God’s revelation of Himself that no one could have any relationship with God unless he was gracious to them as David states in verses 8 and 9, 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. There was ample revelation of God’s forgiving ways in the past experience of his children and in the sacrificial provisions of the ordained worship. But if you look at the context of the promise in I John 1:9  (verses 8 and 10) it becomes very clear that we cannot find God’s mercy unless we are honest about our sins. 

B Attainment

We also find another curious thing here. It is an attainment which we probably did not anticipate. David triumphs over his persecutors in verse 10, All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace. He is rejoicing. He blows them away because the Lord has heard his prayer and he is filled with confidence. They might as well leave because their accusations are now neutralized. In the forgiveness of God, David finds peace from his enemies. In this last verse he calls for God’s judgment on them. We must see what an incredible turnaround this. What a reversal of positions.  Before David was overwhelmed by these enemies according to verse 7. Now he consigns them to God’s judgment. The only difference is that now he has the assurance of forgiveness. This should teach us that many of our problems in life are magnified by our unconfessed sin. Once we are right with God, the problems are minimized because we see things from God’s point of view.

Summary of Psalm 6

Psalm Six is the first penitential Psalm in which David mourns his sin. He has experienced great anguish and apprehension because of his transgression, and this intensifies his persecution by his enemies. Fearing the awful judgment of God David confesses and finds a renewed assurance of God’s mercies. He rejoices because the burden of his oppression by adversaries is swept away with his guilt.