“O LORD, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.
Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed.
My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long?
Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies’ sake.
For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?
I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.
Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.
Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping.
The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer.
Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly.”
-Psalm 6 (KJV)
I don’t know about you, but this has been a rough week for me- with an anxiety attack and a nasty migraine. So I am determined to dig deep into this entire chapter to milk it for all it’s worth! Let’s look at David’s plea in his sickness.
Being sick is certainly never fun, and it gets less fun as you get older- no parents around to nurse you back to health, no cabinets full of medicines that you don’t even know what half are really for, and no time to really rest because you have a list of things that need to get done! We can gather from these 10 verses that David is very sick. And that he believes his sickness is a result of some sin he committed. Based on the past few psalms written by David, I imagine any sin he might commit he would consider the worst offense he could commit. We don’t know what the sin was- it could have been a small lie to protect some people, or he didn’t wake up and immediately begin praying, or maybe it was something bigger. Either way, we see the magnitude of David’s perspective of who God is and his fear of God. He begins his song by asking God to lessen the blow. He feels like he is being rebuked- in all his singing of the wicked and how much he despises them, now he has done something that has him under God’s rebuke, and he is sorrowful. Perhaps he feels the disapproval of God in each cough or sneeze.
David also speaks of being chastened. The verse also says that God did these things out of anger and hot displeasure. We have to remember that David lived on the other side of the cross. At the cross, God’s anger toward man was poured out on Jesus, so we live in a time where chastening from God comes out of love and not anger. Hebrews 12:7 tells us “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” Chastening is a mark of adoption. I have several friends who have experienced awful illnesses and a few who have terminal illnesses, and those who have faith have at some point questioned if it is from God for something they did in the past. But we live under the cross! While David had every reason to question his standing with God and assume that his sickness was a result of something he had done which merited his complaining and asking ‘why me?’, we who live on the side of the cross where Jesus was hung up high for our sins and His blood spelt for our forgiveness, the question we should be asking is ‘Why not me?’.
You know that soreness you get all over your body when you are getting really sick? I usually experience it before I get the flu, though most recently (because, thank God, I haven’t caught the flu in a while!) was when I had some really bad pain in my abdomen that made me think I had the flu. After pushing through a full day at work, I made it home (I walked a mile to and from work to my house during this time) and laid down hoping it would pass, only to get up a few hours later to realize the pain was so severe, and definitely not the flu, because I could not stand up straight. I could also tell it was an internal problem, a skill I developed from having gallstones and pancreatitis a few years ago- I can distinguish ‘surface’ pain from internal malfunctions. If you have never had internal pain like this, just trust me, there is a huge difference, and I have high pain tolerance. My roommate wanted to take me to the ER that night, but I refused and said I would go to urgent care if it didn’t go away overnight. The pain was worse overnight and left me tossing and turning in a fever. She took me to urgent care and they discovered I have ‘ulcerative colitis’, they gave me some pills and sent me on my way. Whether David felt a ‘surface’ pain or serious internal pain is uncertain, but he knew exactly who to turn to in his agony. He recognizes his physical weakness and pain and asks God for healing. And in his spiritual weakness and pain he asked God for mercy.
Even David experienced spiritual weakness in his physical weakness. I don’t remember how my spiritual state was when I was in so much pain from the ulcerative colitis, but I promise my spiritual state was already pretty low because that happened a year after moving to my new home and I was not on solid ground. But stress causes a similar feeling in most people, though it may be easier to remedy. When I am stressed, I tend to talk down more on myself, which makes me more sorrowful and just gives the enemy that clutch which I am unwilling to take back in my weakened state usually. Oh, it is so bad sometimes! Then I have dear friends in school who each handle that stress differently- one takes things said to them more personally and causes more pain for themselves, one just shuts down and tries to handle it alone, another will fall behind and cause themselves emotional stress on top of it all. I’m sure all of us can relate to David on this in some level. And like him, I’m sure we have all questioned ‘How long?’. Maybe that sounds like David is asking God in some way to take this away from him, but I believe he is just asking God to shorten his chastening. He is resigned to being chastened because he knows that there is gain to be had from undergoing such a trial. But remember that David is experiencing this because of God’s anger, which we may not understand fully because we won’t experience that in its fullness, however, I am certain we would be asking for relief from such a grievance if we were in David’s place too.
David asks God to deliver him. His wording is so important as we study the incredible faith that David possessed. He says, “Return, O Lord, deliver my soul: Oh save me for thy mercies’ sake.” David says ‘Return’, he felt distant from God in his sickness. He wants back what he had before with God. Part of his trial would have been this feeling. Up until this point, his psalms have reflected his closeness to God, his righteousness, and how different he lived from the wicked. He asks for mercy, his confession, he feels he doesn’t deserve the requests he has made, but he prays by faith. In recent times I have learned that I am blunt, and that my bluntness does not always come across as lovingly as I intend it to, thus it usually gets me in trouble. Well, for better or worse, this gives my friends many opportunities to show mercy to me, and each time I go to them for their mercy and forgiveness, I feel what David felt to some extent. I don’t deserve it, it comes from a place of being humbled, and from having people, and a God, who understands that I am in process. In art, we call it a ‘work in process’ (WIP). I am so grateful for these people who reflect God’s character like this, and I’m sure David is glad that God understands too.
Verse 5 may seem strange, but again, we must remember that David lives on the other side of the cross, and his understanding of what comes after death is an uncertainty. He doesn’t know what comes after death, and so we can gather two things from his words here: Most importantly would be that he has decided that while he is still alive, he is going to praise God. So long as he still has breath, he will lift his voice up and speak to God, because he doesn’t know if he will have that chance should he die. The other thing we can gather from this is that David is in enough pain that he believes he may die. I remember when I woke at 1am thinking I was dying- I went downstairs after suffering for 3 hours alone in pain and asked one of my parents to sit with me while I died. They didn’t take it seriously, because what dying person gets up and looks for company, but I truly thought it was the end for me. I ended up going to work that day, only to be sent to urgent care, and a month later found out I had gallstones. But it was only at the surgery to remove my gallbladder that we learned that my gallbladder was so close to bursting, it may have killed me. (Remember, I do have a high pain tolerance. They said I had had stones for years, but I managed to ignore the attacks and dismiss them until this point.) David must have had some truly awful pain to believe he may be dying, and in his fear that death would be the end with no way for him to praise God in the afterlife, he cries out to Him!
We gather how distraught David is over his sickness that has brought distance between him and God. David was not able to sleep, he felt far from God, and he felt God was angry with him. David is weary and his bed is soaked with his tears. Where before he was encouraged all the more to live uprightly by the wicked around him, now he is feeling defeated and not provoked to grab victory in his lowness. Then David declares “Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity”. Perhaps he had people around him who were not encouraging. It reminds me of Job, whose friends came around and question why he still believed in God when all manner of awful things were allowed to befall him. Not encouraging at all! David knows God has heard his weeping, has heard his prayer, and that his prayer will be accepted of God. David is not afraid to show emotion before God- God is impressed by a passionate heart, though we think of such displays of emotion as weakness. We should learn from David in this, for the God who created us is not ashamed of how we express ourselves for the passions He has given us!
I think we can gather this pattern in David’s life- when edification didn’t come from his peers or when he was truly low, David sought to spend time alone with God. He probably knew himself well enough to know that his character changed drastically when God was teaching him something, and that it was better for him to focus on God during these times instead of falling short of glorifying God in some way. David knows that trouble will come to his enemies when God hears his prayer. His temporary sufferings are nothing compared to the permanent suffering that while befall his enemies.
That turned out to be a very long post, but I hope you found it to be encouraging and not tedious in any way. Be blessed and encouraged friends.