Psalm 6 is the first of what are known as the penitentials (32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143); these are Psalms of great lamentation over sin. This one is probably not as well-known as the others (32, esp. 51), but it communicates feelings I believe we can all identify with: the feeling of failing God. What do we do when we have failed God, sinned? This Psalm tells us there is hope when we bow it spiritually. Psalm 6 provides hope for when we’ve blown it morally. Two things to mention initially: 1) though the sin is not mentioned, the conscience is clearly stricken; and 2) though the sin is unnamed, the Lord knows what it is.
Psalm 6 (ESV)
To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments; according to The Sheminith. A Psalm of David.
1O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath.
2Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.
3My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord—how long?
4Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
5For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?
6I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.
7My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.
8Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
9The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.
10All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.
When You’ve Blown It
A Lurking Sense of God’s Displeasure (1-3): The Psalmist speaks of “Your anger…Your wrath” (v.1). The wrath of God over sin is very real. Sin is no small matter, lightly overlooked. The true gravity of sin is seen in what it cost God to redeem us from sin: His unique Son, Jesus.
A Lost Sense of God’s Presence (4-5): “Turn” or “return” says come back. Why? Implication is the Psalmist feels as tho God has departed due to sin. But the return of YHWH will mean salvation & deliverance. So yes – come back! Don’t stay away forever! Restore me that I may praise you.
A Lacking Sense of God’s Peace (6-7): Notice the Psalmist is up all night, every night mourning his sin (every night I flood my bed with tears). Sleep eludes the conscience stricken person. Indeed, his whole being – mind, body, soul – is in distress. There is no rest, no peace, even if you are a king like David was. Have you ever experienced this kind of spiritual & bodily fatigue – unable to get out of bed, too tired to go to work, too worn out to clean the house, maybe even too depressed to go to church, read the Bible, even pray? I know some have. Perhaps the only thing you can pray is v.3 – How long, O Lord?
A Longing for God’s Deliverance (8-10): How long until I am delivered from this? From my enemies (all you workers of evil), esp. the spiritual forces of darkness which are probably at the source of many of our troubles. You want it so desperately. You plead & pray for God to deliver.
What Do We Do When We’ve Sinned
Feel the Guilt (1-3): Godly grief produces repentance unto salvation (2 Cor 7.10). We ought to feel guilty when we sin. If we do not, we’re in trouble. Lack of guilt is indicative of a seared conscience. 1) The Psalmist feels the guilt & knows he deserves rebuke just “not in Your anger,” discipline but “not in Your wrath” (v.1). 2) The Psalmist is “languishing,” that is, he is withered like a plant or flower; lit. he is one who droops (v.2). 3) The Psalmist seems absolutely worn out by his grief; so weary in fact, that he can’t finish the sentence. “How long?” he asks without specifying for what. See Habakkuk 1.2; given v.9, this makes sense.
Pro Top Tip: When someone comes forward following a sermon I am very mindful to not minimize the action of one by lumping it in with the masses. Saying things like “We all have…” minimizes their repentance when instead, they need to feel the weight & gravity of this.
Pray to God (4-7): “Save me,” cries the Psalmist to God. Also, notice how often God is mentioned in these opening verses – my count is five (5) times in four (4) verses. He is the only and best hope we have for these dark nights of the soul: YHWH. He is the hope of the David & He is our hope as well. This is the turning point – when David, by habit, training, or sheer desperation, hurls himself to God and calls upon God.
Repent (8): Verse 8 is the turning-point of this Psalm. The grief & guilt should lead to true repentance. “Depart from me, all you workers of evil” – this is the language of practical repentance. You sweep out the wicked, purge yourself of the impure so that you are holy unto the Lord. The change of mood continues into the next verses. Why? God has heard my prayer!
Know God Hears (9-10): Though you sin, you are still a child of God. Unless you up & leave home, live in open, willful rebellion…that’s a different story. But when a child of God fails the Father, know you still have the Father’s ear. When Simon (the Magician), a child of God, fails the Father thinking to buy the miraculous demonstration of the Holy Spirit with money, what does Peter tell him to do? Acts 8.22, though he has sinned, he still has the Father’s ear. Back in Psalm 6, notice the three-fold assertion – “YHWH has heard…YHWHW has heard…YHWH has accepted…” this denotes absolute conviction. No doubt about it.
When Others Blow It
Be Gracious (2): Even as we desire for God to be gracious us so we ought to be people who show grace to one another. Remind them of the hope we have in Christ Jesus. Pray with & for them.
Mourn (6-7): We should agonize over sin in our brothers & sisters. Especially if they persist in their sin. “Cemeteries are quiet places where damp earth covers dumb mouths” (Spurgeon). Now is the time to remember God.
Remember God’s There (8-10): God is not lost, those who rebel against Him & reject Him are. God was always there, even when we’ve blown it. He’s still there for our brothers & sisters who choose to walk away from the Father.
When you sin, you should feel guilty, but do not therefore feel lost. In the dark night of the soul, when we have failed to live up to the high, holy standard, call upon God. Request light. God is our light & pathway through the darkness.