A Pleading Psalm
Psalm 6: Lynne McCarthy 1/14/22
Observe: David pours out his heart before the Lord in repentance, aware of God’s rebuke for an unnamed sin. He pleads with God to lighten the chastising and rebuke he possibly needs, yet also knows God is merciful (1-2).In anguish of soul he asks, How long, O Lord, how long? (3), while he acknowledges hesed, God’s unfailing love.
Verses 4-7 continue his weeping and crying out. Though David can scarcely pray, he finds that God is indeed near, and …the Lord accepts my prayer. (9b) so his tears are not in vain. At the end, he knows his enemies will not prevail against him – or against God. (10) There’s some vindication; there is definite assurance.
Interpret: This is both a lament and the first of the Psalter’s six “Penitential Psalms” of repentance. Lament is defined as “to feel loss, sorrow or regret, often expressed in a physical way”, here, through loud weeping. As we learn the Psalms this year, we will read many of his laments, groanings in utter honesty before God.
Heb 12:7 tells us that God chastens out of His love, to show us we are His adopted children. He cares, not because we are perfect, but because He is. David doesn’t know this; the cross is a long way off, so he is not sure of his standing with God. But he does know God is rich in mercy, so he clings to this fact. The strange verse 5, the dead cannot praise God arises from the ancient name for the grave, Sheol. It’s the end (resurrection was not a tenet of the Hebrews’ faith); no praising God from there.
And how do laments end? Except for Psalm 88, with trust, hope and praise for the Lord of all comfort. David’s trust despite his bleak circumstances is the basis not only for his laments, but for all his prayer-poems.
Apply: In our culture, if we have deep sorrow, where do we go? For problems with mental health, perhaps a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a counselor of some sort. If we need to resolve a dilemma, professional counselors might have the wisdom to pierce through the murk. Perhaps we have a wise, insightful friend gifted with the Holy Spirit’s knowledge and wisdom, whom we can trust to keep confidences. But human treatment or help has its limits.
By now, we should know prayer is our first recourse, though the other means do help. Prayer teams at the 10:30 service pray with us in our struggles (though we can’t do this now). We can request prayer via the church website or the office. The prayer chain is a wonderful means, brothers and sisters committed to praying for these requests. Make good use of them! Small groups or a prayer partner offer other outlets to pray. Every request is confidential, so be encouraged.
Prayer of lament, in whatever circumstance, centres us in God’s merciful love; prayer with others is always a joy to the Lord to receive and answer.
The late Bible teacher, David Pawson, talks about ‘interrogatory prayer’: we ask God questions and know He will answer, not with thunderbolts of revelation but in the way we need. If the psalmist can moan, How long, O Lord? then why can’t we?
We could try memorizing verses (or entire Psalms – starting with a short one!) that have blessed, encouraged or given us a new sense of God’s mercy and love -- no small feat, but we can do it! It would be a good exercise for small groups to make[LM1] the Psalms ours.
Ask: Have I ever let God know how I really feel when I pray? Do I trust Him enough to be honest in my pleadings and yet have deep reverence for Him? Am I patient enough to wait for His answers?
Lord who knew sorrow, send Your Spirit into my prayers so I can be completely honest and true as I come to you. Show me how to pray the Psalms this year!
Sing: Psalm 6: Save Me, Lord - Jason Silver
Light of Life - Sons of Korah
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.