Please read Psalm 6.
This Psalm is the first of what are known as the Penitential Psalms (the others are Psalm 32; 38; 51; 102; 130; 143). In this Psalm, David uses language that expresses sorrow (verses 3, 6, 7), humiliation (verses 2, 4), and hatred of sin (verse 8). These all indicate that David has committed some great sin for which he is incredibly sorrowful. Perhaps this is the meaning behind the word ‘sheminith’ in the title—some think it refers to the bass or tenor key that would well suit this mournful ode.
Because of his sin, David begs God not to punish him in anger. Interestingly, David does not ask that God withhold all punishment—he knows that he did something wrong and deserves to be punished!
The discipline of the Lord is a good thing. “The Lord disciplines the one He loves” (Heb. 12:6). When we have strayed into sin, God disciplines us to get us back on track, just as we discipline our own children to help prevent them from straying into deeper sin.
But David asks that God not punish him in anger or in wrath.
As John Calvin writes, “David is willing to bear fatherly and gentle chastisement… [but] what David fears is the wrath of God that threatens sinners with ruin and perdition.”
Or as Jeremiah writes, ““Correct me, O Lord, but in justice; not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing” (Jeremiah 10:24).
No man can stand before God’s anger, so David pleas that God would rebuke him in righteousness, and not in wrath.
David demonstrates true repentance in asking for punishment. The thought of what his sin has done to his relationship with his Lord causes David to ‘languish,’ to be ‘weary,’ to flood his bed with tears, and drench his couch with weeping. His bones are troubled, his soul is troubled, his eyes waste away with grief. His sorrow over his sin has affected every part of his body. He is truly remorseful. Yet, he knows that he is a sinner, condemned by God for his sin—he deserves a far greater punishment than he is receiving.
If only each one of us understood, as David does, the depth of our sin! We too need to practice such penance in acknowledgment of how far we have fallen from God’s good graces! We would all do well to spend a night weeping over how wicked we have been.
And yet, as Psalm 30:5 reminds us, “weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” On Monday, we will study the last three verses of this Psalm for the wonderful reminder that, when we are truly repentant, the Lord hears our prayer.
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