George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 1

Psalm 6

1. Outline

Prayer for help from God
Tears, grief, exhaustion
Confidence in final victory

2. Historical Background

This is the first of the truly penitential psalms, others being 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143. Along with the others of David’s penitential psalms, this appears to have been occasioned by his grievous sin with Bathsheba and Uriah — for which he was smitten by the Lord. The probable order of the psalms related to David’s adultery is as follows:

  1. Psalm 6: where David is weak, weary, and vexed by his disease.
  2. Psalm 38: where he sees his sickness as a divine punishment, and more seriously prays to the Lord.
  3. Psalm 51: the sincerest and most abject confession and repentance.
  4. Psalm 32: Finally, “Blessed is the man whose sins are covered.”

It would seem to have been this illness that leaves David’s kingdom susceptible to the plotting of Ahithophel and the open rebellion of Absalom.

O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. This is virtually identical with 38:1. Psa. 38 is much more detailed than Psa. 6 in describing David’s serious illness.
The bed of his sickness. Compare 41:3,8.
Mine eye is consumed because of grief. “That eye of his that had looked and lusted after his neighbour’s wife is now dimmed and darkened with grief and indignation. He had wept himself almost blind” (Trapp).
Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. These are words spoken to hypocritical, deceitful enemies — not to open, avowed enemies. In his sufferings from his serious illness, David must also contend with men who profess friendship and concern, but whisper and laugh and plot behind his back (38:11,12; 41:5-9) — so they think, just out of his hearing. Yet he knows all that goes on around him (38:13,14).

3. Messianic fulfillment

Christ had no personal sin of which to repent, of course. Yet he felt keenly the awesome burden of a sin-cursed and sin-prone nature, inherited from his mother and from Adam. This is doubtless the reason for numerous allusions to “sin” and “iniquity” in what are plainly Messianic psalms:

  1. Psalm 6:8 is quoted by Jesus in Matthew 7:23; yet the psalm speaks of the subject’s need for mercy because he is feeling the weight of the Lord’s chastisement. In sharing the nature of other men, Jesus may be said to have borne their sins as well (1 Pet. 2:24; Isa. 53:4-6). Not that he was or should have been personally responsible for those sins, but that he felt keenly the common weakness of the flesh (vv. 2,3,7) which all men are heir to.
  2. Psalm 40:6-8 is cited as prophetic of Christ in Hebrews 10:7-9. But v. 12 of the same psalm reads: “Mine iniquities have taken hold of me.”
  3. Psalm 41: Verse 9 is applied to Christ in Mark 14:18 and John 13:18. But v. 4 reads: “I have sinned against thee.”
  4. Psalm 69: Verses 4,8,9,21,22, and 25 all have definite New Testament Messianic citations. Yet v. 4 speaks of “my sins”.

These, along with a number of other such passages, may be seen, in Messianic terms, as further references (along with 2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14; etc., etc.) to Messiah’s inheritance of cursed human nature. The very presence in himself of propensities to sin (even though they were continuously denied and defeated) was surely an enormous trial to one so dedicated to his Father. Certainly we all know, from our own limited (but nevertheless effective) experiences, that an impulse to sin which is repeatedly resisted may teach us much more about the power of “sin” (or sinful tendencies) in our natures than does an impulse quickly and heedlessly yielded to. So, in that sense, who would know more about the “power” of “sin” in human nature than the perfectly righteous Son of God — in all points tempted like as we are, yet (always) without sin? And should we not expect that the Psalms (which are, more than we may first suppose, the “fifth gospel” and the inspired account of Christ’s “inner life”) might somehow reflect this part of our Saviour’s experiences also; i.e. the ongoing, relentless burden of a sin-tending nature?

I am weak. Jesus always placed himself in the hands of his Father, knowing he could of himself do nothing (John 5:19; 7:16; 8:28; 12:49).
My soul is also sore vexed. What sounds like David’s exhaustion from a sin-related illness is, for Christ, exhaustion from the conflict with “sin” — caused by the unclean, defiling “disease” of human nature. This is no less a real conflict because he has never yielded to its impulses. The stress and agony in a constant denial of his flesh, especially at the end, may be seen in Isa. 52:14; 53:2-4; and Luke 22:43,44.
Save me for thy mercies’ sake: John 12:27: “Now is my soul troubled....Father, save me from this hour....”
All the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears. Christ’s “bed” was the ground itself, in Gethsemane, where “with strong crying and tears” (Heb. 5:7; Luke 22:41-44) he sought relief from the burden he bore. Other references in Psalms to Christ’s weeping: 39:12; 42:3; 56:8; 69:10; 116:8.
Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. This verse is quoted by Christ in Matt. 7:23; 25:41; and Luke 13:27. There the workers of iniquity, whom he never really “knew” or recognized, were those who hypocritically professed allegiance to him, but always served their own selfish interests instead.
The Lord hath heard....the Lord hath heard....the Lord will receive my prayer. Three times the Psalmist expresses his confidence that his prayers have been heard. Three times does Christ pray in the garden (Matt. 26:39,42,44). Three times does Paul beseech the Lord about his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:8).
The Lord hath heard: Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus, where his weeping (cp. vv. 6,8) was heard (John 11:35): “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me” (vv. 41,42).

4. Other details

Weak, i.e. drooping as a blighted plant (Kay); “languishing” (RSV); “faint” (NIV).

My bones are vexed. This denotes a disease penetrating the whole frame: Job. 4:14; 30:17,30; 33:19-21.
How long? That is, before deliverance will come (cp. Psa. 74:10; 90:13; 94:3; Isa. 6:11; Dan. 8:13,15; Hab. 2:6; Rev. 6:10,11)? The question is (sometimes, but not always) about the time that must elapse before the coming of God’s Kingdom. With God, what humanly speaking seems to be ‘delay’ is actually the orderly maturing of God’s purpose. Our problem is the inability to discern, in a frenzied age like our own, the slow but inevitable outworkings of God’s timetable.
Oh save me is the source of the New Testament Hosanna.
For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave (Sheol) who shall give thee thanks? Death as an unconscious state: Psa. 104:33; 146:3,4; Isa. 38:18; Eccl. 9:5,6,10. Yet there is a deliverance from Sheol (the grave) for some: Psa. 16:10; 17:15; 49:15; 73:24; Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:1-3. The Old Testament does not have the word “resurrection”, but the principle is plainly taught throughout.
Consumed: Withered or sunken; grown old before his time. Withered away like the sapless tree, or the dry grass burned by the sun (Psa. 129:6,7; Isa. 40:6; 1 Pet. 1:24).
Let them return. “They will turn back” (NIV, RSV) or “away” (NEB).

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