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Our Common Prayerbook: Psalm 6

posted by Scot McKnight
David, or the psalmist if it is not David, complains about his enemies often and pleads with God to do justice and shame them. But Psalm 6 (after the jump you can find the whole psalm) opens up with the humility necessary to be the sort of person who can pray for justice against enemies. Perhaps this psalm belongs with Ps 38 because the psalmist has something to confess. Nothing indicates that, though the tone of v. 1 could lead to that. Notice how David begins: he begins asking God not to judge him but to be gracious and heal him and rescue him. Then he turns to his reasons.

6:1 Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger!

Do not discipline me in your raging fury!

6:2 Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am frail!

Heal me, Lord, for my bones are shaking!

6:3 I am absolutely terrified,

and you, Lord – how long will this continue?

6:4 Relent, Lord, rescue me!

Deliver me because of your faithfulness!

Fear is a common emotion and a common human condition; out of such fear — “frail” and “shaking” and “terrified” and wondering “how long will this continue?” Some are afraid for health reasons; some are afraid because of economic woes; some are afraid because others are out to get them. In that situation, David enters into the presence of God and asks for grace. The extremities of the psalmist’s condition is clear: how long will this last? implies he can take it no longer. When you can take it no longer, here is a prayer to pray.

And he asks for rescue and deliverance — not because he deserves it or because he has so many dreams or because he would hate his enemies to sit on his throne. No, he pleads his case because he believes YHWH is faithful to his covenant with Israel and to the cause of truth and justice.
Our guide in the Psalms is John Goldingay (Psalms, Vol. 1: Psalms 1-41
).

For the music director, to be accompanied by stringed instruments, according to the sheminith style; a psalm of David.

6:1 Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger!

Do not discipline me in your raging fury!

6:2 Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am frail!

Heal me, Lord, for my bones are shaking!

6:3 I am absolutely terrified,

and you, Lord – how long will this continue?

6:4 Relent, Lord, rescue me!

Deliver me because of your faithfulness!

6:5 For no one remembers you in the realm of death,

In Sheol who gives you thanks?

6:6 I am exhausted as I groan;

all night long I drench my bed in tears;

my tears saturate the cushion beneath me.

6:7 My eyes grow dim from suffering;

they grow weak because of all my enemies.

6:8 Turn back from me, all you who behave wickedly,

for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping!

6:9 The Lord has heard my appeal for mercy;

the Lord has accepted my prayer.

6:10 May all my enemies be humiliated and absolutely terrified!

May they turn back and be suddenly humiliated!



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Ann F-R

posted April 14, 2010 at 1:04 pm


The Psalms are excellent at depicting that tension we live in between longing for righteousness and justice, and being aware that we, too, are sinful, frail and weak.
Your sentence is exemplary, Scot: “he asks for rescue and deliverance — not because he deserves it or because he has so many dreams or because he would hate his enemies to sit on his throne. No, he pleads his case because he believes YHWH is faithful to his covenant with Israel and to the cause of truth and justice.
It reminded me of Jesus’ words to the ruler in Luke 18 who wanted to inherit eternal life (without giving up the “good life” here, it would seem), and who thought he’d kept all the commandments “since his youth. To his chagrin, Jesus responded, “No one is good but God alone.”
Our foundation always needs to rest on God alone. We are not good, we do not deserve eternal life, but we trust God who saves us from others and from our own sins.



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Bob MacDonald

posted April 14, 2010 at 3:31 pm


Hi Scot – thanks for posting on the psalms – wonderful book – the biggest and the best of the lot. I completed my own translation of the psalms a year ago. My Psalm 6 is here if you are interested. I paired it with Psalm 143 which is a closing psalm of David and a kind of inner circle enclosing the whole psalter. The outer circle is psalm 1-2 and 149. The psalter is the story of how God makes many righteous (the mercied of Psalm 149) through the gift of the singular righteous of Psalm 1-2. (See Robert Cole JSOT 98 2002 – available free this month on Sage publications.
I agree with you that 6 and 38 are paired. The second reminds David of the first – that we might realize the continuing mercy of our God. The movement of this Psalm seems to me to indicate that David is always in the presence and that is why in his trouble he remembers – suddenly – between verses 7 and 8 that his God is able to deal with his trouble whether it comes from himself, his own actions, or the actions of others. There is some similarity to the movement in the Lamentations – his faith is never in question and God brings to his presence in David a reminder of the covenant mercy and of God’s kindness. Aspects of this psalm remind me of Job also – in the grave who will praise you? In that book, only Job prays and it is just the way the psalmist prays.



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