Psalm 6 Mercy Me

Questions: When do we need mercy? Dare we ask it of God? Will God hear? Can we escape being ashamed? “Read More” to pursue answers in the Psalms.

Lord, speak to me through your Spirit and your Word, your Body and your Blood;
that I might know you as you are, and manifest the image of Christ in this world,
and the world to come. Amen.

Psalms 6:1-10

O LORD, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.

The superscript to the superscript in my Bible associates this Psalm with the aftermath of “Bathshebagate.” While I can’t compete with David for sheer political drama, I know the feeling, and I suspect you do too: the realization that I have utterly screwed up, and completely deserve whatever punishment I am assigned.

Of course, that doesn’t always mean I admit that fact. 🙂 So, kudos to David for taking the bull by the horns — or should I say ‘the altar‘? — and (finally) crying out to God:

Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I [am] weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed. My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long?

What’s interesting is that the basis of his plea — at least at this point — is not any rationalizations on his part, or even God’s promises, but merely his own wretchedness. I was thinking the other day how universal it is to want to help a hurting child, even a stranger who has no claim on us but mere humanity. Amazing that God should feel the same way towards us, but David appears to count on that fact.

Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies’ sake. For in death [there is] no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?

I’m sure the Sadducees quite reasonably saw this as evidence against resurrection of the dead. On the other hand, one could also see this as a definition of Hell: a place without God’s mercy, where we live in constant awareness of our sin, and no remembrance of God. Then again, maybe we’re all just reading way too much into the rhetorical cry of a man who’s just lost his son:

I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears. Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.

What enemies? I thought it might be a metaphorical reference to his sufferings, but the following verses seem to indicate a real human agency — perhaps political opponents making hay on his misfortune?

Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping.

“The LORD hath heard.” Like a wailing babe who notes her parents’ turned head, there is no greater comfort to the believer than knowing their entreaties have at last been heard:

The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer.

Nor is there any greater terror for the tormentor than to know their victim’s Strong Protector has taken notice:

Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return [and] be ashamed suddenly.

There’s a curious parallel here: instead of his bones, it is his enemies who now are ‘vexed.’ Which, frankly, seems an odd way to end a psalm. What’s up with that?

One possibility is that this last verse is descriptive rather than imperative, like in the NIV:

All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace.

That is, his enemy’s frustration may just be a sign of his healing, not the direct goal. That certainly matches what we’re promised in Revelation 3:9:

behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

To be sure, there is great pleasure in vindication! Yet, I wonder if there is something more here. For me, at least, the most painful sins are those where I’ve hurt the ones I love, especially what that sin shames them in front of other people: there’s no way to take it back. I wonder if David is not so much rejoicing in his personal vindication, but the thought of God’s public vindication. The thought that — even though his sin caused decades of grief to his country — that ultimately, through repentance and mercy, his story would bring comfort to believers, praise to God, and consternation to mockers for millennia to come.



God, you know that in my heart I am as great a sinner as David, if not more so. Father, I cry out to you, and you alone, who can save me from the consequences of my sin. Look upon me with your mercy, for I am weak and poor and needy. Only you can break the chains I have forged for myself Father, glorify your name! Honor your servant — not for my sake, but your own. Create in me a clean heart, and clean hands, that I may be free to sing your praise in the public square. May those who oppose me for the gospel’s sake be put to shame, and your name alone be glorified. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.

About the Title:

Today’s title is in honor of the band, whose name I had never thought of as a verb before today.