The Penitent Man
Rev. Toh Nee Lim | On 18, Jul 2019
Scripture Reading: Psalms 6:1-10
O LORD, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. 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? 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 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. Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping. The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer. Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly.
It is said that Psalms 6 is a song accompanied with an 8 stringed instrument. This psalm is addressed to the chief musician on Neginoth upon Sheminith. The Hebrew word ‘Sheminith’ means properly ‘the eight’ and correspond exactly to our word, ‘octave’; the eight. Most likely this Psalms is composed by David. Song and music is important to David as he journey through life. I can never overemphasize the role of Music and song in the church. Yesterday, in the office, though I was touching up my sermon, I know that Pastor Lily was meeting the choir director for the half annual assessment of the music department, I decided to drop in and say something. Music is a gift of God and part of the created order. Job 38 says, ‘when the morning stars (angels) sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy.’ Of all the musical instruments that may be employed in the praise of God, the human voice has priority. In our modern world, people’s lives are surrounded with music – television and radio, the music of video games, the muzak of shopping malls, CDs and synthesizers. Yet much of the time music functions as ‘background’ rather than as an opportunity for serious listening, much less participation. Today popular music is for performance rather than for participation. The church music takes on a different role. Congregation is always the primary choir. If music does not regularly include ample opportunity for all members of the congregation to join in song, worship will be impoverished and the life of the church and the faith of its people will suffer. The music department is to lead, stir up, challenge, lift up the spirit of God’s people to sing unto him. Finally, the church’s ministry of song is for the glory of God.
Psalms 6 can be considered a penitentiary psalm. Psalms 6 is a common habit and even a ritual among believer. We often do that; appealing to YHWH for forgiveness and grace, appealing for deliverance. Often times in our appeal we also describes the intensity of our suffering. Finally, we close with a hope and confidence that YHWH has heard our cries. Our prayer should be that way. Our appeal should come to a point that we finish with an expectation and an assurance that YHWH has heard our prayer. This psalmist has also closed his prayer with a rebuke of his enemies. I lately discovered that most of our dealings with God and with mankind has always involved an enemy or enemies. I think it is so true. Whether this enemies is an unseen being or even a present physical being, we have an enemy. I also noticed that the topic of most of our conversation involves an enemy. You don’t believe? Think about it. When you are in conversation with someone, what do you talk about most of the time? What can we learn from this portion of scripture?
1. Supplicating before YHWH
Psalms 6:1 says, ‘O LORD, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.’ The phrase ‘hot displeasure’ is translated as ‘wrath’ in the NASB. One day a lady beset with an unexpected series of negative events, said to her Pastor: ‘Do you think God is punishing me?’ The Pastor replied: ‘Well I don’t know about your case, but the bible does speak of God’s chastening.’ God’s discipline is often a way of instruction for our lives. However, the emphasis in this Psalms is on the severity and the methods of disciplines. If you don’t think that God’s discipline is harsh and his methods often are unbearable, then you are in for shock. It seems that the method used by YHWH was too much for the Psalmist. As I say, this is a penitential psalm. This psalmist starts off by appealing to YHWH for forgiveness and grace. He has looked into his own heart and recognized that he is not perfect before God at all. He had been apparently contemplating his afflictions, and inquiring into their cause, and he was led to the conclusion that it might be for his sins, and that his trials were to be interpreted as proof that God was angry with him. He speaks therefore, of God as visiting him in his anger and in his hot displeasure. I think we should be doing that.
It therefore, led to the Psalmist repenting before the LORD countless of times. This is what we should do. We cannot do penance because YHWH’s desire is a repentant heart. The Jewish Study Bible says that this Psalm of supplication has become the liturgical weekday and morning prayer of the Jewish people. What I am trying to say is that supplication and repentance should be the regular weekday morning prayer ritual and weekend worship of the believer. I find the weeping wall in Jerusalem a very powerful penitential prayer. It is called the wailing wall. Many tourists that visited that wailing wall often say that it has a powerful impact on them. Ivanka Trump who married a Jew, converted to Judaism, went to the weeping wall and stated that it had a powerful impact on her. I mean, you see the Jew in penitential prayer towards YHWH for forgiveness to return and rebuild the Temple, to restore completely their nation, to act against their enemies. I believe it will be heard because of their cry. I think that should be our attitude when you come before God. We supplicate before YHWH. We should pray. We regained our equilibrium in prayer. I’ve been thinking that if we ever expanded this church, we should build a small little prayer closet into it, like John Wesley did in his house on City Road in London. We need a place where we can gather ourselves into the Lord’s presence and pray through our situation in life until the clouds of the soul are blown away by the refreshing winds of the Holy Spirit. But wherever we are is a prayer closet. The Lord bids us to pray. I read something that is very powerful and I shared it with Pastor Lily. It says, ‘We are a called people who call on the name of the LORD and are then called to service! Prayerlessness is a sign of false faith and practical atheism.’
Why was David supplicating before YHWH?
Because YHWH is angry. I know many of us don’t think that God can be angry with us. But the truth of the matter is God can be very angry with you right now. Verse 1 implies YHWH is very angry with this Penitent Man. The word used is ‘hot displeasure’ or ‘wrath’ toward us. ‘In thy hot displeasure’ means literally ‘in thy heat’. We speak of anger or wrath as ‘burning’ or ‘heat’ or even ‘as smoke coming from God’s nostril’. It signifies God’s indignation directed at wrongdoing and God ‘stores up his wrath’ for those who are unrepentant and saving it for a ‘day of wrath’. God was very angry with Job’s three friends and actually their actions or deeds have caused a curse on them and they can only be delivered by Job praying for them. God is so angry with Job’s three friends that only Job’s prayer for them can removed God’s curse on them. The Palmist did not say why YHWH was angry. Definitely there is a cause and most likely he is the cause.
2. The Presence of Enemies
Psalms 6:7 says, ‘Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.’
We are told that the Psalmist has enemies. YHWH allowed the enemies and sent the enemies. The enemies were a source of grief who aggravated the psalmist’s suffering. Each of us experience different circumstances that is unique and unlike others. These life’s circumstances can be considered our enemies. Life’s circumstances are the result of:
a. Punishment for sin
b. Life in a fallen world
c. Ways to strength faith
And often when we go through life’s circumstances one never may know which it is; so, repent and have faith. I think this is exactly what David did.
3. Recognition of his Humanity
Psalms 6:2 says, ‘Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed.’
Another bible translation uses the word ‘faint’ for ‘weak’ and it comes from a Hebrew word meaning ‘to droop.’ Over the course of my life, I’ve fainted on a few occasions or to a point of fainting; a few times while standing in a platoon under the hot sun. I have seen a guy who watch the nurse drawing blood from a patient he was visiting fainted dead away. I took had visited a patient whose blood from her body causes me to nearly faint. Those are embarrassing moments. What happens when we faint? All our strength leaves us. David, that rugged young shepherd boy who single handedly defeated Goliath, that military genius who had expanded the boundaries of Israel, that king who had established Zion as Israel’s capital forever, that visionary who wanted to build the greatest house of worship the world had ever seen, he was going through something now that had drained away all his strength. Maybe you can identity with him because you are in similar situation today.
Here the Psalmist appeal for deliverance. We must ask for favor and compassion instead of the continual discipline. We recognize our weakness and bring to God’s attention that our life is pinning away. He describes the intensity of his suffering. It is so true that because of life’s circumstances we can be wasting away. In sickness we can ask God for heal us. Life’s circumstances even causes his bone to be vexed or dismayed. You will notice how being ‘dismayed’ is related to both his bones and his soul. He is worried for his life. They reflect his innermost life and thoughts. He is in great distress and does not know why. Just this week, a young lady came for SOZO. She is just 18 years old. She has an extreme sadness and she doesn’t know why? You will be surprised how many people are in similar feeling like this lady. This Psalms is a picture of the believers in the last days, right now, you and me. You are in great distress and sadness and you don’t know why? Psalms 6:3 give a further description: ‘My soul is sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long?’ The Hebrew word for ‘soul’ is ‘nephesh’ when translated can mean ‘life’. The Psalmist is worried for his life. This Psalms seems to describe this lady that I encounter in the SOZO. Her soul is greatly dismayed. Her courage in life is completely broken down. Maybe she is disheartened suddenly by sin, disheartened by surprise attack. She is disillusioned. She wants to give up. If you are in this category then you have to ask YHWH to be gracious to you and to heal you. The verb ‘heal’ in verse 2 does not necessarily relate to a physical illness though it may be; but to the attack of adversaries. And if it is illness, it seems the enemies were making fun of his illness. The ancient Israelites believed sin and sickness were related. Again, there is a further description of the illness. Psalms 6:3 says, ‘My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long?’ ‘How long’ implies that it has been many years that this Psalmist’s soul is sore vexed. This is a common lamentation among us believers. It is the cry of a human person made in God’s image but trapped in a fallen mind, body and world. As believers we are to trust in God, not circumstances but still we cry out ‘Why? When will it be over?’ Maybe your sin or your struggle has been with you since you were a child. Even after you come to know God, even after you started serving God in this church, this sin, this struggle has been with you all your life and it came to a head recently. When Pastor Lily was having SOZO with that young lady, I receive two set of words from YHWH for her: The Anger of God and Darkness. God is angry and there is darkness in her life. So how?
Psalms 6:4 says, ‘Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies’ sake’ All the more she has to return to YHWH. In another translation the word ‘return’ is ‘turn’; meaning deliver, save. The Psalmist appeals to YHWH to deliver his life. She has to plead with YHWH to deliver or rescue her soul. And YHWH will do it because of his mercies and lovingkindness. YHWH acts on this psalmist’s behalf, that is, He is gracious and He heals. This is repeated twice in verse 2 and now verse 4. Notice the reason given for the requests is not the worth or merit of the Psalmist but the unchanging, merciful character of the covenant making God, the Creator, and Redeemer and Deity. Christians, we don’t deserve any merit. We are not worthy of any mercies. Matthew Henry, the respected Bible Commentator says ‘a great part of our worthiness life is in an acknowledgment of our own unworthiness. But we can appeal to the unchanging merciful character of YHWH. We can appeal because of our covenant relationship with YHWH. We can appeal because He is a creator. Also, because He is a Redeemer. He sent Jesus to die on the cross for you. We notice the Psalmist use the word ‘return’ The Psalmist thinks that YHWH has departed and hid himself. He has hidden himself by not answering our prayer. Even that this Psalmist continues to appeal.
He says in Psalms 6:5, ‘For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?’ This Psalmist gives the Old Testament view of the afterlife. Sheol is a place of consciousness but no joy and praise. This whole issue of conscious existence beyond physical death is developed through Scripture. I said last week the Sheol refers to the realm of the dead. It is characterized by
a. A dark, gloomy place
b. A place of no return
c. A place of no praise to God, of silence
d. A place separated from God, yet God is there.
This Psalmist doesn’t want to die. He is telling God that if he dies, he cannot praise Him anymore.
4. The Conditions of the Psalmist
Psalms 6:6-7 says, ‘I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears. My eye is consumed because of grief; it waxed old because of all my enemies.’
The Psalmist describes his physical and emotional trauma caused by his adversaries; those who show hostility. He is weary with sighing and his bed is wet with tears.
5. The Victory of the Psalmist
Psalms 6:8-10 ‘Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping. The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer. Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly.
The Psalmist comes to a place of mental relief as he trusted in YHWH, who has heard his prayer. This is expressed in three lines. Just in this three lines the name of YHWH is mentioned 3 times. If you study Psalms 6 you will notice the name LORD or YHWH is mentioned 8 times. YHWH is a covenant name. We have a relationship with God. Because of YHWH’s acceptance of his prayer the adversaries
a. Must depart
b. Will be suddenly ashamed
c. Will be greatly dismayed and vexed
d. Will turn back from attacking him and instead may be going into Sheol
The Psalmist seeks the presence of YHWH but the absence of his foes. What they tried to do to him is now done to them. This literary structure is known as the great reversal that is typical of the Old Testament stories. What human expect is often the opposite of what YHWH brings about. YHWH’s restoration of the Psalmist brings shame to his enemies. The great trouble that affected the psalmist’s life will now be on his enemies.
When David says, ‘Depart from me ye workers of iniquity’ it emphasize the importance to separate from ungodly associations. I have already shared the importance lifestyle associates last week. During the Second Great Awakening in Great Britain, one of the new converts was a boxer who recently had just won a money prize and a belt. As he was about to enter the church hall, a crowd of former companions intentionally stood outside the hall in order to ridicule him. Sarcastically they hailed the converted boxed with a shout: ‘He’s getting converted. What about the belt? He will either have to fight for it or give it up.’ The boxer retorted: I’ll both give it up and you up. If you won’t go with me to heaven, I won’t go with you to hell.’ He gave them the belt, but persuaded some of them to accompany him to the hall for services. One of them was converted in the end.
Here is a man who, through the divinely-given techniques of prayer, has taken control of his moods and taken charge of his emotions. He has strengthened himself in the Lord. His troubled soul had found an unfailing Savior and, in so doing, had received new strength. That’s what healthy Christians learn to do.
Do you remember the biblical story of Hannah in 1 Samuel? She was in terrible agony, exhausted, tormented by family strife and by the taunts of her husband’s concubine. Hannah was barren, and her burden was so great that she lost her appetite and couldn’t eat. Going to the Lord’s house at Shiloh, she wept in bitterness of soul and prayed to the Lord. She was in such anguish of spirit that the priest, Eli, thought she was drunk, but she told him that she had not been drinking. “I am a woman who is deeply troubled… I was pouring out my soul to the Lord… I have been praying here in great anguish and grief.”
Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of Him.”
And then the Bible says this—and notice what a dramatic mood swing it is: “Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.” What had changed? Nothing. At least, nothing externally. Hannah still had no child. She was still taunted and tormented by her husband’s concubine. But her attitude was completely different. Relief had come in prayer. It was a dramatic positive mood swing. That’s what David experienced in Psalm 6.
There is the story of a man named David Snitker who, due to an accident with a welding torch, was burned over eighty percent of his body. While in the Intensive Care Unit, he heard of the many people who were praying for him, and he felt himself slowly regaining strength, slowly starting to heal. But then a strange thing happened. He began to feel self-conscious about the number of people praying for him, and he began to feel guilty. He knew that his entire church was in prayer. He heard that the children were gathering to pray for him. He found out that friends and well-known community leaders were endeavoring to raise money for his family’s bills.
He said to himself, “Why do I deserve all this love? I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve done things I’m ashamed of.” And he slipped into a relapse. His temperature climbed and he stopped making progress. Feelings of guilt hindered his own prayer life, and the doctors became concerned about his survival. Then one night in his haze and fog and pain, a nurse came into his cubicle, and he asked her to read to him from the Bible. She picked up the Bible on the nightstand and turned at random to Psalm 130: Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord…. If Thou, O Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand, but there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared. With the Lord there is mercy.
He felt like his soul and his very body was being washed in God’s unfailing love. The nurse closed the Bible, put it on the nightstand, and took his temperature. A surprised look came over her. His temperature had returned to normal, and his physical healing resumed.
This morning you can have taken a turn for the better. You can have a positive mood swing. You can move from anguish to anthem in your heart, from a sigh to a song because of the privilege of coming to the Lord in prayer and reminding yourself of His unfailing love expressed through Jesus who never, never, never fails!