January 14, 2023

Psalm 6

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger
    or discipline me in your wrath.
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
    heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
    How long, Lord, how long?

Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
    save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
    Who praises you from the grave?

I am worn out from my groaning.

All night long I flood my bed with weeping
    and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
    they fail because of all my foes.

Away from me, all you who do evil,
    for the Lord has heard my weeping.
The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
    the Lord accepts my prayer.
All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish;
    they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.

Before this Psalm, there are musical instructions: "with stringed instruments."  I kinda giggled to myself thinking about what it would be like if our music team led us in a song with these lyrics on Sunday morning.  Not your typical praise chorus.

And yet,

how many Sunday mornings do we roll into church and could easily answer, "I am worn out from my groaning," if we were to answer honestly when asked how we were doing?

Allow me to state the obvious: Psalm 6 is a psalm of lament.

I don't know what tradition you were raised in or what your perspective of contemporary Christianity is if you weren't, but I know that I came out of my upbringing thinking that a Jesus follower had to be like Joy from the movie Inside Out(She's the one with her arms outstretched in the picture above.)  I remember a praise lyric, "I'm inside, outside, upside, downside, happy all the time!"  And there are a lot of verses about God giving us joy: the joy of the Lord is our strength; it's a fruit of the Spirit; heck, we're even supposed to consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds.  A passage like Psalm 6 can leave you wondering.  Was David not as fantastic of a God-follower as we've been told, too emotional or whiny?  Is Pixar better at acknowledging our humanity than the Bible?!  Or are the psalms of lament included in the canon of Scripture to teach us about the nature of God, how we can relate to Him, and a rebuke of Christians-must-be-pretutally-happy- robots -people message?

Let's see!

What's the main idea of Psalm 6?

When approaching the Word, we always want to begin by considering what it has to tell us about God.  The Bible is, after all, a book of revelation about him, that we may know him and respond to his invitation to relationship with him.  Psalms of lament have some or all of these elements, with the bold being the most common: invocation, plea for help, complaint, confession, cursing enemies, confidence in God, and a hymn or blessing to close.  In Psalm 6 we find an invocation, plea, complaint, and confidence in God.  Considering the genre and what it has to tell us about God, the main idea of psalm 6 is when we find ourselves in dire straights, running to God and declaring what is true about the situation, our feelings, and His character is the faithful move, because it expresses our trust in his love, strength, and sovereignty.

Do you see how David does this?  He doesn't shy away from brutal honesty, and in the first verses one gets the impression that he's maybe a little concerned about this blunt approach.  He's like, "Hey God, um, yeah, like, don't wipe me out, have mercy on me.  Your anointed King is not at his best right now."  But given how the Lord has guided, protected, and preserved his life so far, David knows that it is okay to come as he is.  Things are just plain hard!  He is literally dealing with enemies who want him to fail or, worse, die.

"How long, Lord, how long?" is not an unreasonable question from the man who knows he's to be Israel's next king.  God made the promise, but the road has been rocky!

I believe it's important at this juncture to share a theme I see emerging from Psalms.  Like in Psalm 1, we saw the contrast between the righteous and the wicked (those who trust God and those who do not), there is another major contrast presented, God and humankind.  God is a self-sufficient, powerful, eternal, holy, merciful refuge.  Humans are dependent, weak, finite, and very much in need of refuge.

In our psalm here we see how David is worn out, beaten down, and defeated.  He needs God to intervene, so he turns to Him.  Even in his grief, David recites what is true: God hears his prayers; his enemies will be defeated (God promised); he will know God's comfort; this weeping isn't the end of the story.

David, in lament, runs to his only true refuge, the very source of his hope.

What's this got to do with worship?

Friends, we are in the same boat as David.  Yes, we live after the death and resurrection of Jesus and have the Spirit, but we still wait His second coming, the new heaven and the new earth, the end-end of all sorrow and grief.  Groaning is part of this present season.  David shows us how we can groan faithfully with hope.  We can come to our loving heavenly Father and say, "How long, Lord, how long?" and we can repeat to ourselves and one another the truth that a day is coming when all of God's enemies and the sin that entangles us will be vanquished once and for all.

Reading the Bible and considering the timeline of God with His people reveals two things:
  1. God keeps His promises.
  2. God, in wisdom, works in His time.
The second one is hard.  I would hurry things along, especially the painful stuff!  But I wonder what I would miss about living by faith, hope, and love if life was always Easy St.?

Oh boy, one final really important thing we learn as we read God's Word to us!

**God is present with His people.**

God wants to be with us and went as far as sending His own Son to die for us so that we can live with Him eternally.  Can you believe it?!   Our Creator-King, whom we have offended with our constant efforts to be our own god, loves us and wants to be with us forever.  He wants to restore and renew us so we can look like Him!

A passage like Psalm 6 reminds us of our desperate need of a delivering and merciful God. 
Psalm 6 teaches us that authentic coming to Him doesn't have to clean up; He comforts and leads us in our sorrow. 
Psalm 6 also shows us how to live faithfully while in distress: weep because it is hard; pray because He hears; look forward to His promises because He is faithful.

Have you ever noticed how many hymns end with a verse of anticipation of Christ's return?  That keeps everything into perspective, just like the psalms of lament closing with words of confidence in God and a blessing of His name.  There's a plan for the end of all this madness.  Someone is overseeing it all and He's good and able.  There is hope because God is, sees, loves, and has a plan!

Tomorrow is Sunday.  May the Lord meet you in worship, whether you are bursting at the seems with joy this weekend or you're "worn out from groaning" like David was. God with with us when our hearts are light, when they are aching, and everything in between.  He delights that we come to Him, no matter what Inside Out character we resemble at the moment!

Lord, help us by your Spirit to be faithful to you in the waiting; it is hard and you know our fragility.
Thank you that your Word teaches us that we can come to you authentically, that you are aware of our trials and tribulations, and that you have a plan to make all things new.
You are present.  All glory to your name.

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