The Prayer Of The Suffering Person
000319 (000308) Psalm 6
This week we are publishing the sermon delivered at the "Ash Wednesday Service" on March 8, 2000.
1. Psalm six, as we understand it from one reading, is the prayer of a person suffering from sickness. In a certain sense, sickness might be representative of the suffering that we bear as humans who must face death. Thus, although this psalm was created long of old and is a highly individualistic poem, it truly presess upon us very dearly. The image of the person depicted here is of me as well and you, too.
Please Don't Be Angry And Find Fault With Me
O Lord, please don't be angry and find fault with me
Please don't be indignant and chastise me.
O Lord, please be merciful to me.
O Lord, please heal me, my bones are afraid
My spirit trembles with fear.
O Lord, how long?
3. This song begins by calling out "O Lord." This is a feature of "The Songs Of Lament" of which there are a number of them in the Psalms. The message shows there is still one upon whom human beings can call no matter whether they are in some trouble or at the bottom of a deep pit. Even if we're in a state of abandonment by everyone else, or if we're in pain which no one can understand, we can still call "O Lord" from where ever we are.
4. Then the psalmist makes the appeal, "Please don't be angry and find fault with me." This anger is not just anger. The word means "rage." Other Psalms, like Psalm ninety, speak on God's wrath. Humanity only vanishes away before His wrath.
5. In this way, a person becomes humbled during troubles. "Becoming humbled" is to know that we but deserve God's wrath. Actually, unless we do, a person won't even think that he or she is a sinner worthy of condemnation. A person will not even think that the place they should go to by their very natures is hell and hell alone. Because they feel down in their hearts they are righteous to some degree. They don't think they are really bad, but [only] other people might be.
6. This man knew amid his troubles that he was nothing but a sinner deserving of condemnation. Consequently, he can now only seek to appeal to God for his mercy. "I groan in pain" is better translated as "I am faint, exhausted." What is being stated here is a condition of having no more strength left. He admits that in himself there remains nothing left to rely on. He doesn't say, "Help me as I do for myself." To understand one's sin is but to understand that there are no answers within oneself any more. Therefore, he prays, "Please be merciful to me." This is the real way a person is when he or she faces God.
7. Here's what the Lord said:
"Two men went up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed in his heart like this, 'O God, I am not like other men, a robber, a sinner, an adulterer, and I thank you I am not like this tax collector. I fast twice per week and I offer up one tenth of my total income.' But then, the tax collector stood far away and would not lift his eyes to heaven, but striking his chest said, 'O God, have mercy on me, a sinner." I say to you, it was this man and not the Pharisee who went back home justified. Whoever exalts himself will be made low, he who humbles himself will be lifted up," (Luke 18:10-14).
8. He makes the appeal, "O Lord, be merciful to me." And he prays "please heal me." He, first of all, admits his own sin and seeks for mercy. He turns his thoughts to God's love. Then, for the first time he turns his illness over to the hand of this same God. The person who only prays "heal me" is only turning his or her thoughts to the sickness he or she has.
O Lord, Return To Me
O Lord, return to me
Please help my soul.
As is appropriate to your lovingkindness,
Please deliver me.
If one goes to the kingdom of death, no one calls upon your name
If one enters the realm of the dead, no one gives thanks to you.
10. More than a few people in this country have a respect for religious devotion. But, for many people the important thing is not the target of their faith, but "the believing heart." [Many people] don't attempt to consider who it is [they believe in] or what [their God] thinks. But, the faith which the Bible teaches us is not like that. There is me here, but there is God upthere. It takes two to make a relationshp. Even though I believe in God, no relationship is established unless God faces towards me.
11. It is the individual person who has turned his or her back on God. As people turn their backs selfishly, if they even believe in God or even repent, to think one has established a relationship with God by that alone is nothing but a very selfish high mindedness. That's how the will of God, the other party in that relationship, is not respected in the slightest.
12. This psalmist is not like that. He faces God and requests, "please return to me." He doesn't repent and think all is well now. He doesn't think that now everything is resolved. It's me that repented, but that alone can't do anything for me. That's why, he appeals to God with "please return back to me." He petitions, "please don't abandon me." I am not saved just from my repenting. A believing heart doesn't save anyone. It is God that saves us. Thus, he implores God, "please return to me and turn around."
13. And so it clearly means that if God returns to him and turns around for him, it is not due to his own achievements or refinement at all. He understands of himself that in his troubles he admits his sin, is broken, and humbled. If God returns it is only due to God's lovingkindness. Therefore, he appeals to the lovingkindness of God. "Appropriate to your lovingkindness" means "because of God's lovingkindness." He does not say, "Save me because of the works I have done, because of my achievements."
14. Furthermore in verse six, what his true fear is comes to light. Here the psalmist is afraid of death. But, for him fearing death is nothing except a fear of being eternally separated from God. He does not just fear the pain of death. Unless we knew what we should fear most of all, we could not honestly face the problem of life and death. There is certainly a lot of fear for people. They fear catastrophe. They fear sickness. And they fear death. But, there is no hope for the person who only fears "death itself." Because the person who is afraid of only death will always be defeated; for, he or she will definitely die. The person who only fears death strives so hard only to be cured from sickness. But, when he or she is not cured it will surely come. They will only be defeated by it. But, this man is different. There is still hope because in the fear that this man is talking about lies the issue of his relationship with God. Even in his groans there is hope.
The Lord Heard My Crying Voice
I am groaned out.
Every night tears flood my bed to the point that my bed floats.
My eyes are weak from troubles
Because of those who trouble me
I have grown old.
O evil doers, o all who divide me.
The Lord hears my crying voice
The Lord hears my groans
The Lord accepts my prayer.
All my enemies will fall to shame and tremble in fear
They will suddenly retreat and fall to shame.
16. In this passage the word groaning re-appears again. His illness must have been painful. But, because it was not his sickness itself that is at the center of his consciousness but his relationship with God, he appeals to God for his pains. At first, his appeal began with "O Lord." The person who is able to express his or her troubles to God is blessed. Groaning is really the act of a person [blessed] like that. It, also, is the figure of the person entrusting himself or herself over to the lovingkindness of God. He saw himself as a person who deserved God's anger. But, he turned himself over to God's lovingkindness. That's how he has seen [himself] so far. Because he knows that's all he can do, that's what he does. Anyone who thinks they can win over God's favor by his or her own efforts is not entrusting himself or herself to God's lovingkindness. That's why they don't have peace of mind either. In their pain, they truly cannot appeal to God. A sinner can appeal to God for his or her suffering, then at that point there is salvation already there for him of her.
17. Even so at that, aren't the words in verse seven too excessive of an expression? "Tears flood my bed to the point that it melts my bed." But, this is a sincere thought. Nobody will listen to that though. Yet, God does answer his request. When a person pours out his or her heart, God responds to that.
18. Then, he is changed during the prayer he made like that. A person, who knows that he has entrusted himself over to the lovingkindness of God and groans towards God, then comes to know that he has obtained fellowship with God and that God has accepted his prayer. Then groaning turns to praise. The groans of this world may stay just the way they are for however long they last. But, groans made in the presence of God will not end as unchanged groans. They will be changed to praise and words of faith.
19. What he is stating here is that even though his sickness has already been healed, before long he will not always stay healed. What he is expressing is that God hears his crying voice, he hears his groans and accepts his prayer. That is, what he is expressing is his unwavering reliance upon the lovingkindness of God and that alone. Perhaps his illness may not have been cured. He might have died just as he was uncured. But, he, who is able to state "The Lord hears my groans, the Lord answered my prayer," has already won the victory over both illness and death. Because his salvation is in the very fact that he, who humbled himself and admitted his sin, was given an unwavering peace with God.
20. The fact of his peace with God that comes not by human achievements but from the lovingkindness of God was made clear later on the cross of Christ. We, now, are going through Passion Season in which we remember the suffering of Christ. This season is a time we are led in particular to be repentant, yet, it is also a time we truly ought to turn ourselves over to him in trust and to know God's lovingkindness.