Psalm 6:4
For the significance of the title of this psalm, see the Exposition. An expositor well remarks that the confessed uncertainty on the part of the best Hebrew scholars as to the meaning or many of the titles is a striking proof of their antiquity, since it shows that the clue thereto is lost in oblivion. This psalm belongs to those specified under the first head of our introductory homily, as one of those in which we have the strugglings and wrestlings of a saint in devotional exercises; not the words of God to man, but the words of man to God, and as such they must be studied. We must not fall into the anachronism to which in our last homily we referred, of interpreting a psalm like this as if it had been written in full New Testament light; for we shall see. as we proceed abundant indication of the contrary. Yet there is here a priceless record of an early believer's experience, from which troubled souls through all time may draw an abundance of comfort. Here are - a moan, a prayer, a plea, an issue.

I. THE MOAN. It is not that of an impenitent man; at the same time, it bears no very clear indication of being a penitential wail over sin. It is the plaint of one who is overwhelmed with sorrow - with sorrow that has come upon him through his enemies. So intense is his anguish that it haunts him by night and by day; it exhausts his frame, consumes his spirit. Note the various expressions: "withered away," "bones vexed," "sore vexed," "weary with groaning," "make my bed to swim," "water my couch with my tears," eyes dim" "eyesight wasting away," etc. What caused such overwhelming sorrow, we cannot tell. But this is of no consequence. The point to be noted is this - there are not unfrequently times in the experience of God's people when some care, or trouble, or perplexity is felt, and that so severe that they are haunted by it night and day; they cannot shake it off; and they cannot, even when at prayer, forget it. What are they to do? Let them not try to forget it; let them turn their prayers in that direction, so that the perplexity and the prayer are concurrent and not contrary forces. This is what the psalmist did. This is what we should do.

"Give others the sunshine; tell Jesus the rest."

II. THE PRAYER. It is twofold.

1. Deprecatory. (Ver. 1, "Rebuke me not," etc.; "nor chasten me in thine hot displeasure.") Here is one of the traces of the Old Testament saints' thinking about God: they regarded their afflictions as indications of God's anger. We are now taught rather to regard them as a part of the gracious training which our Father sees that we need. The sharpest trials often force out the most fervid prayers; yet, at the same time, we are permitted to cry to our Father to ask him to deal gently with us, and to "throw away his rod," since "love will do the work."

2. Supplicatory. "Mercy," "healing," "deliverance," "salvation," - for these he pleads. Probably his yearning is mainly for temporal relief and deliverance from his foes. But we, under similar circumstances, as we know more than the psalmist did, should rise higher than he could. We should regard temporal deliverances as entirely subordinate to the higher spiritual improvement, which ought to be earnestly prayed for as the result of every trial. We should always be more anxious to have our trials sanctified than to have them removed.

III. THE PLEA. This also is twofold.

1. The psalmist feels that his burden is so great, it will soon bring him to the grave, if not removed. Hence he says, "In death there is no remembrance of thee; and in Sheol who shall give thee thanks?" Here is another proof that, in dealing with this specimen of the devotion of an Old Testament saint, we have to do with one to whom, as yet, life and immortality had not been brought to light; to whom death was but the passage to a dim and gloomy state of being; although, as we shall see in dealing with Psalm 16., 17., there was the hope of an awakening. Still, "Sheol," the all-demanding realm, was not as yet lit up with gospel light. The Greek word "Hades" and the Hebrew word "Sheol" both refer to the state after death, though under different symbolic expressions. Historically, there are three conceptions of Hades, or Sheol.

(1) The pagan: all gloom and no hope.

(2) The Hebrew: gloom, with hope of a blest awaking in the morning.

(3) The Christian: no gloom at all, so far as the godly are concerned. Absent from the body; at home with the Lord. Hence we cannot now adopt ver. 5 of this prayer, knowing that our Lord Jesus Christ died for us, that whether we wake or sleep we should live together with him; that hence our death is the gateway to rest, and that the time of our departure may be peacefully left in wiser hands than ours.

2. The psalmist grounds a second plea on the loving-kindness of God. This is better, surer ground (ver. 4). Very often is this plea used. It cannot be used too often. It takes hold of God's strength.

IV. THE ISSUE.

1. The psalmist receives an answer to his prayer. (See Psalm 34:6.) Thousands can say the same. "The Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping."

2. Consequently, there is:

(1) New confidence Godward (ver. 9). "The Lord will receive my prayer." As he has done in the past, so he will continue to do. New courage manward (ver. 10, Revised Version). Yea, by prayer the spirit is calmed. Trouble is turned to rest, fear to bravery, and despair to hope. Note: How much care and worry good people would save themselves if they did but take all their troubles to God at once, without waiting till they obtained such hold upon them l

(2) It is infinitely better to tell God everything, than to go about moaning and groaning to our fellows! God knows all. He never misunderstands us. He knows exactly how to help us. He will help us, at the right moment, in the best way, and to the full extent of our need; yea, he will do "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." - C.







Return, O Lord, deliver my soul.
"O Lord, return" implies a former presence, a present absence, and a confidence for the future. This is God's return to us, in a general apprehension. After He hath made us, and blest us in our nature and by His natural means, He returns to make us again, to make us better, first by His preventing grace and then by a succession of His particular graces. In Scripture there are three significations of the word translated "return."

1. To return to that place to which a thing is naturally affected. So heavy things return to the centre, and light things to the expansion. The Church is God's place, God's centre, to which He is naturally affected.

2. The word is also referred to the passion of God, to the anger of God; and so the returning of God — that is, of God's anger — is the allaying, the becalming, the departing of His anger. When God returns, God stays; His anger is returned from us, but God is still with us.

3. The word applies to our returning to Him. There goes no more to salvation but such a turning. So that this returning of the Lord is an operative, an effectual returning, that tunes our hearts, and eyes, and hands, and feet to the ways of God, and produces in us repentance and obedience; for these be the two legs which our conversion to God stands upon. When the Lord comes to us by any way, though He come in corrections, in chastisements, not to turn to Him is an irreverent and unrespective negligence We come now to the reasons of these petitions in David's prayer. His first reason is grounded on God Himself. "Do it for Thy mercy's sake." And in his second reason, though David himself and all men with him seem to have a part, yet at last we shall see the reason itself to determine wholly or entirely in God, too, and in His glory. "Do it, Lord, for in death there is no remembrance of Thee."

(John Donne.)

As the sun goeth not out of Thee, though it may be obscured by overcasting clouds, or some other natural impediments, so, albeit the clouds of our sins and miseries hide the fair, shining face of God from us, yet He will pierce through and dissipate those clouds, and, shine clearly upon us in His own appointed time. God is said to "return to us," not by change of place, for He is in all places, but by the dispensation of His gracious providence, and declaration of His new mercies and benefits to us.

(A. Symson.)

Indeed, this motive, for His mercy's sake, is the first mover of all motives to God for showing His favour. He had never delivered the Israelites out of Egypt but for His mercy's sake; He had never saved Noah in the ark but for His mercy's sake; but, above all, He had never sent His Son to save the world but for His mercy's sake. And how, then, can I doubt, and not rather be confident, that for His mercy's sake He will also deliver my soul and save me? Never, therefore, my soul, look after any further motives; for upon this motive will I set up my rest. His mercy shall be both my anchor and my harbour; it shall be both my armour and my fortress; it shall be both my ransom and my garland; it shall be both my deliverance and my salvation.

(Sir Richard Baker.)

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