Psalm 6:5
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.







In death there is no remembrance of Thee.
? — There is some obscurity in these words, literally understood. They at least seem to teach that all thought and consciousness ceased with man at his death. If that be their meaning, they certainly show that David's views of a future life were quite defective. If that be their meaning, we may well say, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. We can hardly believe, however, that David meant to teach that thought and consciousness ceased with man at death. The death here intended is probably the second death, and the grave intended the prison of the lost: that is the "death," and that the "grave," from which David prays to be saved — the death and the grave of "both body and soul in hell." And surely there is no grateful remembrance of, and giving thanks to, God there. On the contrary, all who have experienced that death, and descended into that grave, gnaw their tongues for pain, and blaspheme the God of heaven. In view of such an issue, well might David pray, "Return, O Lord, deliver my soul; O save me for Thy mercies' sake." For surely a more terrific thought cannot be presented to the human soul, than the thought that it must remain a pining and suffering creature forever, a moral blot on every part of the universe to which it may flee; hateful in its own eyes, and hateful in the eyes of God.

(David Caldwell, A. M.)

In the grave who shall give Thee thanks?
This Psalm is the first of those called penitential, and composed in confession of sin. From consideration of birth sin the writer turns to the littleness of man, and the shortness of life compared with God's greatness and goodness. As references to the silence of the grave and the departure of the dead occur frequently, we may ask in what sense we are to take such words. David evidently understood that this life is our only period of probation. He had apprehensions of a judgment day. David felt that, whatever he was to be, to become, to receive, or to suffer, in the state beyond the grave, was all to be begun while he was in the flesh. David felt how essential to his happiness it was to obtain God's favour, and that at once, without delay. All our hopes beyond the grave rest on our few years' passage through this life. There is no preparation after it. We are hastening on to the unalterable state, where we shall praise God for over, or never. We are like the sculptor, chiselling an inscription upon marble. Well done or badly done, clearly engraved or badly formed, or wrongly spelt, still those letters remain in imperishable characters. The sculptor's success, or his mistakes, both remain; no time will fade, no water will wash away, what is engraved in stone. So with our heavenly and eternal work, "the time is short"; but its records and its effects are lasting; they endure from generation to generation. Let us be stirred up by such thoughts to engrave for ourselves in the imperishable records of the Book of Life the record of a life spent by us, through God's grace, to His honour and in His service.

(W. J. Stracey, M. A.)

The second plea is striking both in its view of the condition of the dead, and in its use of that view as an argument with God. Like many other psalmists, the writer thinks of Sheol as the common gathering place of the departed, a dim region where they live a poor shadowy life, inactive, joyless, and all but godless, inasmuch as praise, fellowship, and service with Him have ceased. That view is equally compatible with the belief in a resurrection, and the denial of it, for it assumes continued individual consciousness. It is the prevailing tone in the Psalter, and in Job and Ecclesiastes. But in some Psalms which embody the highest rapture of inward and musical devotion the sense of present .union with God bears up the Psalmist into the sunlight of the assurance that against such a union death can have no power, and we see the hope of immortality in the very act of dawning on the devout soul. May we not say that the subjective experience of the reality of communion with God now is still the path by which the certainty of its perpetuity in a future life is reached? The objective proof in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is verified by this experience. The psalmists had not the former, but, having the latter, they attained to at all events occasional confidence in a blessed life beyond.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

1. Concerning death, consider first, that there is a necessity of DEATH laid upon all flesh, wise men and fools, king and prophet, etc., neither the grandeur of the king nor holiness of the prophet can exempt them from death.

2. Next, that it interrupts the service and praise of God, as it destroys man's nature, albeit it interrupteth it only for a time, and in a part; the soul in the meantime praising God under the altar, till that both soul and body meet together and praise Him world without end.

3. That it is lawful to crave the continuance of our life, to the end that we may praise God. Would we desire the continuance of our life, that we may continue in sin? God forbid. Likewise we may desire death, not for being weary of temporal pain, or fear of shame; but with the apostle, that we may be dissolved and be with Christ, and be freed of the burthen of sin by our death, yet in both our desires let us submit ourselves to the good pleasure of God, and say with our Saviour, Thy will be done, not as I will, but as thou wilt.

4. We see in his sickness he seeks the continuation of his life at God's hands, who hath the issues of death in His will, thereby teaching us, neither with Asa to put our trust in the physicians, neither with Ahaziah to go ask counsel at Beelzebub; but with good Hezekiah turn to the wall, and with David here beg the prorogation of our lives from God.

5. Observe the difference between the godly and the wicked, in their contrary desires of the continuation of their lives: for the wicked, being tied to the bed of sickness, crave longer life, to the end they may enjoy their riches longer, and use, or rather abuse them; in the meantime never conceiving or nourishing an hope of celestial good things. But the godly, that they may record fruitfully the praises of God in the congregation of the righteous; besides, the fear of death in the reprobate, is because they see by it an end put to all their earthly felicities.

(A. Symson, B. D.)

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