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Prayer of the Penitent - Psalm 6

Please get your Bible in hand and turn to Psalm 6. We are in our Psalms of Life series and we will be reviewing another prayer/song of David in an attempt to learn what I have titled, "Prayer of the Penitent”.



David is going to be pouring his heart out to God in lament and is going to ask God some very specific things that he needs during his time of repentance.


This psalm is again directed to the chief musician but this time it was to be played on stringed instruments with an 8-string lyre. While our purpose is to study the lyrics of this psalm, it is always important to keep in the forefront of your mind that this was a song used in worship to God by Israel.


For the most part, very few people feel the weight of their sins anymore. Yes, Jesus carried them all to Calvary and we are free from the burden of sin by his sacrificial death and our obedience to the gospel. Those of us who have been washed in His blood through our baptism have had our sins washed away. We all know as Christians that at times we choose to sin or we discover that we have committed some sin against God after coming to Christ. How do we respond? Many times we treat our sin so flippantly and have little sorrow or remorse. Understand that it takes godly sorrow in order for us to be able to repent. Sorrow doesn’t cut it. We have to have a change of heart that results in a change of action. We need to be cut to the heart.


David is going to feel it at the core of his being and he has to do something about it or he feels like he is going to die and fall into the hand of God for judgment. If you listen to this psalm, you will gain a step-by-step process for penitence before God.


Our lesson will point out how you pray and ask God to:


- Withhold judgment (vs. 1)

- Be gracious (vs. 2-4)

- Hear my prayers (vs. 5-9)

- Make my enemies ashamed (vs. 10)


Hopefully, this message will challenge you to do a personal examination in consideration of your own spiritual standing before God. Having a broken and contrite heart before God is a spirit that God will respond to and remedy. The hardest part is seeing our own life through David’s words.


We pray and ask God to withhold judgment (vs. 1)


“O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger, Nor chasten me in Your wrath.”

Do not rebuke me in anger is David's first thought. It is one thing to receive a rebuke, but it is another thing to be rebuked by another who is angry. David is not asking God to refrain from rebuking him, as much as he is concerned about God being angry with him (Deut. 9:8; Num. 32:13).


David clearly feels guilty for some wrongdoing and he knows God’s position on sin. He hates it! If God was going to rebuke David, he preferred that it come from a loving Father rather than an angry Judge.


David adds to this, do not chasten me in wrath. Again, David is not asking God to ignore his sin and forego any chastisement. He is asking God to make sure that he doesn’t bring wrath against him. All parents need to discipline their children, but we never want to do it at the peak of our frustration because we can be too harsh. David is asking God to hear him out and approach this in gentleness because David was repenting of his wrongdoing. David accepts the Father’s chastisement, but He does not want to experience the wrath of Almighty God (Rom. 1:18; John 3:36; Psalm 7:11).


We pray and ask God to be gracious (vs. 2-4)


“Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am pining away; Heal me, O Lord, for my bones are dismayed. And my soul is greatly dismayed; But You, O Lord—how long? Return, O Lord, rescue my soul; Save me because of Your loving-kindness.”

Be gracious and heal me, O Lord, is David's plea. The opposite of God’s anger and wrath is his grace. David asks God to be kind and good to him. David basically tells God that in his sin he is pining. David has wept so much over his own sin that he feels like he is already wasting away. He needed God to be tender toward him.


David is not asking God to accept his sin, to tolerate his ways, or to change His will, but to help him get rid of all unrighteousness. He asks God specifically to heal him. He feels his sin like a sickness down into his bones, even to his very soul being greatly dismayed. David asks here “how long?” do I have to continue feeling this way. I need relief. More importantly, I need to be healed completely. I want to feel whole again. I want to be right with You, Lord.


Do we ever reach this point when we sin against God? We know he has extended grace to us and healed us from all of our iniquities in Jesus, His beloved Son. Paul says that we should not use grace as a license to sin. John wrote to Christians that they might not sin, but reminded them that if we do sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. When we sin, do we realize that we are putting Christ to an open shame over and over again? We are putting him back on that cross and asking Him to suffer more. I am trying to get us to feel what David was feeling. God had blessed David greatly, so when David sinned, it crushed him and weighed heavily on his entire being. We need to get back to this place where we see sin as something that hurts God, tramples underfoot the blood of the covenant by which we were sanctified and it grieves and insults the Holy Spirit. Do you realize this truth today?


Then David asks God to return and rescue my soul, crying "O Lord". When we live in sin, we know that the Lord must turn away because He is holy. Psalm 5 taught us that no evil dwells with God. Although God had not abandoned David, he certainly felt distanced from God in the error of his ways. David asks God to return as if He had left. Again, it wasn’t about proximity as much as it was about desiring sweet fellowship with God again. Having a clean conscience before God is the key (I Pet. 3:21). This closeness is marred by sin. Until we repent and change, God’s face must be turned away and He is separated from us (Isaiah 59:1-2).


David adds to this request for the LORD to return that God would rescue his soul. Anytime God steps into a sinner’s life it is a rescue mission. He comes to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).


It wasn’t enough for Jesus to come to the earth; he also came to rescue us from sin. When someone is lost out at sea, the team that boards the helicopter and joins the search is not going to just locate the lost, they are going to perform a rescue mission. They will fly into the high winds and barely hover above the treacherous waves dropping in life lines and rescuers to pull out the one that was drifting and dying. The same is true of Jesus. This required Him to go to the cross and die for the sins of the world. He then ascended on high to be enthroned at the right hand of God to forever make intercession for those who would come to Him. He will return again one day, and we need to pray that it is to rescue us rather than punish (I Thess. 4:13-18; 5:1-11; II Thess. 1:6-12). Unfortunately, some people will never repent and seek the Lord, and they will fall into the hands of the living God in judgment. It is a fearful thing to face this wrath (Heb. 10:31).


Save and love me, O Lord is David's desire. The biggest request was not to ask God to rescue him, but for the Lord to save him. Using our illustration of the team going to find someone lost at sea; would they merely pull the body out of the water? No, they will revive the person if necessary, wrap them in dry blankets, give them treatment, fly them to safety, and monitor them. When God comes to our rescue He doesn’t just pull us out of trouble, but He takes us in and makes us His own, providing for all of our needs according to his riches in Jesus Christ. He is good to us. He saves us! Amen. Praise be to God! There are many things that we might be rescued out of, but being saved by the Lord (both physically and spiritually) is the greatest blessing we can receive from Him.


The salvation of the Lord is based on His loving kindness. Because He is love, He endeavors to save His people from their sins. David, realizing that he is in the wrong, asks in hope that it is not too much to request that God would swoop in again to deliver and save him from His sin.


We pray and ask God to hear us (vs. 5-9)


“For there is no mention of You in death; In Sheol who will give You thanks? I am weary with my sighing; Every night I make my bed swim, I dissolve my couch with my tears. My eye has wasted away with grief; It has become old because of all my adversaries. Depart from me, all you who do iniquity, For the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping. The Lord has heard my supplication, The Lord receives my prayer.”

Hear my giving of thanks and praise (vs. 5). David doesn’t come out here and ask God to hear him give thanks. He approaches this from a different perspective. David states that people who die and go to the grave can no longer show gratitude towards God. God is not even remembered by the physical mind once we cease to live on this earth. God knows this but David is making this very personal. This same thought is expressed in other places in the Psalms as well. In Psalm 30:9, David says, “What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise You? Shall it declare your truth?” In Psalm 88:11, we find “Shall your loving-kindness be declared in the grave? Or your faithfulness in destruction?” This is also declared in the writings of the prophet Isaiah 38:18 in the language of Hezekiah,


“The grave cannot praise You; death cannot celebrate You; they that go down into the pit cannot hope for Your truth.”

Since David took such great pleasure in thinking about God and giving thanks to His name, He is still building on his previous request for the Lord to rescue and save Him. He is saying that if you let me waste away and I perish, I can no longer live this life for You and praise Your name. David is not denying the life to come after we die, he is merely pointing to how his ability to honor the Lord on earth would cease. You can’t pray when you’re dead. You can sing songs of praise when you are in the grave. You can't shout, “Hallelujah!” once you have taken your last breath.


In Psalm 16:10-11 we hear David say,


“For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”

The beauty of this verse is that it was fulfilled in Christ when He was resurrected, yet His rising from the dead gives us all a hope of resurrection. In Psalm 17:15, we hear David say, “As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake.”


He might also be concerned that if he died in his sin, it very well could be the last time that He could praise the Lord and meditate on Him. By sparing David, God is permitting him to go on living a life of praise and gratitude in the midst of a bunch of people who mock and rebel against God (his adversaries and enemies).


Hear my sighing and my crying (vs. 6). A second thing that David wants God to hear is how weary he is from sighing. Last time we studied in the book of Psalms we mentioned how God hears our groaning (no words, just sounds). Have you ever found yourself sighing over something in your life that you know needs to change? You are not alone.


David says that it is a nightly routine for him to flood his bed with his tears. Listen to David, “I make my bed swim, I dissolve my couch with tears.” When we sin against our holy God, how do we respond? I know sometimes when I contemplate God’s love and the story of the cross in reading the word of God or in partaking of the Lord’s Supper, from time to time my eyes well up with tears, and I am moved by the message. Sometimes I sing a hymn about God’s mercy or grace and I can hardly sing because I get choked up. I will have to admit though, that there have been very few times where I cried so much that I swam in my own tears; that I soaked my pillow in pouring out my heart to God.


When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane he cried tears of blood he was praying so intently. When he prayed over the lost state of Jerusalem, he wept over them saying, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.” Truthfully, we have become hardened in many ways and the realization of what we do to God when we sin no longer seems to impact people the way that it once did. Sin is no laughing matter, but people make light of it all the time. We ought to melt inside every time we even think an evil thought, instead of sinning willfully and with no regrets. There will no longer be a sacrifice available to cleanse you from sin if you deny Jesus and do not repent of your sins and remain faithful to Him.


Hear my grief (vs. 7). David also asks God to hear his grieving. Grief is a strong word. Nobody enjoys the grieving process. When a loved one dies or we go through some period of extended sickness or trouble, it can send us on a rollercoaster ride with grief. It has been discovered that there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Grief itself is defined as “deep sorrow”. But David has moved passed deep sorrow, to full repentance. He is ready to move on.


David connects his grief with his crying by saying that his eye has wasted away with grief. Have you ever cried so much that your eyes are sore and you just don’t feel like you can cry anymore because you have emptied your tear ducts and you are physically drained? This is where David is before God in prayer.


David then identifies the source of his grief when he says, “it has become old because of my adversaries”. David has enemies and this has caused him much grief. Here David proclaims before God and loud enough that perhaps his enemies could hear it, “depart from me all you who do iniquity.” If we hope to be rescued from sin, we need to get rid of the sinful influences in our life. Ask them to leave and put to it prayer.


Hear my weeping (vs. 8). Right after David asks sinners to depart from him, he includes in the same sentence, “For the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping”. David’s enemies have forced him to cry aloud because he is caught up in the same iniquity that they practiced and he needs a reprieve. While we might say that David is just repeating himself and expressing the same thought over and over again, it is clear that each part of what David is saying is distinct and unique.


Yes, David asked God to hear his sighing, crying, grief, etc. But weeping is different from crying, sighing or grief. Weeping is when we wail before God because we have no other hope. We fall to our knees in desperation and pour out our deepest hurts and pains before God. One day God will wipe away all tears from our eyes, but He continues and makes a list of all the things that we will no longer have to endure in Rev. 21,


“death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore for the former things have passed away.”

One of the most beautiful passages on this subject is found in Psalm 56:8, where David wrote, “You have kept count of my tossing, put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” God knows when you toss and turn anxiously/restlessly, counting and collecting every tear we shed, and keeping record of every heartache and pain. It is amazing and such a blessing that we serve a God that is this invested in us and concerned for us. Amen!


Hear my pleas for help [supplication] and petitions [requests in prayer] (vs. 9). Supplications are a form of begging God to help us. David says that God hears our pleas for his divine assistance. We just need to pour our hearts out to Him.


Prayers are merely petitions that we lift up before the throne of God. Paul said,


“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6)

Paul makes a distinction between prayer and supplication because sometimes we offer a simple petition and other times we beg God to step in.


We pray and ask God to make our enemies ashamed (vs. 10)


“All my enemies will be ashamed and greatly dismayed; They shall turn back, they will suddenly be ashamed.”

Pray for enemies…to be ashamed (vs. 10)


When Jesus teaches us to pray for our enemies and to pray for those that persecute us for righteousness sake, we often reply that this is a challenging thing to do. Consider here that David prayed for his enemies. He is still talking to God and verbally expresses that he wants his enemies to feel shame for their sins like he had to face. Just as he was dismayed in his bones and in his soul, he prayed for his enemies to experience the same which leads to repentance.


Praying for those that hate you, those that use you, or abuse you doesn’t mean that your prayer is always positive and pleasant. You might be asking God to break your enemy, humble them, or to bring them low. Consider how many times in the Psalms David prayed for God to crush those that were against him. That is also a form of praying for or about your enemies to God.


Pray for their penitence. Another form of praying for our enemies could match the cry of Jesus on the cross,


“Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

It wasn’t that the forgiveness was immediately extended to them at that moment. It was on that first Pentecost following the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, that Peter stood up and preached Jesus to them while informing them that they had crucified the Son of God and commanded them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38). Those that responded to the invitation were saved and added to the Lord’s church (Acts 2:41, 47).


When we come to a place where we seek the forgiveness of God and for Him to bless us with His presence again, we must remember all of those people that are around us who have not reached this place of having a penitent heart and pray on their behalf. Sometimes it is best to ask God to do whatever it takes to bring others to their knees in humility so they can seek the Lord before it is too late. This is not always a peaceful transition but a painful change of heart.


Our lesson today taught how you need to pray and ask God to:


- Withhold judgment (vs. 1)

- Be gracious (vs. 2-4)

- Hear my prayers (vs. 5-9)

- Make my enemies ashamed (vs. 10)


If you have been an enemy of the cross and are still living in your sins, I extend the gospel invitation to you today, to come in obedience to the Lord by putting your faith in Him, repenting of your sins, confessing that you believe Jesus is your Savior and then being immersed in water for the remission of your sins. From there you can pursue a life of dedicated service in His church.


If you have stumbled as a child of God, seek His grace again today, knowing that He desires your broken and contrite heart to be restored to Him and His kingdom. We are told that if we confess our faults and pray that He is willing to cleanse us from all unrighteousness and allow us to enjoy His sweet fellowship again (I John 1:9). God is a good Father and He waits with open arms for those that have need of His love and forgiveness.


Waiting or delaying is to play around with His fierce anger or wrath that will come upon those that never obey the gospel or are found unfaithful at His coming. How can I assist you is being ready for that day to come? Please contact me regarding your spiritual needs and I will be glad to assist you.

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