Today: [Psalms Six] A Powerful One Word Prayer. In Psalm 6 David is struggling with sickness in his body and with enemies who are pressing the advantage against him. In the midst of his pain and outside pressure he cries out to God. In his petitions David doesn’t insist that God answer his prayer because he is a good person or even God’s anointed king. Instead he prays a simple prayer focused on one powerful word – MERCY.
[Psa 6:1-10 KJV] 1 [[To the chief Musician on Neginoth upon Sheminith, A Psalm of David.]] O LORD, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. 2 Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I [am] weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed. 3 My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long?
This verse brings up an interesting question: Is there rebuke in God and if so what form does it take? The word rebuke here means to chide, chasten, judge or decide. David in writing this psalm is doing so in the midst of a physical attack on his body. He is weak and vulnerable and crying out to God for mercy. Other commentators also suggest that David may not have been suffering himself but writing on behalf of those who were in the throes of physical agony.
The word rebuke only appears 4 times in the Gospels and only once in the words of Jesus. In Luke 19:39 the Pharisees ask Jesus to rebuke His disciples and He refuses to do so. There are many rebukes of Jesus in the gospels mostly against Pharisees who saw it as their role in life to rebuke and correct others. In view of this would we be correct in deducing that perhaps Jesus is lax from our standpoint in the area of correction? This would hardly be the case. There was something about Jesus that provoked humility and repentance in those who came into His presence. Many times in the gospels people come into Jesus’ presence and their spontaneous response was one of crying out for mercy – not because He caused fear or terror in them but because of the mercy and love that was inherent in His character.
In the New Testament outside the Gospels the word rebuke only appears 8 times. In 1 Tim. 5:1 Paul actually instructs Timothy NOT to rebuke (specifically an elder). To both Titus and Timothy Paul addressed the issue of rebuke and when it is and is not necessary:
[2Ti 4:2 KJV] 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
[Tit 2:15 KJV] 15 These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.
In the New Testament then rebuke is referenced 13 times compared to 34 times in the Old Testament. The Old Testament is based upon the demands of the Law whereas the New Testament is based on the message of empowering grace. The Old Testament demands change that Romans 8:3 said it was not possible to produce because the law only relied on the will of man. The New Testament actually demands a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees but does so in dependence not on the will of man but the transforming grace of God in redemption and the New Birth.
There are times that rebuke is called for. Many times people conclude that sickness, disease etc. are God’s chosen means of rebuking us. There is no record that Jesus ever did this or that He believed this. In John 15:3 Jesus said “now you are clean – through the word that I have spoken to you…” We can see by this statement that the word of God was that which Jesus considered to be the cleansing agent that changes men’s lives. If we wish to be cleanse and changed our love of the word of God and immersing ourselves in the word should be in evidence in our lives. To construe the struggles of life, sickness, poverty, etc., as the chastening of the Lord therefore is religious superstition.
4 Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies’ sake. 5 For in death [there is] no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks? 6 I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears. 7 Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies. 8 Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping.
David’s prayers are very transparent and honest. There has been teaching in the past that you should never admit that you are sick or going through struggle. The supposition is that you should always be positive, never admit to struggle etc.. There is a particular individual I know of that every time you greet them with a “hello and God bless you” they rebuke you with a “I am already blessed and highly favored and that’s all I will ever say and all you will ever hear out of me…” This strained, artificial positivity is not what God is after. To say you are not suffering when in fact you are is not being positive it is telling a lie. The positivity of the scriptures is not the same as positive thinking or positive mental attitude.
When you are sick the scripture in James 5:4 instructs to call on the elders of the church for prayer. You can’t call on the elders of the church for prayer if your stringent code of positive confession won’t allow you to admit you are sick in the first place. Such things shouldn’t have to be said but this is the level of spiritual hyperbole in the religious mentality of many and therefore needs to be addressed. If you are sick you are sick. David is sick. He is hurting. He cries out to God for relief. Of course you can maintain faith but not twisting it into a disingenuous protestations of excellent health that is actually a lie.
How then should we balance positive confession and affirmations of faith with vulnerability and honesty before God? It isn’t done by pretending “by faith” that sickness isn’t attacking you. Rather you identify symptoms yes – but you deny their right to continue in your body because of the shed blood of Jesus and the promise of God in 1 Peter 2:24 that by His stripes you were made whole. In the midst of this crying out to God for mercy. It isn’t about demanding God to do something based on your beliefs or religious performance. Healing does not originate in your moral or spiritual quality or character. Therefore David cries out plaintively for mercy. He doesn’t remind God that he is a man after God’s own heart. He doesn’t demand of God. The most powerful prayer you can ever pray is the simple prayer for mercy.
Apparently in the midst of physical suffering David is dealing with an attack from his enemies. In 2 Kings 20:12 we find Hezekiah was sick and the prophet Isaiah told him to get his house in order. This was during a time when an invading army was besieging the city of Jerusalem. The enemy of your soul is an opportunist. He will kick you when you are down. Oklahoma minister Billy Jo Daugherty pastored a 17,000 member church with an emphasis on the faith message. When diagnosed with cancer he didn’t not announce it publicly until 1 month before his death. What a tragic commentary on the lack of mercy this pastor must have seen in the Christian community around him. Many times public Christian figures will not let it be known they have physical problems because it is common for Christians to conclude that a Christian leader who is suffering physically isn’t worthy of their support. David apparently dealt with these same things as his enemies move in on him and he cries out to God not only for his illness but for deliverance from those who were taking advantage of his weakness.
9 The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer. 10 Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return [and] be ashamed suddenly.
In this psalm David cries out pitifully for mercy and for deliverance from sickness in his body and enemies from without. In crying out to God David does not base his appeal on his own righteousness or the fact that he is God’s anointed king. Instead in simplicity he cries out for mercy because that is the one attribute of God that he has learned over his lifetime. The mercy of God is a constant. Our righteousness or perceived sense of entitlement to see our prayers answered changes over time. Sometimes we think we are good Christians and deserve an answer to prayer. Other times we are condemned by our own behaviors and struggle to believe God for an answer. When we as David cry out to God our confidence is not in ourselves or in our doctrine but in the constancy of God’s mercy that is ever available to us. John spoke of this matter in 1 John:
[1Jo 3:20-22 KJV] 20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, [then] have we confidence toward God. 22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
What is it that God knows that we don’t always recognize when we struggle with condemnation? He knows the depth of His own mercy. We cannot rely on our conscience or our own perception of moral excellence or religious entitlement when it comes to anticipation of answered prayer. God doesn’t answer prayer because we frame our words correctly or use some particular liturgy in offering our supplication. God hears our prayers because He loves us and responds to us when we come to Him in simplicity and humility as David demonstrates in Psalm 6.
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