To the chief Musician on Neginoth upon Sheminith, A Psalm of David.
1. 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?
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.
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.
This is the first of the penitential Psalms, (see below).
In verses one through seven, we see David in great distress – even to the point that he believes he is dying. In verses eight through ten we see that his prayer is answered and he is feeling victorious.
David begins by asking God not to rebuke him. “Rebuke” in this instance may not be the verbal tongue-lashing that we associate with the word, but it is a process of showing another way (Psalm 50:21). Translators have rendered rebuke as “reproof” 23 times in the Bible. An example of reproof is illustrated in Proverbs 3:12: “The Lord reproves him whom He loves.”
David must have, in some way, strayed from the path that God wishes him to take. God has become silent, showing David what it is like to be without His guidance and protection. In verse two we see the outcome of what happens when God leaves us to our own devices.
David continues, pleading to God not to chastise him in anger. He is going through a time of correction. It could be that David’s attitude has turned the wrong direction or maybe it is something he has done. We can’t tell just from reading this verse or Psalm.
The verse implies that he doesn’t mind correction – he just doesn’t want God to be angry when He is applying the correction because David is afraid it will be too harsh for the circumstances. Jeremiah 10:24 says:
“Oh Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing.”
This verse shows us two characteristics about God. First, He has emotions and second, He has the ability to view things objectively and arrive at a fair conclusion, that is to say, He has judgment. These are two contrasting attributes; the former subjective and the latter objective. This combination is what makes Yahweh so unique. He is passionately adamant in his hatred of sin, yet he is fair when it comes to correcting His children who have sinned. We must remember that God is a just God.
He calls out to God in verse two, asking Him to bestow His mercy (lovingkindness, grace, favor) on him to relieve his weakness and for healing (restoration). David’s bones and even his soul is “vexed.” The New King James Version uses the word “troubled” instead of vexed. My Webster’s Dictionary (1971) gives that and other definitions: physical distress, agitation So David appears to be in a state of illness – an acute distress that is paralyzing his limbs – and he can even feel it in his soul.
Then in the last phrase of verse three: “You, Oh Lord, how long?” Some commentaries say that David is asking how long God will remain angry at him. Recalling verse one, rebuke is most often translated as reproof or correction. David is asking how long the correction – shall we say “learning opportunity?” – is to continue.
Then, the plea: “Return, Lord.” He is saying “Come back to me, to that point at which you left me; save me for thy mercies’ sake.” “Sake” is defined as “for the purpose of” or “on account of.”
David feels that he is at the brink of death. He tells God that if he should die, then how is he (David) going to remember Him and how can he give thanks to God when he is dead? Notice he is not saying “Save me because I’m worth it.” He is saying “Save me so I can praise your glory once again.”
Do you suppose this was David’s sin? That he was taking God’s continual presence and protection for granted and he quit giving thanks and praises that instead, he was “going it alone” without God? He specifically says “remember” and “give thanks” in terms of his own approach to God – like maybe it is something he once did, but hasn’t done for a while?
David is so troubled that he can’t sleep at night – he tosses and turns in his bed and he is given to tears. His eyes are tired and dull from the tension and the lack of sleep – an effect that we all can see in people who are ill; their eyes look dull and the spark that is normally within them is diminished, if not gone. Something is terribly amiss with David. He attributes the trouble to his enemies.
When I was reading about the word translations, the word from which “enemies” was taken has also been translated into “scarcity,” “distress,” and “straits.” Has David worried himself into this state? Are his enemies, in this case, really enemies of the mind instead of men on horseback bent on doing him in?
Now look at verses eight and nine! Here is renewal. Here is triumph over his enemies. David is telling all who work evil to get away – that God has heard his prayer and his supplication.
Supplication is literally a cry for grace and it is totally appropriate here because David’s character and goodness alone are not enough to earn God’s forgiveness. He needs grace and we are in the same predicament.
There is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor and forgiveness – it is only through God’s grace. That is why it is important for us to know that if we hear the call of God, we must not wait. God will take us regardless of our sin if we repent. All we have to do is sincerely ask His forgiveness, do our best not to revert back to it, and ask continually for God’s help.
Finally, David wishes shame on his enemies and the same vexation that they caused in him. I can almost see him standing up, getting out of his sick bed with clear eyes and a strong voice when he says this. “Let them return to the place they came from and find themselves shamed, embarrassed, and humiliated among their friends.”
Using the word “suddenly” seems a bit peculiar to me. Evidently, David wanted his recovery to be a real surprise – one that would testify to God’s power.
How wonderful. David was near death and through his prayers in the midst of his illness he was able to connect with God and with God’s grace and help, rise up again to be the strong king he had once been!
The Penitential Psalms: (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 163)