PSALM 6 OVERVIEW
Title. This Psalm is commonly known as the first of the PENITENTIAL PSALMS, (The other six are Psalms 32:1-11 38:1-22 51:1-19 102:1-7 Psalms 130:1-8 143:1-12) and certainly its language well becomes the lip of a penitent, for it expresses at once the sorrow, (Ps 6:3,6-7), the humiliation ( Psalms 6:2 Psalms 6:4 ), and the hatred of sin ( Psalms 6:8 ), which are the unfailing marks of the contrite spirit when it turns to God. O Holy Spirit, beget in us the true repentance which needeth not to be repented of. The title of this Psalm is "To the chief Musician on Neginoth upon Sheminith ( 1 Chronicles 15:21 ), A Psalm of David," that is, to the chief musician with stringed instruments, upon the eighth, probably the octave. Some think it refers to the bass or tenor key, which would certainly be well adapted to this mournful ode. But we are not able to understand these old musical terms, and even the term "Selah," still remains untranslated. This, however, should be no difficulty in our way. We probably lose but very little by our ignorance, and it may serve to confirm our faith. It is a proof of the high antiquity of these Psalms that they contain words, the meaning of which is lost even to the best scholars of the Hebrew language. Surely these are but incidental (accidental I might almost say, if I did not believe them to be designed by God), proofs of their being, what they profess to be, the ancient writings of King David of olden times.
Division. You will observe that the Psalm is readily divided into two parts. First, there is the Psalmist's plea in his great distress, reaching from the first to the end of the seventh verse. Then you have, from the eighth to the end, quite a different theme. The Psalmist has changed his note. He leaves the minor key, and betakes himself to more sublime strains. He tunes his note to the high key of confidence, and declares that God hath heard his prayer, and hath delivered him out of all his troubles.
Verse 1. Having read through the first division, in order to see it as a whole, we will now look at it verse by verse.
O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger. The Psalmist is very conscious that he deserves to be rebuked, and he feels, moreover, that the rebuke in some form or other must come upon him, if not for condemnation, yet for conviction and sanctification. "Corn is cleaned with wind, and the soul with chastenings." It were folly to pray against the golden hand which enriches us by its blows. He does not ask that the rebuke may be totally withheld, for he might thus lose a blessing in disguise; but, "Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger." If you remind me of my sin, it is good; but, oh, remind me not of it as one incensed against me, lest thy servant's heart should sink in despair. Thus saith Jeremiah, "O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing." I know that I must be chastened, and though I shrink from the rod yet do I feel that it will be for my benefit; but, oh, my God, chasten me not in thy hot displeasure, lest the rod become a sword, and lest in smiting, thou shouldest also kill. So may we pray that the chastisements of our gracious God, if they may not be entirely removed, may at least be sweetened by the consciousness that they are "not in anger, but in his dear covenant love."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. David was a man that was often exercised with sickness and troubles from enemies, and in all the instances almost that we meet with in the Psalms of these his afflictions, we may observe the outward occasions of trouble brought him under the suspicion of God's wrath and his own iniquity; so that he was seldom sick, or persecuted, but this called on the disquiet of conscience, and brought his sin to remembrance; as in this Psalm, which was made on the occasion of his sickness, as appears from verse eight, wherein he expresses the vexation of his soul under the apprehension of God's anger; all his other griefs running into this channel, as little brooks, losing themselves in a great river, change their name and nature. He that at first was only concerned for his sickness, is now wholly concerned with sorrow and smart under the fear and hazard of his soul's condition; the like we may see in Psalms 38:1-22 , and many places more. Richard Gilpin, 1677.
Verse 1. Rebuke me not. God hath two means by which he reduces his children to obedience; his word, by which he rebukes them; and his rod, by which he chastiseth them. The word precedes, admonishing them by his servants whom he hath sent in all ages to call sinners to repentance: of the which David himself saith, "Let the righteous rebuke me;" and as a father doth first rebuke his disordered child, so doth the Lord speak to them. But when men neglect the warnings of his word, then God as a good Father, takes up the rod and beats them. Our Saviour wakened the three disciples in the garden three times, but seeing that served not, he told them that Judas and his band were coming to awaken them whom his own voice could not waken. A. Symson, 1638.
Verse 1. Jehovah, rebuke me not in thine anger, etc. He does not altogether refuse punishment, for that would be unreasonable; and to be without it, he judged would be more hurtful than beneficial to him; but what he is afraid of is the wrath of God, which threatens sinners with ruin and perdition. To anger and indignation David tacitly opposes fatherly and gentle chastisement, and this last he was willing to bear. John Calvin, 1509-1564.
Verse 1. O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger.
The anger of the Lord? Oh, dreadful thought! How can a creature frail as man endure The tempest of his wrath? Ah, whither flee To escape the punishment he well deserves? Flee to the cross! the great atonement there Will shield the sinner, if he supplicate For pardon with repentance true and deep, And faith that questions not. Then will the frown Of anger pass from off the face of God, Like a black tempest cloud that hides the sun. Anon.
Verse 1. Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, etc.; that is, do not lay upon me that thou hast threatened in thy law; where anger is not put for the decree nor the execution, but for the denouncing. So ( Matthew 3:11 , and so Hosea 11:9 ), "I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger," that is, I will not execute my wrath as I have declared it. Again, it is said, he executes punishment on the wicked; he declares it not only, but executeth it, so anger is put for the execution of anger. Richard Stock, 1641.
Verse 1. Neither chasten me in thine hot displeasure.
O keep up life and peace within, If I must feel thy chastening rod! Yet kill not me, but kill my sin, And let me know thou art my God. O give my soul some sweet foretaste Of that which I shall shortly see! Let faith and love cry to the last, "Come, Lord, I trust myself with thee!" Richard Baxter, 1615-1691.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1. A sermon for afflicted souls.
- God's twofold dealings.
- Rebuke, by a telling sermon, a judgment on another, a slight trial in our own person, or a solemn monition in our conscience by the Spirit.
- Chastening. This follows the other when the first is disregarded. Pain, losses, bereavements, melancholy, and other trials.
- The evils in them to be most dreaded, anger and hot displeasure.
- The means to avert these ills. Humiliation, confession, amendment, faith in the Lord, etc.
Verse 1. The believer's greatest dread, the anger of God. What this fact reveals in the heart? Why is it so? What removes the fear?
WORKS WRITTEN ABOUT THE SIXTH PSALM IN SPURGEON'S DAY
A Godly and Fruitful Exposition on the Sixth Psalme, the First of the Penitentials; in a sacred Septenarie; or, a Godly and Fruitful Exposition on the Seven Psalmes of Repentance. by MR. ARCHIBALD SYMSON, late Pastor of the Church at Dalkeeth in Scotland. 1638.
Sermones on the Penetential Psalms, in "The Works of John Donne, D.D., Dean of St. Paul's," 1621-1631. Edited by HENRY ALFORD, M.A. In six volumes. 1839.
On Verse 6. The Sick Man's Couch; a Sermon preached before the most noble Prince Henry, as Greenwich, Mar. 12., ann. 1604. by THOMAS PLAYFERE. &c., in Playfere's Sermons.