Text: Psalm 6
O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger, Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure. Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled; But You, O Lord –how long? Return, O Lord, deliver me! Oh, save me for Your mercies’ sake! For in death there is no remembrance of You; In the grave who will give You thanks? I am weary with my groaning; All night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears. My eye wastes away because of grief; It grows old because of all my enemies. Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity; For the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping. The Lord has heard my supplication; The Lord will receive my prayer. Let all my enemies be ashamed and greatly troubled; Let them turn back and be ashamed suddenly.
Persecution by enemies was the occasion of the psalmist’s deep affliction. For the saints know that sin and trouble go together. Their spiritual distress can come from an individual sin, but it can also arise from earthly misfortune: poverty, sickness, death, loss of property, human wickedness, slanderous tongues, and other things; and often they do not really know whether it is “godly sorrow” or “worldly sorrow” that makes this anguish even greater. The punishment for all our sins Jesus has taken, so that it is not the wrath of the Judge, but the Father’s chastisement that disciplines the believers. Yet all suffering as a fruit of sin has a completely different meaning for their conscience than for the world’s. That’s why we hear in this psalm and other places in Scripture the most heroic soul in anguish, trembling and weeping like a child. So it happens that the faithful do not have a thick-skinned, unbelieving heart, but a living sense of what is good and what is evil. No one found suffering so bitter as did our Lord Jesus. No one shed more tears than He, the boldest and strongest Hero against death and hell.
There is great help for the afflicted in words of God such as this psalm; for here the believers recognize the feelings of their own heart and find expression for them with God. Not all the saints are as harshly afflicted as David who many times in his life “made his bed swim all night” with sweat and tears; for he was to learn both to sing lamentation, in which every one of us finds his own troubles expressed, and to play the songs of joy in which the heart of the whole Church rejoices. But everyone must taste some of the bitterness of death, either sooner or later in his time of grace. Then one feels nothing but punishing wrath; God stands before you, just as the faithful powerful ruler in Egypt stood before the sons of Jacob (Gen 42), so that we remember our sins. We wither and dry up; the happy days of grace and the light of life is gone; we were happy, we were blessed – that’s over. And yet the soul cries out to God who seems all anger: “Be gracious to me, Lord; save me for the sake of Your mercy.” It is the true art and distinguishing characteristic of the saints: that they submit to God and continually flee to Him. Then the soul sighs and cries out: “O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger, Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure.” “O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled; But You, O Lord –how long? Return, O Lord, deliver me!” I am Yours, Your dearly-bought possession, Lord Jesus! You must, You must have mercy! Do with me what You will, but do not deliver me to the power of the devil and the darkness of death. You have created me and purchased me, to Your glory, and that is my salvation. You cannot and You will not forsake me!
And the Lord saves indeed; “with Him there is escape from death.” Note how the psalmist ends his lament with praise. Hope in the Lord; commit your way to Him “with hope against hope” and you shall surely sing. It may be long after your prayer: “Lord, how long?” which has been the favorite passage of some saints for their whole life; but indeed, you shall surely sing: “The Lord has heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer.” “Away with you, you false, troubling accusers, you spirits and powers who threaten me with wrath and punishment and death and want to make my happy victorious life a living hell!”
Come, Spirit of life, my Comforter in all tribulation, and teach me to sing songs of thanksgiving to God. Amen.
By day and by night in her anguish
My soul is lamenting in woe:
O Lord, in my grief I must languish,
No counsel, no help do I know;
When shall I Thy mercy awaken?
When shall I, the poor and forsaken,
Before Thee appear, O my God?
His light and His truth, they shall lead me
In peace to His temple at last;
I rest on His Word, He will speed me,
And conflict and sorrow are past;
Yea, joyful I anthems will raise Him.
With heart and with voice will I praise Him –
My health and my life and my God.
Grundtvig: As after the waterbrooks L 518:2.7 ELH 462:2.7 tr. C. Døving;
tune: Som tørstige Hjort