Psalm 6:1

For the significance of the title of this psalm, see the Exposition. An expositor well remarks that the confessed uncertainty on the part of the best Hebrew scholars as to the meaning or many of the titles is a striking proof of their antiquity, since it shows that the clue thereto is lost in oblivion. This psalm belongs to those specified under the first head of our introductory homily, as one of those in which we have the strugglings and wrestlings of a saint in devotional exercises; not the words of God to man, but the words of man to God, and as such they must be studied. We must not fall into the anachronism to which in our last homily we referred, of interpreting a psalm like this as if it had been written in full New Testament light; for we shall see. as we proceed abundant indication of the contrary. Yet there is here a priceless record of an early believer's experience, from which troubled souls through all time may draw an abundance of comfort. Here are - a moan, a prayer, a plea, an issue.

I. THE MOAN. It is not that of an impenitent man; at the same time, it bears no very clear indication of being a penitential wail over sin. It is the plaint of one who is overwhelmed with sorrow - with sorrow that has come upon him through his enemies. So intense is his anguish that it haunts him by night and by day; it exhausts his frame, consumes his spirit. Note the various expressions: "withered away," "bones vexed," "sore vexed," "weary with groaning," "make my bed to swim," "water my couch with my tears," eyes dim" "eyesight wasting away," etc. What caused such overwhelming sorrow, we cannot tell. But this is of no consequence. The point to be noted is this - there are not unfrequently times in the experience of God's people when some care, or trouble, or perplexity is felt, and that so severe that they are haunted by it night and day; they cannot shake it off; and they cannot, even when at prayer, forget it. What are they to do? Let them not try to forget it; let them turn their prayers in that direction, so that the perplexity and the prayer are concurrent and not contrary forces. This is what the psalmist did. This is what we should do.

"Give others the sunshine; tell Jesus the rest."

II. THE PRAYER. It is twofold.

1. Deprecatory. (Ver. 1, "Rebuke me not," etc.; "nor chasten me in thine hot displeasure.") Here is one of the traces of the Old Testament saints' thinking about God: they regarded their afflictions as indications of God's anger. We are now taught rather to regard them as a part of the gracious training which our Father sees that we need. The sharpest trials often force out the most fervid prayers; yet, at the same time, we are permitted to cry to our Father to ask him to deal gently with us, and to "throw away his rod," since "love will do the work."

2. Supplicatory. "Mercy," "healing," "deliverance," "salvation," - for these he pleads. Probably his yearning is mainly for temporal relief and deliverance from his foes. But we, under similar circumstances, as we know more than the psalmist did, should rise higher than he could. We should regard temporal deliverances as entirely subordinate to the higher spiritual improvement, which ought to be earnestly prayed for as the result of every trial. We should always be more anxious to have our trials sanctified than to have them removed.

III. THE PLEA. This also is twofold.

1. The psalmist feels that his burden is so great, it will soon bring him to the grave, if not removed. Hence he says, "In death there is no remembrance of thee; and in Sheol who shall give thee thanks?" Here is another proof that, in dealing with this specimen of the devotion of an Old Testament saint, we have to do with one to whom, as yet, life and immortality had not been brought to light; to whom death was but the passage to a dim and gloomy state of being; although, as we shall see in dealing with Psalm 16., 17., there was the hope of an awakening. Still, "Sheol," the all-demanding realm, was not as yet lit up with gospel light. The Greek word "Hades" and the Hebrew word "Sheol" both refer to the state after death, though under different symbolic expressions. Historically, there are three conceptions of Hades, or Sheol.

(1) The pagan: all gloom and no hope.

(2) The Hebrew: gloom, with hope of a blest awaking in the morning.

(3) The Christian: no gloom at all, so far as the godly are concerned. Absent from the body; at home with the Lord. Hence we cannot now adopt ver. 5 of this prayer, knowing that our Lord Jesus Christ died for us, that whether we wake or sleep we should live together with him; that hence our death is the gateway to rest, and that the time of our departure may be peacefully left in wiser hands than ours.

2. The psalmist grounds a second plea on the loving-kindness of God. This is better, surer ground (ver. 4). Very often is this plea used. It cannot be used too often. It takes hold of God's strength.


1. The psalmist receives an answer to his prayer. (See Psalm 34:6.) Thousands can say the same. "The Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping."

2. Consequently, there is:

(1) New confidence Godward (ver. 9). "The Lord will receive my prayer." As he has done in the past, so he will continue to do. New courage manward (ver. 10, Revised Version). Yea, by prayer the spirit is calmed. Trouble is turned to rest, fear to bravery, and despair to hope. Note: How much care and worry good people would save themselves if they did but take all their troubles to God at once, without waiting till they obtained such hold upon them l

(2) It is infinitely better to tell God everything, than to go about moaning and groaning to our fellows! God knows all. He never misunderstands us. He knows exactly how to help us. He will help us, at the right moment, in the best way, and to the full extent of our need; yea, he will do "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." - C.

Because of his strength, will I wait upon Thee.
(with ver. 17): — "My strength! I will wait upon Thee," so says the psalmist in the midst of his troubles; and because he does so, he says at the end of the psalm, repeating his earlier vow, but with an alteration that means a great deal, "My strength! I will sing unto Thee." If you have waited, while in the middle of trouble, you will be sure to sing after it, and perhaps even during it.

I. THE THOUGHTS OF GOD THAT LIGHT UP THE DARKNESS. "My strength," "my tower," "the God of my mercy" — these are the thoughts which burn for this devout soul in the darkness of trouble. Notice, first, how that "my" is the very strength and nerve of the psalmist's confidence. It is not so much what he thinks God to be — though that is all important — as that he thinks that, whatever God is, He is it to him. "My defence, my strength; the God of my mercy" — who gives it to me, that is, the mercy that I need. And notice the happy reiteration indicative of assured possession, and blissful counting of one's wealth. With each repetition of the "my" there is a fresh outgoing of the heart in confidence, in conscious weakness, and in believing appropriation of God's strength a tightening of the fingers on his treasure. If we are in sorrow, let us say, "I will go unto God, my exceeding joy." If we are exposed to the hurtling of a whole flight of arrows of disaster, let us say, "I dwell in the pavilion where no calamity comes." If we are conscious of weakness, let us cast ourselves into those strong arms, and be sure that from their clasp there will come tingling into our feebleness the electric thrill of His almightiness, and that we, too, shall be able to "do all things through Christ which strengtheneth us." My strength, because I am weak; "my fortress," because I am assailed; "the God of my mercy," because I need His mercy.

II. WHAT SUCH VIEWS OF GOD HEARTEN A MAN TO DO. "My strength, I will wait upon Thee," says the first of our texts. "I will look unto Him " is, perhaps, nearer the meaning of the words than the "wait" of our version. If these three blessed thoughts, "my strength, my tower, the God of my mercy," are uppermost in our heart, there will be the fixed attitude and eye of expectancy. Did you ever see a dog sitting and looking up into its master's face, waiting for a morsel to be cast, that it might snap at it and swallow it? That is a very homely illustration of the way in which Christian men should sit and look at God. If He is "my strength," and "my tower," and if "my mercy" comes from Him, then no attitude befits me except that of such gazing expectancy and steadfast direction of mind and heart to Him, "My strength, I will watch Thee." And there should be, too, not only expectancy in the look, but patience, and not only expectancy and patience, but submission. Stand before Him, waiting to know what is to be done by you with the strength that He gives, and how the mercy that He inbreathes is to be expressed and manifested in your life. This waiting should be the fixed attitude and posture of our spirits. The psalmist had to make a definite resolution to look away to God, for there was a great deal that tempted him to look elsewhere. He says, "I will wait," and the original conveys very strongly the idea of his having to set his teeth, as it were, in the effort to keep himself quiet and waiting before God. If we look to Him we are kept up, and we are kept right; but it takes all our will-power, and it needs a very resolute effort if we are not to be forced out of the attitude of faith and to let our eyes turn to alarmed gazing at the stormy seas. Without such effort we shall be weakened by looking at the foes and not at the fortress, at the difficulties and inward weakness and not at our strength, but we shall find the means of making this effort after steadfastness of expectant gaze in faithful remembrance of the great Name of the Lord, our strength and our fortress.

III. WHAT COMES OF THIS WAITING. He that began with saying, "O my strength, I will wait upon Thee," ends with saying, "O my strength, I will sing praises unto Thee." That is to say, away in the future there lies the certainty that all will end in thankfulness and rapture of praise-giving, and in the present, whilst the attitude of watchfulness has to be kept up, and evils and dangers are still round us, there may glow in our hearts a quiet assurance as to how they are all going to end, and how for the waiting in the present there will be substituted glad praise in the future. Into the midst of winter we can bring summer. We can live by hope, we can say, "To-day I will watch, tomorrow I shall praise." And because to-morrow we shall praise, there will be some praise mingling with the watchfulness of to-day. Let us do the one now, and at last we shall do the other. Do the one, and even in the doing of it the other will begin. The waiting and the praising are twins, the one a trifle older than the other. "Unto Thee, my strength, will I look," and even now the waiting soul may have a song, feeble perhaps and broken, like the twitter of birds when the east wind blows and the clouds are low in the early spring, but which will mellow and swell into fuller rapture when the dark, ungenial days are overpast.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

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