Theme: God’s Wrath
In this week’s studies we learn about David’s great affliction, and how his confidence and hope in the Lord were restored through prayer.
Scripture: Psalm 6:1-10
In the New International Version the psalm is divided into four stanzas, which is right. But in terms of its content the psalm is best considered in two sections. In the first (vv. 1-7) David is in great distress. His whole person–body, soul and spirit–is in anguish. He senses the anger of God upon him for sin. He cannot sleep. In the second section (vv. 8- 10) he suddenly becomes aware of God’s presence again and moves out of his depression into new faith and bold conduct.
The best way to handle the first section is to go through it with care, noting its chief features and asking what points of our own experience, past or present, match his.
1. A sense of God’s disapproval or wrath. The starting point is the psalmist’s sense of God’s disapproval or wrath, for he asks God not to “rebuke” him in “anger” or “discipline” him in “wrath” (v. 1). From the point of view of what he is feeling, it matters little whether he has sinned in some striking way and so senses God’s judgment on him for this sin or whether he is simply depressed by circumstances and merely feels that God is disciplining him in general. The sense of anguish is the same. The point is that he feels overwhelmed by what is happening.
Have you ever felt like that? Do you feel like that now? Maybe you have done something wrong and know it. You know God is disrupting your life because of your sin. On the other hand, you may just be overwhelmed by what is going on around you or is happening to you. Let me suggest some possible situations. You may be young, and your parents are getting a divorce. That is terribly traumatic. Everything you used to consider stable is falling apart, and you think that somehow it is all your fault. “What have I done?” you are asking. “What can I do to make things right again?” In your case, you are not to blame at all, but that does not keep you from feeling that you are to blame. You want to say, “O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.”
Maybe you have suffered reversals at work. Perhaps you have even lost your job, and you may be at an age when finding another one will be difficult. God seems to be punishing you. But for what? You find yourself thinking, “Maybe I got out of God’s will somehow. Maybe I wasn’t reading my Bible enough. Maybe I didn’t give my job high enough priority.” There are dozens of “maybe’s” in a situation like that, and there are no easy answers to any of them. I do not know the answers any more than you do. You are praying, “O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.”
Maybe your husband has left you, or maybe your wife. “God, what are you doing to me?” you are asking. “What have I done?” Maybe you have gotten very sick, and for this reason your circumstances particularly parallel those of the psalmist. You don’t know whether God is punishing you for some sin or trying to develop character in you by the things you are suffering. Paul wrote, “We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom. 5:3, 4). That may be it. But how do you know? And what does it matter as long as you are feeling as downcast as you are? All you want is that God should hear you. “O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.”
What is the difference between the wrath that believers experience because of sin, and the wrath that unbelievers are under?
On what basis can we ask that God not rebuke or discipline us as our sins deserve? How does that help and direct us as we go through a difficult and uncertain time?
Application: Are you dealing with a situation that causes you to identify with David’s request in v. 1? Has your prayer life changed for the better or worse throughout your hardship and the depression that tends to come from it?