Theme: The Psalmist’s Answer
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
The second half of the psalm, which begins with verse 8, contains such a radical change of mood that many commentators seem to be without any adequate explanation. They have supposed that something intervenes, like an oracle given to the psalmist by one of the priests.6 This is an unnecessary and mechanical explanation. What happened is that God heard and accepted David’s prayer, as he himself tells us: “Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping. The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer (vv. 8-9).
God made himself known to David once again and restored his confidence. And it had immediate results. In verse 4 he asked the Lord to “turn back” to him. Now, using the same verb, he tells his enemies to “turn back,” that is, to go away. David is on the right track again. Surely Derek Kidner has it right when he says, “This sudden access of confidence, found in almost every suppliant psalm, is most telling evidence of an answering touch from God.”7
Do you remember the Baptist pastor I referred to earlier, the one who experienced such severe depression, was delivered and later wrote about it in order to help others? His name is Don Baker. Let me share how he describes this identical experience. After months of therapy and soul searching, he was by himself by a lake, where the family had a cottage. He had been praying for a long time and with many tears. Here is his account of what happened:
“I continued to kneel by that couch long after the tears had dried and the prayer was finished.
“I noticed as I remained there that things felt different. Nothing ecstatic or noisy. Nothing high-powered or sensational. I just felt different.
“As I examined that feeling, I became aware of strength in my limbs, of objects before my eyes. I saw, I felt, I heard. Was it possible? Was the cloud finally gone? Had my world come alive again?
“I stood and moved carefully at first. The feeling, the sensations, the awareness, the strength–was it real? Was it back to stay? I began thanking and praising God, singing and laughing.
“I put on my shoes and ran down the hillside–more falling than running from Arnie’s cabin to where carpenters were building a new dining hall. One of my deacons was there. I shouted to him, ‘Jerry, I’m all right! Thank you for praying.’ He looked bewildered and unbelieving. He needed time; but eventually he, too, would rejoice at the reality of what had finally come full circle.
“I continued to walk with vigor for the full three miles around the lake. I sang. I cried. I laughed. I prayed. I quoted Scripture. I talked to the birds. I talked to the trees.
“To this day I’m grateful no one saw me. I would have been shipped back to ward 7E for sure.”8
Exceptional? Perhaps. But nevertheless real. It is what happens for those who turn back to God, and it is because God is still there–has always been there–even though, for a time, they could not feel him.
How do we best explain the change of mood between the two stanzas of the psalm?
What attributes of God emerge from this second section?
Application: Do you know someone who is going through a similar experience as that of David? How will you try to encourage them today?
6See Peter C. Craigie, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 19, Psalms 1-50 (Waco, TX: Word, 1983), p. 94, and others.
7Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary on Books I and II of the Psalms (Leicester, England, and Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 1973), p. 62.
8Don Baker and Emery Nester, Depression: Finding Hope & Meaning in Life’s Darkest Shadow (Portland: Multnomah, 1983), pp. 101-102.