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In the sixth Psalm David deals particularly with the judgments of God and the need of mercy upon the part of the individual saint, for strange as it may seem, paradoxical as it may appear to say it, saints are sinners. What I mean by that is that though every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has been sanctified in the sense that he is set apart to God in all the value of the finished work and the atoning blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore he is perfected forever in His sight, yet the fact remains that the believer himself is daily conscious of failure, and the closer he walks with God the more conscious he is of the sins of his own heart and life, and the more deeply penitent he is because of those shortcomings. It is quite possible, of course, to be so utterly out of fellowship with God that one can imagine he is living a sinless life, because he judges by the standards of the world without, and if he does not curse and swear and get drunk, he thinks he is living a holy life. But as one enters the presence of God and is overwhelmed with a sense of His infinite holiness he realizes there are things in his life so opposed to the holiness of God that it breaks him down in repentance before the Lord. Then the tendency is, not to feel that His dealings are too hard, but to wonder how God can be gracious at all, and it throws one on His mercy. That is the attitude of the Psalmist
Notice the opening verses as he cries for mercy in that day of Jehovah’s wrath, “O Lord, rebuke me not in Thine anger, neither chasten me in Thy hot displeasure. Have mercy upon me, O Lord; for I am weak: O Lord, heal me; for my bones are vexed. My soul is also sore vexed: but Thou, O Lord, how long?” In reading some of these Psalms we need to remember that Old Testament saints did not have the full, clear revelation of the grace of God that we have today, and therefore it was proper for David to cry, “O Lord, rebuke me not in Thine anger, neither chasten me in Thy hot displeasure.” I do not need to pray that today. I know that “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth” (Hebrews 12:6). I know that God’s rebuke will never be in anger; His chastening will never be in hot displeasure. If He allows chastening to come upon me it is because His loving heart sees it is what I need to conform me more fully to the image of His Son. So I must learn to trust in the midst of trial, and glorify God in the fires.
In verses 4 to 7 we see the saint in the greatest distress, in such distress that he is hardly accountable for his own thoughts. He is perplexed, confused; he cannot understand God’s dealings. His case is something like Job’s. He knew that God was righteous; he knew that God was holy, and yet he knew that he had been attempting to walk with God, and so could not understand why the Lord seemed to be withdrawing Himself from him and giving him up to such deep and bitter grief and sorrow. It was the attempt to explain this that forms the problem of the book of Job. Listen to the Psalmist, “Return, O Lord, deliver my soul: oh save me for Thy mercies’ sake.” You can understand, for instance, God’s dear remnant people suffering under the hand of the antichrist, driven away from the ordinary habitations of man, persecuted, cast out, starving to death perhaps or suffering terrible tortures, crying out, “O Lord, why is it I have to go through this? Look upon me in grace, save me for Thy mercies’ sake,” and then with death before him the soul cries, “For in death there is no remembrance of Thee: in Sheol [not the grave merely but that which is deeper than the grave, the abode of disembodied spirits, the unseen world] who shall give Thee thanks?” Do not take this as a doctrinal statement. It is not that. The materialists, the Christadelphians, the Russellites delight in a statement like that and say, “Don’t you see, the Spirit of God has said, In death there is no remembrance of Thee: in Sheol who shall give Thee thanks?’ Therefore, when people die they are unconscious until the day of their resurrection. The dead know not any thing’ (Ecclesiastes 9:5). That is what the Old Testament tells us.” But he is speaking of the dead bodies. You go out to a cemetery and look around and say, “These dead, they know not anything,” but that does not touch the question of the spirits of the dead. Here the Psalmist sees death ahead and sees one after another cut down by the enemy and says, “Lord, You cannot get any glory out of that Would You not get more glory if they were living here on earth to praise You?” We know now with New Testament revelation what the Psalmist was not able to understand clearly. Our Lord Jesus has “brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10); and now we know that for the believer to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, and we can say, “Yes, even in the unseen world we will give Him thanks; we will praise His name.” When Paul was caught up into the third heaven he heard the praise of saints and “unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Corinthians 12:4). But do not try to read back into the Old Testament, truth that it did not please God to reveal until New Testament times. It was when the Lord Jesus came into this scene that He took the cover, as it were, from the unseen world and revealed conditions beyond the grave.
The Psalmist continues, “I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.” Some of you think you have suffered a good deal. Have you ever wept so much that you soaked the bed clothes? David says that he did, when hunted out there by King Saul. You have not suffered as much as he; and think of what the coming remnant will have to go through. We are so inclined to self-pity. We do not remember that we “have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:4). When I hear friends who have returned from Russia, and also during these days from China, tell of the terrible things that saints of God have had to pass through over there, the unspeakable tortures to which they have had to submit, I feel that I have never known anything of suffering, nor anything of trial. David knew much about suffering. The people of God in some of these lands I have spoken of and the people of God in the coming day will have to know much of suffering. We are living in comfort, and the little things that trouble us so much, a few years hence as we look back, will seem as nothing compared to the wonderful goodness of God. “Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.”
But now in the closing verses of the Psalm you see the saint rising above these troubles; dreadful as they are he is able to rise above them because he fixes his eyes upon the Lord. When his eyes were upon the troubles they seemed insurmountable, but when he looks away from them to God, he strikes a note of confidence, “Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping.” Here we see faith in exercise. In the earlier part of the Psalm it was a poor, troubled heart, cast down and distressed because of unbelief; but now he has his eyes on God, and his troubles seem very small after all, and he cries, “Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly.” It is a great thing when we have committed things to God, to say, not merely, “The Lord will undertake,” but “The Lord has undertaken.” I have put the thing in His hands, and I believe He has taken care of it. Take that beautiful word in another portion of Scripture, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me” (Psalms 50:15). I am in the day of trouble; I am distressed and say, “Dear me, I do not know what is going to happen. I am afraid everything I have counted on is going to pieces; I have no standing.” When I talk this way, I act like a man who does not know the living God at all. He has said, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me” (Psalms 50:15). This is my day of trouble, and so I turn to Him and call upon Him, and then what? I go on with my head down just the same as ever. That is not faith. God has said, “Call upon Me.” Lord, I called upon Thee; Thou hast promised and I dare to believe! That is what lifts me above the trial and enables me to triumph.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Psalms 6". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20