Psalm Six is the first of the Penitential Psalms, the others being Psalms 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143. As in Psalm 4, the title Neginoth refers to the ‘smitings’ and includes the meaning of the plucking of a stringed instrument and also the thought of the trials of smitten saints and the music that is produced in their lives as the chastening brings forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness. ‘Upon Sheminith’ refers to the eighth octave but the number eight also means a new beginning, the significance of this new beginning being readily seen as we meditate upon the turning point in this song. We will divide the psalm into two parts.
The Remorse of the Repentant Saint (6:1-7)
One of the special features about David and his writings and perhaps one of the reasons why we relate to them so well is that they give us a picture of what it is to be human. While this is not an excuse for carelessness in our living before God, it is an encouragement to study the successes and failures in the life of this great king and see the restoration that invariably followed his regressions. We would be wrong to suggest with the friends of Job that all chastening is a consequence of sins committed, but in this psalm it is evident that the writer has sinned and has been chastised physically for that sin (See Philippians 2:25-30). The pain he suffered was not only in his mind as he endured the distress of distance from God but also as he suffered from sickness in his body. "I am weak" indicates the anguish he endured mentally (I am as one who droops) while "My bones are vexed" shows us the agony he suffered physically. His sickness was so severe that he was at the point of death for he said in his plea for mercy, "In death there is no remembrance of Thee: in Sheol (the abode of departed spirits), who shall give Thee thanks?" His words show the limited amount of revelation the Old Testament saints had of the future state. They did not enjoy the confidence of Paul who spoke confidently of departing and being with Christ, which is very far better. (Philippians 1:23) They were instead "through fear of death all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:15). With a mind tormented because of his sin, a body wracked with pain, and his bed watered with his tears, he cries out, "0 Lord, how long?"
The Rejoicing of the Restored Saint (6:8-10)
The psalms are characterized by sudden "turn-arounds." "The Lord hath heard!" Can you hear the thrill within his voice as suddenly he cries out the words of victory? He knows that he has "gotten through" to Jehovah, the covenant-keeping God. No longer are the Heavens silent to him. He who prayed "How long?" and waited patiently, has now received an answer. The tempest in his soul has been replaced by peace as if there was a mighty voice rebuking the winds and waves with the words, "Peace, be still." The pain in his body is over for the hand of the Great Physician has touched him. To his detractors he issues the command to depart. God has heard his prayer and seen his tears.
The psalm is a great encouragement to believers who have stumbled or who have fallen. The believer should thank God that He is a Father Who in love will chasten his children in order to call them back to Him. Thank God that He is the God of Restoration and "there is forgiveness with Him that He may be feared" (Psalm 130:4). So many in the Bible have known the sad experience of a fall and the happy experience of restoration. David said elsewhere, "He restoreth my soul" (Psalm 23:3). John Mark knew the reality of restoration for he who at one time went back became in the words of Paul, "profitable to me for the ministry" (2 Timothy 4:11). Mark, the servant who failed, was later the instrument of the Holy Spirit in writing the Gospel of the Unfailing Servant. Peter fell but was restored by a look when "the Lord turned and looked upon Peter" and "he went out and wept bitterly" (Luke 22:61-62). Consider the results of Peter’s restoration on the Day of Pentecost. The person who penned the words, "The bird with the broken pinion never soared so high again" meant well but had not considered the great restorations of the Bible.
Have you drifted away in your fellowship? Do you remember the happy days of communion with the Lord? Do you currently feel the heavens are shut up to you and that God is not hearing the anguished cries from your soul? Are you also crying out, "0 Lord, How long?" Remember that a warm welcome awaits the returning saint as God does his work of restoration in the soul.