Psalm Six: Rebuke Me Not in Your Anger
In all of David's battles against his enemies (and they were many and mighty!), he took courage in the Lord, and assured himself of victory, and was able even to lie down and sleep when his foes were pressing him hard on every side; for he knew that he was righteous and they were wicked, and that the Lord would therefore deliver him. This we have seen, and it has given us much courage to face any kind of opposition that we might encounter for righteousness' sake. But what if the next enemy David had to face should come not from without but from within, what if he could no longer trust in his righteousness because his enemy is sinfulness â€“ his own deep-seated and innate depravity? How would he assure himself of the Lord's favor then?
Ah, dear Christian, is this not the battle that rages against us the most tempestuously by far? We may assure ourselves of the final destruction of the wicked, and hold our heads high when they fling opprobrium at us, yes, and even walk into the lions' den with the calm assurance of a Polycarp â€“ and yet, for all that, when we encounter the beast within us, that lion more cruel and bloodthirsty than all others beside, that inbred traitor of indwelling sin, what hope can we still retain? David may have rested in the sure expectation of triumph against his wicked foes; but how did he hold fast his hope in the Lord's salvation against the onslaught of his own sins, which threatened to separate him from his Beloved and pour out upon him wrath instead of favor? What answer did he find?
Struggling saint, sinner though you be, David found an answer, and so may you! Listen to him, hear how boldly he makes his plea, drowned though it be with the tears of his penitence which flood his bed night after night. Do you not see with what great requests he importunes his Lord? How severe is the almighty wrath of the righteous Judge â€“ and David pleads for full absolution! And not just absolution, but grace and favor! And not just favor, but healing! And more yet does he request, rich gifts such as deliverance of his soul from the grave, and eternal life, and the never-ending remembrance and knowledge of the Lord (so well did David know that eternal life is only this, that we might know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent [John 17:3]!). Before, when he had been righteous, he asked only for deliverance from his enemies â€“ but now, when he is wicked, when he is the least worthy he has ever been, the greatness of his requests grows in accordance with the diminution of his merits. How can this be?
If you are a Christian, is not the answer ringing even now within your ear? It is only because of this: everything that David asked to be delivered from, he knew that his Son according to the flesh, the Christ, would endure in his place: â€œRebuke me not in your wrath!â€ â€“ because Christ has drunk your wrath to its dregs. â€œHeal my troubled bones!â€ â€“ because the bones of Christ were troubled beyond measure. â€œDeliver my life!â€ â€“ because Christ delivered his own life up for me, the just for the unjust, to bring me back to God (1 Peter 3:18). Leave me not in death or Sheol, David pleads, because the Christ has been there and returned, he has opened up the way back from the grave.
Why is it that David ends his prayer with another confident assertion that he will be delivered and his enemies destroyed? How can he still be so sure, when this time he is wicked, he has sinned, he deserves the same end that he forecasts for them? It is only because of this: â€œYahweh has heard the sound of my weeping; Yahweh has heard my pleaâ€ (vs. 8-9). Tears are the triumph of the saints, dear Christian! Are you brokenhearted over your sin? Then rejoice! David found out that same precious truth that his greater Son would one day declare with wisdom such as no man had ever heard: â€œBlessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Mat. 5:4). There is no praise of God in the grave; nor is there any praise of God among the arrogant, who trust in their own goodness; where, then, is a more fitting place for the arrogant than the grave, where all shall be praiseless of God together? But there is fervent, never-ending praise from them who have gone to the grave of heart-broken weeping over sin, who have died with Christ and been buried with him, and who have been redeemed from the power of Sheol by his own triumphant resurrection from the dead. Such was the course that Christ walked in his steadfast love; and now, sinner though you be, you may stake all your hopes upon that same steadfast love, and cry out with David in trembling confidence, â€œThere is no remembrance of you in Sheol! There is no praise of you underneath your righteous wrath! But in your steadfast love, which sent the Christ to walk through wrath and the grave and come out again whole, with salvation in his nail-pierced hands for all the penitent in the world, there is praise and worship, honor and adulation, forever and ever, world without end!â€. Because of him, O Lord, and because of his love that was steadfast enough to pass through all that I deserve, rebuke me not in your wrath.