Psalms 6: How Long O Lord

Bill Hitchcock April 15, 2014 0
Psalms 6: How Long O Lord

How Long O Lord! David repeatedly calls to Jehovah. He brings himself willingly to the Lord as a sinner asking for mercy. With body and soul, “sore vexed” his pleas are heard. The Lord responds and David was healed. This Psalm was written for our benefit.

Psalms 6

Title: To the chief Musician on Neginoth upon Sheminith, A Psalm of David.

“To the chief Musician on Neginoth” is a simple instruction to the chief of musicians that the song is to be played with stringed instruments.  But there is much intrigue surrounding the word, “Sheminith”. It has been interpreted to mean many things. Some believe it means an eight-string instrument others the key in which it was set, still others believe that it is the eighth psalm in a collection of psalms.  Sheminith has been more commonly believed to mean an octave, which is a series of eight notes between two notes of the same name.

The 1599 Geneva Bible has interpreted Sheminith to mean, “upon the eight tune”. The Wycliffe Bible simply states, “on the eighth” but never clarifies as to the eighth what. According to Adam Clarke the Chaldean’s translate it, “a harp of eight strings”.

The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon states simply, “…to the eighth key, or on the octave, but wholly dubious.”

The Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon says it is a musical term meaning the, “lowest and gravest note sung by men’s voices”. If this is so then we have stringed instruments playing with male voices singing an octave below it. This would run consistent with 1 Chronicles 15:21 which reads, “And Mattithiah, and Elipheleh, and Mikneiah, and Obededom, and Jeiel, and Azaziah, with harps on the Sheminith to excel”.

The only other time “Sheminith” Is used in the Bible is in the title of Psalms 12. But no one knows for sure what it means. It is pure speculation.

“We probably lose but very little by our ignorance, and it may serve to confirm our faith. It is a proof of the high antiquity of these Psalms that they contain words, the meaning of which is lost even to the best scholars of the Hebrew language.” Charles Spurgeon.

Psalms 6

King James Version (KJV)

1) O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.

2) Have mercy upon me, O Lord; for I am weak: O Lord, heal me; for my bones are vexed.

3) My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O Lord, how long?

4) Return, O Lord, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies’ sake.

5) For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?

6) I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.

7) Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.

8) Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping.

9) The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer.

10) Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly.

Commentary and Exposition on Psalms 6

1) O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.

To rebuke is to bring to the forefront, to bring to light. David is asking to be reproved by Jehovah. It is as if he is asking and telling the Lord something at the same time. He is telling him, “Yes, I am a sinner” and “Yes, I need correction”. But he is also asking him to do so without anger. This is not an uncommon request by David or of other prophets.

“O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure” (Psalm 38:1).

“O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing” (Jeremiah 10:24).

David understands two very important things and is why he is going to the Lord for correction. First he goes to the Lord for guidance. “Man’s goings are of the Lord; how can a man then understand his own way?” (Proverbs 20:24)

Secondly David knows full well that righteousness is life and unrighteousness is death. “The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead.” (Proverbs 21:16).

David admits to no specific sin or predicament but inherently knows he is a sinner. He goes to the Lord for open rebuke for course correction and salvation. But David is bold and he is honest. He calls for open rebuke from the Lord, “For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin” (Psalms 38:18). How many of us are that bold and that honest as to call upon God and confess?

how long lord2 & 3) 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?

Have mercy upon me” is a request. It is a personal plea to Jehovah for favor. David knows that he is a sinner and that all mercies come from Him because God is, “the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort”. (2 Corinthians 1:3)

“I have no merit. I deserve all I feel and all I fear”. That’s blunt but very accurate description by Adam Clarke of the human condition. Only by the grace and mercy of God do we even exist.

 “for I am weak: O Lord, heal me”.

“He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:29 &31).

A more literal translation for “weak” is to droop, which shows the spiritual condition as well as the physical effects it has on the body. “Heal me” is more accurately sew me back together again. Mend me! Sewing, stitching and weaving in regards to the human body and how it is put together is a common thought in Psalms.

“Thou hast covered (interwoven) me in my mother’s womb” (Psalms 139:13). “I was made in secret and curiously wrought” (needlework) Psalms 139:15.

“for my bones are vexed. My soul is also sore vexed” David’s bones trembled. His soul was in fear. The inner man, the soul has caused the structure of the man, his body to shake. The bones, the very foundation of the human structure are rattled by the troubled and invisible spirit.

“but thou, O Lord, how long?” This will cause all to think. A statement begins and ends radically and shifts to the question, “how long”.  Was the statement “but thou, O Lord” or was the question, “O Lord, how long”? Either way, a statement by David was stopped abruptly. Was it pain and fear that interrupted his statement that caused the question, “how long” to erupt out?

“How long?” is a question of pain and endurance that excludes no one. “How long” shows that the threshold has been met and its past time to correct the problem.

God asked how long. “And the Lord said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me?” and “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me?” (Numbers 14:11&27)

Jesus asked how long. “And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you? Bring thy son hither.” (Luke 9:41)

David asked how long a lot. “How long, Lord? wilt thou hide thyself for ever? shall thy wrath burn like fire.” (Psalm 89:46)

“The affliction of his body will be tolerable, if he has comfort in his soul. Christ’s sorest complaint, in his sufferings, was of the trouble of his soul, and the want of his Father’s smiles”. Matthew Henry

4) Return, O Lord, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies’ sake.

Here are a couple of points that need to be brought up. First of all, this is the fifth time in four verses that David has evoked the name, “Lord”. Literally translated to Jehovah, David is having a very personal conversation with our God whose name is Jehovah. How about it? Are you on a first name basis with God? All of us should be.

This is also the second time David has asked for mercy. Repetition in supplication is fine just as long as it is done in faith and sincerity. “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matthew 6:7).

“Return, O Lord, deliver my soul” The fact of the matter is that God never left. Maybe this is why David asked Jehovah for correction and rebuke at the very beginning of the Psalm. Sin is the only thing that can separate us from our God. David evidently felt the disconnect and asked God for His mercy and His rebuke to restore His presence.

5) For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?

“For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth” (Isaiah 38:18).

“What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?” (Psalms 30:9).

It’s sometimes amazing how truth is universal and, like the seasons of the year will show itself at the appropriate time.

Death is a reference to being physically dead. The grave the home and place of it.

“What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?” (Psalms 30:9)

God created man to praise and glorify Him. We are his creation and a result of His workmanship.

The very last chapter in the Book of Psalms is only 6 verses long. But within those 6 brief verses is a call to praise the Lord 12 separate times. “Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord” (Psalms 150:6)

6) I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.

David is exhausted from the mourning and anguish and tears and shakes and sweats from all of the grief and anxiety boiling inside of him. He has his bed swimming in his tears and his couch to liquefy under the deluge. This is poetic of course, but clearly communicates the sad condition that he is in.

7) Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.

“Mine eye”, although David has been talking about tears, “mine eye” is a reference to state of mental and spiritual being. He is consumed, eaten up from the inside out because of anger, vexation and provocation. His spirit and being are growing weary and defeated because of his enemies. The word used for enemies means to press, compress and to bind. “Enemies” is the root word of which the word tribulation is derived.

Job had a similar experience, “Mine eye also is dim by reason of sorrow, and all my members are as a shadow” (Job 17:7).

8) Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping.

Go away all that do evil. Those who purposely cause unrighteous! Away! Here we find a change in the Psalm. No more tears and fears from David. Power and control have been restored to him by God.

“The best remedy for us against an evil man is a long space between us both” Charles Spurgeon.

Does weeping have a voice? Yes! A voice does not need words to be heard, felt or understood. A voice expresses thought, ideas and emotions. Crying is extremely expressive.

9) The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer.

David’s tears and turmoil have been due to sin. His prayers and supplications have been heard because of what he did at the very beginning of the Psalm. David straightway went to Jehovah. He asked for His attention and mercies. He asked to be judged and rebuked and he got it. Did David suffer for his sins? Yes! There is always a price to be paid. Was he forgiven? Yes!

“I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins” (Isaiah 43:25).

10) Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly.

Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed” while ignorant of their sin they will still suffer the consequences for their sin.

let them return” is to come back to God, to repent. And as when all sinners are brought into the light, they will instantly realize the sin in which they were perpetuating. What we didn’t see in the darkness of unrighteousness becomes our shame in the light. Repent of our sins and the lord Jehova will remember them no more.

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Bill Hitchcock

Refining Truth


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