March 5, 2017
A note to readers: Today’s post is part of a Sunday Voice Series by Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, a close friend, mentor and colleague of mine. He serves as the President of Asbury Theological Seminary among other posts he holds across the global church. This Sunday Voice Series will cover the Psalms, beginning to end, by focusing on a Psalm each Sunday. I can’t tell you how excited I am for his interest in contributing here. This will be a huge blessing to us all.
Psalm 6 (NIV)
LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger
or discipline me in your wrath.
Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint;
heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, LORD, how long?
Turn, LORD, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
Who praises you from the grave?
I am worn out from my groaning.
All night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
they fail because of all my foes.
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.
All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish;
they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.
Psalm 6 is the first of seven psalms which the church has traditionally named as the penitential psalms (Psalm 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143). These seven psalms reflect a whole range of ways we repent before God, including personal repentance, national repentance, awareness of sin in the people of God, as well as deep reflection on the general fallen state of the world. Psalm 6 expresses deep agony and anguish over sin. The psalmist weeps over his sins, saying, “I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears” (vs. 6).
God’s anger against sin is deep and palpable in this psalm. God’s anger is real precisely because he takes sin so seriously. He knows even more than we do how it thwarts His divine purpose in our lives. Sins are not mere mistakes. Whether we realize it or not, sin is the stubborn alignment of our lives with the whole cosmic rejection of God.
Yet, through the gospel, we know that God’s “no” to sin is, upon reflection, God’s deeper “yes” to us because His wrath is rooted in his “unfailing love” (vs. 4). God’s faithfulness to His covenant calls him to oppose us in our sin so that we might be restored to our proper inheritance as God’s people, the redeemed sons and daughters of the living God. As Christians, we know that God’s greatest “no” to sin (i.e. his greatest judgment against sin) came when he bore our sins on the cross. Sin can never be viewed lightly in the face of Jesus Christ on the cross. Yet, this is also why St. Paul can so confidently declare that “no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘yes’ in Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 1:20). Even the promise of God’s judgment becomes God’s “yes” in Jesus Christ. To mourn over our sins and repent of them is to align ourselves anew with God’s great promise in Jesus Christ.