A Meltdown Moment – Psalm 6:1-3

Psalm 6:1-3

People love meltdowns…from a distance.  For many, the highlight of a baseball game, especially for fans of a losing team, is watching as a player or manager loses his cool with an umpire.  The ensuing argument provides entertainment and usually brings the crowd to life, and it only escalates the situation when the umpire ejects the offending party from the game.

If sports isn’t exactly your thing, think about the play that Alec Baldwin and Christian Bale’s very public meltdowns received on the various forms of media we inundate ourselves with on a daily basis.  For weeks, and even months, those two gentlemen[1] were the butt of jokes on Facebook, Twitter, and late night talk shows.

Being involved in a meltdown at close range is entirely different.  The experience can be intimidating, frustrating, and even frightening.  Each one of us is currently thinking of various experiences we’ve had.  They’re very vivid memories, aren’t they?  No one wants to be the recipient of a person’s unbridled anger.

Now think about God losing his cool.  The experience is instantly magnified ad infinitum.

Consider, however, that our sin causes God to be angry.  After Achan kept some of the plunder of Jericho against the Lord’s will, this was God’s response: “And the anger of the LORD burned against the people ofIsrael,” (Josh. 7:1).

Imagine facing the burning anger of the Lord.  This is exactly what David felt like he was up against as he penned Psalm 6.

Insights from the Septuagint

UNTO COMPLETION; WITH HYMNS, WITH REFERENCE TO THE EIGHTH.  A PSALM OF DAVID.

1Lord, do not discipline me in your wrath,

            nor punish me in your anger.

2Have mercy on me, Lord, because I am weak;

            Restore me, Lord, because my bones are shaken.

3My soul also is greatly shaken.

            And you, Lord, how long?

There really isn’t too much to point out from the LXX today.  Most of the differences in the wording are due either to my poor translation abilities or synonymous meanings that are altered due to the nature of translation itself.

Law & Gospel

Before starting down my own personal train of thought with these verses, I’d like to point out something that Martin Luther wrote in his commentary on this Psalm.

“First. In all trials and affliction man should first of all run to God; he should realize and accept the fact that everything is sent by God, whether it comes from the devil or from man. This is what the prophet does here. In this psalm he mentions his trials, but first he hurries to God and accepts these trials from Him; for this is the way to learn patience and the fear of God. But he who looks to man and does not accept these things from God becomes impatient and a despiser of God.”[2]

I love that.  I never would have picked up on it, but it is absolutely true.  When we face trials, we need to run to God.  Period.

Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled blogging.

The first question we need to answer when studying this Psalm is, “Why is David fearing God’s anger and wrath in the first place?”  I believe the short answer to that question is “sin”.  David has obviously done something that would cause him to expect God to be angry.  And so he runs to God in prayer.

This is the language of confession.  David comes to the Lord and confesses his sin and pleads with God for mercy.  This is a picture of a man upon whom the Law has been working.

He has been confronted with his sin.  He recognizes his offense against God and the potential consequences of facing God’s anger and wrath.

He has been affected by his sin.  Look at the phrases David uses: “I am languishing”; “my bones are troubled”; “my soul also is greatly troubled”.  The Law has worked its effects on him, and he realizes he is completely helpless because of his sin.

He has acknowledged his sin, but not directly.  We don’t have a specific confession of sin here.  But we do have a plea for mercy.  “Be gracious to me, O LORD.”

What is amazing to me in these verses is the depth of faith that David displays.  He displays to all of his readers his firm conviction that our forgiveness is placed entirely upon God and not on our efforts or the eloquence of our confession.  This is exactly what the Bible teaches us.  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:9).

The faithfulness, justice, and righteousness of forgiving sins is entirely wrapped up in God’s identity and activity.  In his faithfulness, he has provided a Savior when we most desperately needed one.  In his justice, he has not ignored sin, but allowed his Son to take the entire weight of the punishment for our sins upon his shoulders.   And in his righteousness, he has given us the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ in place of our own.

Which is why in his sin and in his shame, David runs to God.  We should too.


[1] Term used loosely.

[2] Martin Luther, vol. 14, Luther’s Works, Vol. 14: Selected Psalms III, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999),Ps 6:1.

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  1. Marooned on a Desert Island – Psalm 6:4-5 « ophelimos
  2. Guilt and Consequences – Psalm 6:67 « ophelimos
  3. Misery Loves Company – Psalm 6:8-10 « ophelimos
  4. Responding to Psalm 6 « ophelimos

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