Now let’s go ahead and spend some time looking at the content of this Psalm. There is a lot for us to learn.
First, God doesn’t ‘punish us’ with calamity…
Verse 1 of Psalm 6 reveals a tendency in the Old Testament writers, which is important to note. It says,
“Please do not discipline me in your wrath nor rebuke me in your anger.”
Now this is not entirely problematic in itself, but it points to something, which may have been a misunderstanding with at least some of the Old Testament characters. There is a concept called “retribution theology” which we need to address because it crops up a fair amount in the Old Testament and it is something that, if we are just being honest with ourselves, we battle as well.
[box] Retribution Theology is a concept that God is going to zap you for your sins in some fashion. And in the worst cases it is kind of a 1 to 1 ratio. In other words, if you do something bad, God is going to always do something bad back to you in payment for that.[/box]
This concept is most noticeable in the pages of Job, when Job’s friends were talking to him.
If you have read that book, you have seen that each friend takes a turn sort of beating Job over the head a bit. They constantly ask Job what he did wrong in order to bring God’s wrath on him? In Job 4, Eliphaz is speaking to Job and he says:
By this statement, Eliphaz is hinting that either Job or his kids or both were in sin and because of this, they suffered the consequences. When you consider it on its face, it’s a really cruel thing to say to a guy who just lost all his kids. But we know from the opening words of Job, that it says that he was an upright man and had not sinned to cause any of this.
We see another example in the gospel accounts when the apostles ask Jesus…
And we see, both in the conclusion of the book of Job, as well as Christ’s words to the disciples in John, that this idea of retribution by God is a false idea. God does not zap us for our sins. There is not a 1 to 1 ratio of sin and zap. God will discipline us. He will sometimes cause us to suffer the consequences of our sins. And sometimes these consequences will seem severe. But this is not retribution. God is not being vindictive like that
If you belong to God, Christ paid for our sins, Church. And he paid for Job’s sins as well as David’s sins. God’s wrath has been satisfied toward those. That is called “propitiation.”
[box] We, as Christians, may suffer in this life, but it is not in any sense a sort of “payment” for our sins. The payment has been made. Retribution Theology is a false idea and it can be harmful in our walk with the Lord.[/box]
If we are going through trials, here are some things we can know from scripture. The trial is for our ultimate good and for God’s glory. It is accomplishing his purposes in our life and probably in the lives of others as well. Most likely…. And so we can rest in his sovereign hands, knowing that he knows what he is doing and he is not getting us back for something we did.
Getting ‘Real’ With God About Our Troubles
Verse 2-3 says:
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD—how long?
It is not absolutely certain what is going on with David. It appears that it could be sickness, when he asks for healing because he is languishing and his bones are troubled. But it is apparent enough that his symptoms are not merely physical but spiritual as well. It looks like he is sick in his body and sick in his soul.
And David is crying out to God with his complaint… his lament. And Church, there is just something so right and so perfect and so very personal in this for all of us. Because this lament and others like it, as you look through the pages of Psalms, proves out one thing in particular—that there is no subject that is off limits for God.
[box] There is nothing too small or large that we cannot take to him in prayer! What we have written in the complaints of the lament Psalms is a peek into the very soul of David. It is a glimpse into his relationship with his Abba Father. There was nothing that he couldn’t and wouldn’t take to God.[/box]
In my reading this week, one writer made the claim that these laments are acts of bold faith in God. I would agree with that assessment. He said this:
Church there is nothing that we cannot take to God. He knows it anyway doesn’t he?
I am so fond of David and even a bit envious. His relationship to God was just so Father and son-like… His life was an open book–even more so because these laments became church property after awhile. Everybody, including God, knew his business–even us!! But he is just so open and raw and honest in the Psalms with what is going on with him.
[box] I desire that real-ness. I desire that feeling of talking to our Abba Father. It’s that feeling of sitting on the porch swing late at night with your dad and just having a heart to heart talk. The one who cares so deeply about our infirmities and us. He is not untouched by the things that we go through. He is not unmoved. He is not powerless to act on them. He cares more deeply than we can even know as a human.[/box]
Suffering: An Essential Part of God’s Providential Plan for all Christians
In fact, if we continue to suffer from something we can know absolutely… without any doubt… that it is part of his providential plan for us to do so. John Piper, as many of you know, suffered through a bout of cancer. In 2011, he published a book about his journey with the disease entitled “Don’t Waste your Cancer.”
In the advertisement for the book on his website it says these words:
I could only hope to have as much faith as he has shown in the face of this dreaded disease.
But he points to the reality that when we, as Christians, are taken through something like this, it is always meant in our lives to bring about something that God is building up in us. Whether it be godly character… or it is to teach us something… or it is to increase our trust and reliance on God himself. It is never about punishing us in some fashion–It is always about refining us.
And in our petition, our lament, we can just take our cares to our Abba Father and he will hear and he will answer our prayers. Sometimes the answer to our prayers for healing is yes. Sometimes it is no. Sometimes it is “not yet.” But there is always an answer. And the answer will always be for God’s glory and for our ultimate good.
This intimacy that is exhibited is a good lesson for all of us when we take our cares to God.
Praying Our Hearts Out to God through the Psalms
Many of you have heard my story about the time I got sick in Mexico and had to stay behind for treatment while my family went back home. I have never experienced a lonelier time in my life. I honestly felt like God had abandoned me down there. I felt like I was Jonah in the fish’s belly.
I am so glad to have Peggy back after her and her girl friends went on a short cruise this past week! Many of you know how well I did on my own when she was gone, which if you are giving grades for those things, would have been about a C minus. I was late for church last week. I lost some money at Kroger. I was a mess.
But I have to say that being left in Mexico was very lonely for me. I would call Peggy and I couldn’t help it–I would just cry on the phone. I’m sure she was thinking, “What a pansy I have married!”
So I was not great at this ‘rising up in your spirit’ stuff that John Piper does. I wasn’t writing any books about not wasting your extra days in Mexico for sure. But I have relayed the story on a few occasions to you about the comfort that I received from the Holy Spirit while I was in that place, and how I opened my Bible to the book of Psalms and just started praying from there.
And being that Psalms is mostly composed of Lament Psalms; I did not have any problems finding a voice for my prayers. My tears flooded the pages of my bible as the words of David were saying exactly what I wanted to say to God in that moment.
And I tell you this, as a way of encouraging you, to do the same in times of trouble. Pray the Psalms back to God! There is nothing more powerful than praying God’s word back to him. There is no more perfect prayer than the inspired word of God. There is no greater way to feel the comfort of the Holy Spirit than to read his words back to him. They are perfect words. They are a balm for the soul.
Looking for what God is Teaching us in our Trials
But the other point to all of this is that in our times of trouble, we need to, each of us, look for what God may be teaching us in this moment and learn it. In my case, God was causing me, through my circumstances, to press in to him. I had no choice. He was all I had left in the moment. And honestly I might not have learned that lesson if my family had stayed behind with me. I may have missed it.
When I lost the money at Kroger last week. I was upset. I left 60 bucks in the change slot at the self-checkout. And I told the Lord before I found out that it had been turned in, that if someone needs that money more than me, to help me to rest in Him for the result. It turns out that I got my money back, but I want to be faithful to learn what God may be teaching me. It turns out that he was teaching me to “pay attention dummy!” And don’t let Peggy go out of town again. So, that was two things.
So, we don’t just complain and gripe and belly ache to God with no intention of learning from whatever we are going through. But rather, we complain and we may moan some, but we know the whole time that God has got us. We tell him the problem and we trust him for the result and we learn from the lessons he is teaching.
I am convinced that when we are just real with God like that, that it improves our relationship with him. We get to see him in a different light. It does not mean that we are disrespectful to him.
But it can mean that we are just real. “Lord, I can’t handle what is happening right now. Are you looking? Please look my way. “
To Be Continued in Psalm 6 Praising God in the Midst of our Trials
Watch the full sermon live here: Psalm 6 The Lament by Pastor Dan Woody
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://koinoniachurch.info/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Pastor-Dan.jpeg[/author_image] [author_info]Pastor Dan Woody is a founding elder for Koinonia. He has been serving churches as a pastor for the past 13 years. He and his wife Peggy are the parents of two sons, Chris and Jonathan. Pastor Dan is currently studying for his Mdiv with The North American Reformed Seminary. His interests include music, and most outdoor sports like golf, hiking, tennis and fishing.[/author_info] [/author]