Today we continue the study of Psalm 6 which is a Lament psalm that deals with the nature of suffering. As I said in the previous post, 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. You can read more in my previous post, Our Heavenly Father Cares About Our Pain.
Verse 5 gives us yet another example of a doctrine that was still not very well known in the time of David. The verse says:
For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise? Psalms 6:5 (ESV)
In the Hebrew language, the place of the dead was called Sheol. When they started translating everything into Greek the word became Hades. And while these words are essentially referring to the same thing, there is both a Hebrew and a Greek or pagan understanding of this place Sheol or Hades. Also, there was a much more developed New Testament understanding of Hades.
The Greek or Pagan Understanding of Hades
The Greek or pagan understanding of Hades was a place that was the receptacle of all of the dead, that was divided into two regions. One of the regions was a place of torment and one was a place of blessedness.
But let me caution you before you go and make comparisons in your mind to our doctrines of heaven and hell, I must warn you that these were pagan teachings. They are not to be confused or mixed in with the New Testament teachings of punishment and blessing for the dead, because the Greek ideas did not include God or the coming of Christ or any of the elements of Christianity along with this concept of Hades.
And so while the Greeks managed to get the idea right of blessing and punishment, this is really where the similarities end with Christianity. Now compared to this Greek idea is the Hebrew idea of Sheol.
The Hebrew Idea of Sheol ~ An Incomplete Idea Completed in The New Testament
This was also a place for the dead, but the difference between the Hebrew and the Greek idea is that there was no division or compartments in the Hebrew Sheol. It was just one place where all the dead went. And with the Hebrew Sheol, you can really sort of tell that it is an incomplete idea that is completed in the New Testament most often with the teaching of Paul.
[box] To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. This is the disposition of those who die in Christ according to the New Testament.[/box]
Christ tells the penitent thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Our creeds that we recited this morning, finish up by saying we believe in “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” All of these ideas came about later on in the teaching of the New Testament.
Other Old Testament Terms for Sheol Convey a Sense of Hopelessness
The Old Testament concept of Sheol also carried with it the idea that is mentioned quite often in the Pentateuch, of “going to ones fathers” or being “gathered to one’s people.” This is repeated over and over again in the first five books of the Bible. So it gives us an idea of the Hebrew concept of the afterlife..
Some of the other Old Testament terms used to describe Sheol give us some additional insight into what was thought about it. It is described as “the pit” in Job, “Abaddon or Destruction” in Proverbs, “the place of silence” in the Psalms, and the “land of darkness and the shadow of death” again in Job. It was basically the opposite of the living condition–a synonym for everything that is gloomy… of things that don’t move anymore… the land of forgetfulness… a lack of knowledge and inactivity. These were the ideas that Sheol carried with it for the Hebrew.
And so David, as well as the other Old Testament writers, had some work left to do before they understood, a bit better, the concept of heaven and their dwelling place being with God. David seemed to have some concept of eternity when he said in Psalm 23, “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” But he also said after the death of his son that he would go once again to him “ in Sheol” in the place of the dead, but the son would never return to David in the land of the living. So there was a hopelessness associated with the Old Testament concept of Sheol.
New Testament Concept of Eternity
But this was remedied in the New Testament. We can be grateful to God that he has revealed to us in the New Testament what we can expect. “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard… neither has it entered into the heart of man the things which God has in store for those who love him.”
The Nature of Suffering
In verses 6 and 7 David speaks of the nature of his suffering:
I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping. My eye wastes away because of grief;
it grows weak because of all my foes. Psalms 6:6-7 (ESV)
Have you ever looked into your kid’s eyes and said immediately, “Oh! You don’t feel good!
Christ said in Matthew 6: 22,
“The eye is the lamp of the body. You draw light into your body through your eyes, and light shines out to the world through your eyes.”
This is where we get our old saying that the eyes are “the windows of the soul.” David is very descriptive here. He describes his eyes as weak and wasting away. You can tell from looking into someone’s eyes if they don’t feel well– if they are lying to you–if they have something else on their mind. There are all kinds of information you can get from someone’s eyes.
Because of the fall, sin and death entered into the world. Because of this, we all age, get old and our bodies wear out–they get frail. And sometimes aging causes us to be in pain or to not feel so great. And we can blame the fall for that. Sin has caused all of this decay and death. But the flip side to it is that our souls are eternal…. they live on…. And the eternal soul that dies in Christ has the promise of eternal life with him.
Praise God in the Trials
One of the most powerful things we can do in these moments of weakness and trial is to offer our praises to God: praises for the fact that this world is not our home—praise for the fact that we are redeemed. Even if we don’t feel like it right then. I have found that out first hand.
[box] To offer praise when things aren’t going our way, to offer praise because we know that the outcome is absolutely in God’s hands and he will do what is right is powerful. This is a pretty good guess as to the reason that the Lament Psalms end in praise. Because David knows where his strength comes from.[/box]
A Fake Response to Pain or Trials Doesn’t Help
It is so unfortunate, really, when we see a brother or sister in Christ who has a type of fake or phony response to pain or sickness or trials in their lives. Rather than embrace what is happening for what it really is, they come out with these trite expressions like, “We are just claiming the victory right now. We know it is not God’s will for us to go through this.” Their trials are in a sense wasted because they can’t be real and genuine with God. They can’t learn the lessons from it, because they think, somehow, that God is asleep or he doesn’t intend for it to happen.
Church, do we have the faith to say like Job did to his wife in the face of the most severe trial that any of us could ever go through… can you say, like him, that “even if God slays me… I will trust in Him.” Do we have that kind of faith today?
This is a confidence that does not come from our own strength.
There is a lot of confidence in the prayers of David. But it is important to know that it is not misplaced confidence. It is not a cocky or self-assured confidence that David was displaying. And honestly, if anyone had a right to be sure of themselves it would have been David. He killed Goliath at a young age. He had a legend that was repeated in the Old Testament about him, “that Saul had slain his thousands but David his tens of thousands.”
I can imagine that in his more prideful self-assured days that David could have had some swagger to him. He might have had an attitude. But there is no indication of that anywhere here. This is just humility… and a quiet confidence in the power of God. And so he offers praise to God.
And Church, this is more than just a formula in a Lament Psalm. He is not just offering praise because he has made it to verse 8 and he is supposed to now. You know, “This is the part where the praise goes”, according to the formula.
[box] He is offering praise from a lifetime that spills over with praise. You can see it all the way through his writings. His soul exuded praise. If you were to cut him open, he would bleed praise so to speak. God himself called David a man after his own heart. This is a part of his being. And it should be a part of ours as well.[/box]
We should take the examples that are given us here today. They’re more than just a formula of some sort–more than just Bible code–It is a lifestyle. When we have trouble like the Lament psalm, our first call should be to call on God
When we have trouble, our lament… our complaint…. should be from an honest open heart. It should contain just exactly what the problem is. No hiding it from God, because you can’t hide it anyway. Then we should ask God through prayer and supplication to remove the trouble from our lives. We should ask in full confidence that he can do whatever we ask.
The scripture tells us that he is able to do exceedingly… abundantly… above all that we ask or even think!
What We Can Learn from Our Trials
[box] Along with this petition, we should ask the Lord what it is we are to learn from this ailment or trial, because there is always something. We can always learn something… and God is always trying to teach us something when we walk through a trial.[/box]
And if the answer to the prayer is, by our estimation of things, delayed somewhat, we can know that God is in the trial with us. He is walking us through it, and it is accomplishing his perfect plan by keeping us where we are a while longer.
And then when it is all said and done…. we should praise. We should take every opportunity to do this, in the trial, after the trial, even because of the trial and in spite of the trial. We praise God.
And it is not some “Pollyanna, everything is just going to be OK” leap into fantasy. It is not plastic and fake praise that we offer. It is not saying, “God’s got this!!”, and then at the same time feeling in our hearts as if we have been abandoned by God–None of that. It is praise that is offered from a heart that puts its trust in the only place that is deserving of our trust. We put our trust in a sovereign….providential…. God.
“I lift my eyes up to the hills… where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord… maker of heaven and earth.”
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]