For the music leader. On stringed instruments. According to the eighth. A psalm of David.
6 Please, Lord,
don’t punish me when you are angry;
don’t discipline me when you are furious.
2 Have mercy on me, Lord,
because I’m frail.
Heal me, Lord,
because my bones are shaking in terror!
3 My whole body is completely terrified!
But you, Lord! How long will this last?
4 Come back to me, Lord! Deliver me!
Save me for the sake of your faithful love!
5 No one is going to praise you
when they are dead.
Who gives you thanks
from the grave?
6 I’m worn out from groaning.
Every night, I drench my bed with tears;
I soak my couch all the way through.
7 My vision fails because of my grief;
it’s weak because of all my distress.
8 Get away from me, all you evildoers,
because the Lord has heard me crying!
9 The Lord has listened to my request.
The Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies will be ashamed
and completely terrified;
they will be defeated
and ashamed instantly (Psalm 6:1-10, Common English Bible)
Though it isn’t possible for them to know, I always find it interesting to see a a story or in this case a psalm that reminds us something in the New Testament, even when there is on obvious connection. When I read Psalm 6, I am reminded of the story of the Pharisee and the Tax collector.
Perhaps you remember the story. If not, let me share it with you direct from Luke’s Gospel.
9 Jesus told this parable to certain people who had convinced themselves that they were righteous and who looked on everyone else with disgust: 10 “Two people went up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself with these words, ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like everyone else—crooks, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week. I give a tenth of everything I receive.’ 13 But the tax collector stood at a distance. He wouldn’t even lift his eyes to look toward heaven. Rather, he struck his chest and said, ‘God, show mercy to me, a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this person went down to his home justified rather than the Pharisee. All who lift themselves up will be brought low, and those who make themselves low will be lifted up” (Luke 18:9-14, Common English Bible).
In the beginning Psalm 6, the psalmist says, in essence, I am a sinful man and I seek forgiveness from God though I know I deserve God’s wrath. In the second half of the psalm he gives a vivid description of his repentance. He sounds much like the repentant tax collector Luke talks about. He could easily be the tax collector to whom the Pharisee points.
I can’t say that I have known anyone who thinks they are better in God’s eyes than anyone else, as Luke describes the Pharisee in that story. As I imagine the psalmist praying, those chasing him, persecuting him, to use today’s vernacular, bullying him, stop. He seems to want it stopped even at the use of Divine intervention.
Have I known people who think they are better than the rest of us? Absolutely. Here is the difference I see between them and the Pharisee. Those I know either think they are better than God, they think there is no God, or they just don’t pray. Such was not the case with the Pharisee.
I have known people like the psalmist and the tax collector. I have known people who cry out to God for forgiveness and yet also believe in their heart of hearts that the are useless and there is no way God would possibly forgive them. That heartfelt belief is completely wrong. Just look at all those Jesus forgave. It seems clear to me that if Jesus was to forgive the various people in the Bible the Pharisees called, “Sinners,” Jesus will forgive us.
What is required in the days of the psalmist, the days of the Pharisee and the tax collector is faith. When I see the psalmist, pursued and tired of the pursuit prays to God. Both the Pharisee and the tax collector are praying but the Pharisee’s prayer is about his greatness. The tax collector’s prayer is seeking God to do something that humbles him, repenting and asking forgiveness.
We have the same choice. We can pray and sing our own praises or we can humble ourselves before God, admit that we aren’t quite as great as we want to think and seek forgiveness. Acceptable prayer begins with a heart that is contrite and humble. The psalmist and the tax collector show us how it’s done.
Have a great day in the Lord.
In search of the genuine,
Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved.