An individual lament,
One of the seven penitential Psalms
A Psalm of David
This is the first of seven penitential psalms - songs of confession and humility before God. The Psalmist experiences great sorrow, and physical illness, over having sinned. Now, receiving the rebuke of God, he calls out to God to lighten the chastisement.
But, God's chastening hand is not primarily a mark of His displeasure, it is a mark of our adoption as sons. For what son is there whom a father does not chasten? When God corrects us it doesn't feel pleasant, but it is good and for our good.
It was a custom in the early church to sing these psalms on Ash Wednesday - the beginning of our lenten penance. 2
Domine, ne in furore
2 Lord, do not reprove me in your anger; punish me not in your rage.
3 Have mercy on me, Lord, I have no strength; Lord, heal me, my body is racked;
4 my soul is racked with pain.
But you, O Lord...how long?
5 Return, Lord, rescue my soul. Save me in your merciful love;
6 for in death no one remembers you; from the grave, who can give you praise?
7 I am exhausted with my groaning; every night I drench my pillow with tears; I bedew my bed with weeping.
8 My eye wastes away with grief; I have grown old surrounded by my foes.
9 Leave me, all you who do evil; for the Lord has heard my weeping.
10 The Lord has heard my plea; The Lord will accept my prayer.
11 All my foes will retire in confusion,
foiled and suddenly confounded.
Athanasian Grail Psalter 1
David's lament consist of three principle complaints
In response he
Thus, turning to his Father, David assures himself of an answer of peace, fully restored, similar to the plight and lament of Job.
David was a weeping prophet, as well as Jeremiah, and this psalm is one of his lamentations. It was likely penned in a time of great trouble, both inward and outward. He begins with doleful complaints, but ends with joyful praises; like Hannah, who went to prayer with a sorrowful spirit, but, when she had prayed, went her way, refreshed and restored
In the appeal David makes to God of his grievances, he pours out his complaint before him. When else should a child go with his complaints, but to his father? Though David was a king, yet he was sick and pained; his imperial crown could not keep his head from aching. Great men are men, and subject to the common calamities of human life.
Though David was a stout man, a man of war from his youth, this could not secure him from distempers, which will soon make even the strong men to bow themselves. Though David was a good man, yet neither could his goodness keep him in health. It has been the lot of some of the best saints, and that we are directed and encouraged by their example to show before God our trouble.
He complains of inward trouble: "My soul is also sorely vexed"; and that is much more grievous than the vexation of the bones. The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity, if that be in good plight; but, if that be wounded, the grievance is intolerable. David’s sickness brought his sin to his remembrance. To the living God we must, at such a time, address ourselves, who is the only physician both of body and mind,
David had more courage and consideration than to mourn for his outward affliction. But, when sin sat heavily upon his conscience, he was made to possess his iniquities. When his soul was wounded with the sense of God’s wrath and his withdrawal from Him, then he thus grieves and mourns in secret, and even his soul refuses to be comforted.
David, who could face Goliath, and many another threatening enemies, with an undaunted bravery, yet melts into tears at the remembrance of his sin and under the apprehensions of Divine Wrath; and it was not any diminution of his character to do so. Sorrow for sin ought to be great sorrow.
In the petitions, which he offers up to God in his sorrowful and distressed state, what he dreads most is the anger of God. This is the wormwood and the gall in affliction and misery; it was the infusion of this that made it indeed a bitter cup; and therefore he prays, "O Lord! rebuke me not in thy anger, though I have deserved it, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure". Note that he does not pray, “Lord, rebuke me not; or Lord, chasten me not”. David recognizes that he needs correction. He only pleas that it not be given in anger, as he is truly contrite; contrite to the point of illness and tears.
Now, having made his requests known to God, and lodged his case with him, the Psalmist is very confident that God will use his sin for good and his sorrow will be turned into joy. In this, he distinguishes himself from the wicked and fortifies himself against their insults. Afraid that God’s wrath against him would assign hum a place with the workers of iniquity; now the cloud of melancholy had lifted and he rejoices in God's forgiveness, that his soul would not be gathered with sinners.
The workers of iniquity had teased him, taunted him, and asked him, “Where is thy God?” They triumphed in his despondency and despair. But now, he had answer those that reproached him, for God, who was about to return in mercy to him, had now comforted his spirit and would shortly complete his deliverance. David takes this occasion to renew his purpose. He uses his power for the suppression of sin. When God has done great things for us, this should be our response: discerning what we shall do for him.
By the workings of God’s grace upon his heart he knew his prayer was graciously accepted, and therefore did not doubt but it would, in due time, be effectually answered. "The Lord has heard the voice of my weeping." Silent tears are not speechless ones. His prayers were cries to God. Thence, he infers a favourable audience for all his other prayers: “He has heard the voice of my supplication, and therefore he will receive my prayer." His tears had a voice, a loud voice, in the ears of the God of Mercy. 1