Good morning! Today we are getting a jump on our sermon series for Lent. For the next 7 weeks, not including next Sunday when missionary Kelly Koski will be with us, we’ll be focused on the Penitential Psalms. These seven Psalms got their name from a scholar who wrote one of the first commentaries on the Bible way back in the 6th century.
The word Penitential refers to a cry for help, a cry of sorrow or regret, a cry for forgiveness. Pretty appropriate for where we find ourselves in 21st century America.
A couple things about the Psalms before we begin. These are hymns, prayers to be sung in public worship. We don’t have the tunes anymore, but we have the lyrics and they are as powerful and relevant today as when they were first composed.
In the Psalms, we find an honest confession of our human brokenness and depravity interfacing with a confession of our trust in God’s power to save. In the Psalms we see ourselves as we really are and God as he really is. That’s not easy, but for those who are courageous enough, it ends in joy and peace this world can’t give. The introduction to the Psalm 6 goes like this - For the director of music. With 8 stringed sheminith. A psalm of David.
“LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint; heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, LORD, how long?” Psalm 6:1-3
This is the prayer of a sick man who feels helpless against his enemies. David knows he has done nothing to merit God’s deliverance. It’s possible that his illness is a judgement from God. But what David knows for sure is that he is too weak to save himself so he calls on the Lord to turn and notice his need and help him.
Remember David is the former shepherd boy who killed lions and bears defending his sheep. He killed Goliath. He even had the strength to wield Goliath’s sword in battle. David is a mighty warrior, yet freely admits his weakness. In his need he cries out to the Lord,
“Turn, LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave?” Psalm 6:4-5
The Hebrew word for unfailing love is c’Hesed. It’s a love that comes from God alone. It’s like a rock, unwavering, unchanging, it never ends. It’s called agape in the NT.
Psalm 6 reminds me of Jesus’ response to the crippled man in John 5. The guy had been an invalid for 38 years. That’s a tragic word – invalid. Since when is anyone in-valid? The word may not be politically correct, but it’s what sin does to us. Sin steals our birthright. It in-validates us. It destroys our personhood in a way that only God can restore.
When Jesus learns of his condition, he goes to him. That’s what Savior’s do. When we can’t get to him, he comes to us. David understood that good shepherds go find their lost sheep.
Jesus asks the crippled man a question. He says, “Do you want to get well? - Or are you satisfied to spend the rest of your life laying here begging for scraps? Do you want to get well or are you afraid of the responsibility that will come with being healed?” Good questions. If Jesus asked you if you wanted to get well, if you wanted to be set free from your sin, how would you answer him?
Let’s go back to Psalm 6. Remember David wrote this as a prayer to be used by the whole nation of Israel. “I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.” Psalm 6:6-7
I can’t help but think about America. Are we like the invalid Jesus healed? Are we like the sick man in Psalm 6? Is there a cancer in the very soul of our nation? Are we worn out from our groaning? Are our eyes weak with sorrow? Are we surrounded by enemies?
Jesus asked the crippled man, “Do you want to get well?” John 5:6 That’s a critical question for America today. “Do we want to get well”? Are we open to God’s help and deliverance? Do we want to get well as a nation? Or are we satisfied with the way things are?
The first question most addiction counselors ask their clients is this, “Do you want to get well?” Until we are willing to let go of the false security of our addiction and the “stinkin’ thinkin’” of our “poor me” attitudes nothing will change. We will remain in whatever bondage we are in.
“Sir”, the crippled man responded, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred.” John 5:7 That may not sound like a prayer, but I believe it was. Evidently it was faith enough, because Jesus said, “Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was healed. For the Hebrews being healed also meant having your sins forgiven. Jesus meets the man later and warns him, “See you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you!” John 5:14
How often have we wanted God to save us from the consequences of our sin, but we don’t want to change and leave our sinful behavior behind? We blame God for our suffering but we are unwilling to take responsibility for the choices we made that led to our suffering?
How sick do we have to be as a nation and as individuals before we turn to the Lord? What should we do as the church for the sake of America? Remember, David wrote this psalm to be used in worship. It was a prayer of confession to be done by the whole nation. It was an honest look at how sick they had become as a result of their depravity.
Maybe the sickness David describes isn’t about him at all. Maybe he wrote this in his role as the king for the sake of leading his whole nation in confession before the LORD. Listen to these words from 1 Peter 4. Peter is writing to us as the church.
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you… For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” 1 Peter 4:12-17
What is we were to use Psalm 6 as a prayer of intercession for America today? Let me give you an example. Will you pray with me…
LORD, do not rebuke America in your anger or discipline us in your wrath. Have mercy on us, LORD, for we are faint; heal us, LORD, for our bones are in agony. The soul of our nation is in deep anguish. How long, LORD, how long?
Turn, LORD, and deliver us; save us because of your unfailing love. Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave? We are worn out from our groaning.
All night we flood our bed with weeping and drench our couch with tears. Our eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all our foes.”
I’m sure there were many in Israel who didn’t know the LORD in the way David knew the LORD. I’m sure there were many who were oblivious to the sins that grieved David’s heart.
But David knew the LORD cared for him and for the whole nation, just like a Good Shepherd cares for his sheep. David knew the LORD had the power to save him from his own depravity and he knew the LORD had the power to save his people as well.
Because of that, David believed he had a job to do on behalf of his nation. He was to lead them into confession and intercede for them. That’s what Jesus did. And he has given us the same job. Peter said “It is time for judgment to begin with the house of God.” That’s us.
If we want to see repentance and change in America, it must begin right here with us. If we want to see America healed and restored, it begins with us. We must be honest with God and with each other about our need for forgiveness and deliverance from our sin. We must look to Jesus alone for our salvation.
We must recognize the tragedy of sin and grieve the sinful choices our nation is making. We must admit how sick we have become and be willing for the Lord to change our hearts and heal us. We must answer the Lord’s question, “Do you want to get well”.
But Psalm 6 isn’t only a confession of our need for healing, it’s a confession of faith and confidence in God’s power and willingness to save us. Even before he sees God’s answer, David sings. Let’s read it together…“Away from me, all you who do evil, for the LORD has heard my weeping. The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer. All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish; they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.” Psalm 6:8-9
There is a sin-sickness in the soul of America that no politician, economic policy, or religion can heal. But Jesus can – if we will turn to him. David asks, “How long, LORD – how long”.
Good question. Part of that answer depends on us. How long until we are willing to repent and cry out to the Lord to heal us? How long until we are willing for the Lord to change us and then rather than returning to our old sinful habits, attitudes, learn to live in a new way?
One thing is sure. Until those changes happen first right here among us, it will never happen in our nation. Just as David took the lead in confessing his sin and his faith in God’s power to heal and save for the sake of the people in his time and place, so we must take the lead in confessing our need for a Savior and our faith in Jesus’ power to save for the sake of the people in our time and place.