The RIGHTEOUS One’s CRY For Mercy & Deliverance

A brief study of Psalm 6, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 9 June 2006

Psalm 6, is one of seven psalms known as Penitential Psalms. (The others are Pss 32; 38; 51; 130; 140; 143). Penitential Psalms are often spoken of as if they are mutually exclusive to Messianic Psalms. It is thought that since the Messiah is altogether holy, He would have no occasion to ask the Father for mercy or to hold His hand of chastisement.

But I am not comfortable with this view. I believe that this psalm, as with all the other psalms, is Messianic in one way or another. I agree with Andrew Bonar that this psalm is not of David, but of the Son of David, for "the grief is too deep for any other." Bonar adds: "David may have been led by the Holy Ghost to write it when in anguish of soul, as well as suffering of body; through such a bruised reed the Spirit of God may have breathed. But surely he meant to tell of One greater than David,—‘the Man of Sorrows.’"

The Prophet Isaiah speaking of the ministry of the Lord says, "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted" (Isa 53:4). Our Lord bore the grieves and sorrows that belong to us on account of our sin. He experienced what we ought to have experienced for our sin. Our hearts are too cold and hardened to respond to sin in a way that is pleasing and acceptable to our holy heavenly Father. Christ our Lord took not only our punishment upon Himself, but our penitence too.

With this in mind, we see that the psalm has essentially two parts: In verses 1-7, we see our Lord prostrated in the Garden of Gethsemane, crying unto His Father for mercy; in verses 8-10; we see Him, arising and declaring victory in His Father.

Consider first the cry of mercy of our Lord that reflects His anguish as He headed to the Cross, and particularly as He paused in the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.

1. A Cry for Mercy

1 O LORD, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.

Our Lord was bearing our sin. Upon Him was heaped the guilt of our sin. The wrath of our Father was hot against Him as a result. Did not our Lord say: "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me" (Mt 26:39)?

2 Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed.

Our Lord said to His disciples: "the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Mt 26:41). I wonder if He was only referring to His disciples, or was He not also referring to Himself? For the word that is translated ‘willing’ (provqumo") is not one of the usual words for ‘willing’ (bouvlomai, euj-dokevw). It is rather a word that means ‘ready’.

In the two other occasions it is used in the New Testament, it is translated as ‘ready’. "Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak" (Mk 14:38); "I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also" (Rom 1:15).

Being fully man, our Lord would no doubt have felt the burden upon His flesh. In His divine Spirit, He was ready to go to the cross. But His flesh was weak. He must have felt empty in His stomach. He must have felt an aching in His bone. "For my bones are vexed" He says. Do you not feel the same when great trouble comes upon your soul?

The Lord said: "the spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak," He is suggesting that in His Spirit, He is prepared to go to the Cross, but there is apprehension in His flesh.

But of course, it was not just His flesh that was vexed, but His soul as well:

3 My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long? 4 Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies’ sake.

Did not the Lord tell His disciples: "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death" (Mt 26:38)?

So here in verse 5, we see the Lord saying:

5 For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?

Oh how our Lord must have been tried as He anticipated the Cross, for He knew that as He tasted death on behalf of His people, he would experience a season of deep darkness when memories of God’s mercy would be clouded by a sense of His wrath.

And He knew that if He were given over to the power of death, then neither He nor the church will have occasion to give thanks unto the Lord.

6 I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears. 7 Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.

Our Lord certainly did not pray with dry eyes. No, no; the burden of sin and the assault of the wicked one upon His soul could not be borne without tears.

Our Lord, who wept in sympathy with Mary the sister of Lazarus, must have no doubt wept in the Garden of Gethsemane as He considered how He would be forsaken not only by His disciples, but even, as it were, by His Father.

But "weeping may endure for a night, [and] joy cometh in the morning" (Ps 30:5). So in this psalm, even as He was anticipating the terror of the Cross, our Lord looked forward to the deliverance that comes in answer to prayer. And so the psalm concludes with…

2. A Cry for Deliverance

8 Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping. 9 The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer. 10 Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly.

The Father will always hear the prayer of His beloved Son. So our Lord, confidently exclaim to those who would torment Him: "Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity."

Do not these words sound familiar? Turn to Matthew 6—

"21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Mt 7:21-23).

These words are not exactly the same. Well, turn to Luke 13:27. Here is a parable intended to teach exactly the same thing as in Matthew 7; what does the master of the house, who represents the Lord say? "Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity."

Our Lord was led to the Cross by the workers of iniquity. But these workers of iniquity do not stand alone. They were, as it were, representatives of all workers of iniquity throughout the ages. These comprise of Jews and Gentiles; heathen and professing Christians. In Matthew 7, our Lord is clearly referring to those who would call Him "Lord, Lord", or professing Christians.

But make no mistake. It is not only false believers who will be sent off to eternal damnation.

All who oppose Christ and all who refuse to submit to Him are likewise the enemies of Christ. These will be sent away. And not only so, but everything in this world that is opposed to godliness,—everything that Satan makes use of today to bring shame to the name of Christ will be destroyed. In that day, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. In that day, the war of the ages will come to a glorious end.

The prayer of our Lord would in that day be fully answered. What a wonder it will be as God’s people behold their Saviour and themselves vindicated and exalted!


Although the Lord has taken upon Himself our grief and sorrow, He has given us His Spirit so that we may have a godly response when we fall into sin. At such times, rather than bottling up our grief, let us learn to give expression of our sorrow with the words of this psalm.

As we sorrow, let us remember that our Lord sorrowed on our behalf. We know that though we ought to sorrow, our tears can never wash away our sin as Rome teaches they can. No, no; even our repentance and sorrow is tainted with sin.

But thank God that we have a sympathetic high priest who was at all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. And not only so, but though He did not fall into sin as we did, he felt the grief that we should be feeling that we may know the restorative hand of our Father, though our repentance is tainted with pride.

Thank God we can sing this psalm as a people united to Christ; whose sins have been forgiven us for Christ sake; who will be given a glorious entry into our heavenly rest in the day when Christ returns again.

Are you, beloved brethren, discouraged because of sin? Are you struggling because you feel the hand of God’s chastisement upon you? May I encourage you to meditate on the suffering and victory of our Lord as given in this psalm. May I encourage you to pray with assurance, that you have a sympathetic high priest who fully understands your sorrows and grief. May I encourage you to look to Him with full confidence and hope that all your struggles will come to an end in the day the Father completes His answer to the prayer of your Saviour. Amen.

— JJ Lim

"Pray often; for prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge for Satan" (John Bunyan)