Introduction: This psalm includes one of David’s many appeals for God to show him mercy and grace. Mercy is not receiving the punishment that you deserve. Grace is receiving the blessing that you do not deserve. Because David committed a number of serious sins, God disciplined him. Like David, everyone is in need of God’s mercy and grace. To encourage others to also seek out God’s mercy and grace, many churches read this psalm during Ash Wednesday. Here, David reveals seven types of mercy and grace for you to seek in your prayers. These include: (1) forgiveness, (2) healing, (3) restoration, (4) salvation, (5) comfort, (6) deliverance, and (7) faith.
First, David cried out for mercy after experiencing God’s discipline. When you repent of your sins, God’s mercy and grace includes His forgiveness of your sins. Second, David also cried out for relief when his sins caused his health to deteriorate. God’s mercy and grace can also include healing you. Third, David also cried out because he faced shame and rejection because of his sins. David longed for his relationships with others to be restored. God’s mercy and grace can also include your restoration. Fourth, David’s plea included a request for mercy on his soul. God’s mercy and grace also includes your eternal salvation through Jesus. Fifth, David also cried out for God’s comfort as he cried himself to sleep every night. God’s mercy and grace also includes His comfort during your trials. Sixth, David told his enemies to leave him. Because of his faith, he was confident in his undeserved deliverance. God’s mercy and grace can also include your deliverance. Finally, even though he was undeserving of God’s mercy and grace, David prayed with confidence in God’s prior promises. When you experience God’s mercy and grace, it can also develop and grow your faith to trust in His many written promises to you.
David prayed for mercy after God disciplined him for his many sins. Most likely after David committed adultery and murder, he cried out for mercy when God disciplined him: “Prayer for Mercy in Time of Trouble. For the music director; with stringed instruments, upon an eight-string lyre. A Psalm of David. 1 Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger, nor discipline me in Your wrath.” (Ps. 6:1). While Job incorrectly looked at his suffering as evidence of God’s judgment, David did not need to guess whether God had judged him. The prophet Nathan made clear that God had judged David for his sins.
God disciplined David and his descendants because of sin. God disciplined David for his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband Uriah (2 Sam. 11:4-24). Because of David’s adultery and murder, God warned that conflict would exist within his family: “Now then, the sword shall never leave your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. Thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.’ (2 Sam. 12:10-11). His adulterous child with Bathsheba would also die at childbirth (2 Sam. 12:14). David later thanked God that his severe discipline did not include the death that he deserved: “The LORD has disciplined me severely, but He has not turned me over to death.” (Ps. 118:18). David was not alone in his discipline. God also warned David that He would discipline his future descendants when they sinned: “I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he does wrong, I will discipline him with a rod of men and with strokes of sons of mankind,” (2 Sam. 7:14).
David cried out for God’s mercy and grace1
God disciplines those whom He loves. God repeatedly warns that He will discipline sin. But He does so out of love the way a parent disciplines a child (Heb. 12:7). His goal is to change the behavior of the sinner and restore true fellowship: “So you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.” (Dt. 8:5). “With rebukes You punish a person for wrongdoing; You consume like a moth what is precious to him; certainly all mankind is mere breath! Selah” (Ps. 39:11). “For whom the LORD loves He disciplines, just as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights.” (Prov. 3:12). “For whom the Lord Loves He disciplines, and He punishes every son whom He accepts.” (Heb. 12:6). “But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.” (1 Cor. 11:32). “Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.” (Rev. 3:19). If you have been discipled, take solace that God does so out of love for you.
Repent and cry out for Jesus’ mercy when you sin. David was a sinner. But he always repented of his sins and cried out for God’s mercy when he sinned (Ps. 6:1). “Hear, LORD, when I cry with my voice, and be gracious to me and answer me. . . Do not hide Your face from me, do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; do not abandon me nor forsake me, God of my salvation!” (Ps. 27:7, 9). “Hear, LORD, and be gracious to me; LORD, be my helper.” (Ps. 30:10). God wants you to follow David’s example. When you sin, God wants you to call out to Him to receive His mercy.
Repent of your sins each day, and Jesus will forgive you. On many other occasions, David also freely and repeatedly confessed his sins to God: “I acknowledged my sin to You, and I did not hide my guilt; I said, ‘I will confess my wrongdoings to the LORD’; and You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah” (Ps. 32:5). “For I admit my guilt; I am full of anxiety because of my sin.” (Ps. 38:18). “Wash me thoroughly from my guilt and cleanse me from my sin.” (Ps. 51:2). When you confess your sins, Jesus will forgive you: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jo. 1:9). Every person has sins to confess. And most people sin each day. Are you confessing your sins to Jesus?
Don’t automatically assume that your suffering is a punishment. Many believers make the mistake of looking at their circumstances and trying to interpret God’s thoughts. This is frequently done out of ignorance. Suffering is not always the result of sin. Job and his friends all incorrectly assumed that God was punishing Job because Job suffered. Jesus also suffered without having committed a sin. David’s circumstance in receiving a direct rebuke from a prophet was unique. In most circumstances, the reasons for your suffering will be unknown. If the reason for your suffering is unknown, first pray for God to reveal His will to you. Then repent of any sins that He makes known to you. Yet, if your suffering is not connected to some sin, trust that God is allowing you to suffer as part of His greater plans for you: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Ro. 8:28). When you suffer and the reasons are unknown, do you put your trust in God?
David’s requests for mercy included requests for God’s healing. As a result of David’s sins, his health suffered. With a contrite heart, he pleaded for relief from his suffering: “2 Be gracious to me, Lord, for I am frail; heal me, Lord, for my bones are horrified.” (Ps. 6:2). David’s suffering served an important purpose. It brought him back to God.
David’s prior attempts to conceal his sins had caused him to suffer physically2
Sin can lead to physical suffering. On many other occasions, David recorded how his sins led to his suffering: “For my life is spent with sorrow and my years with sighing; my strength has failed because of my guilt, and my body has wasted away.” (Ps. 31:10). “There is no healthy part in my flesh because of Your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin. . . My heart throbs, my strength fails me; and the light of my eyes, even that has gone from me.” (Ps. 38:3, 10). “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within me.” (Ps. 22:14). “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.” (Ps. 32:3). “One who conceals his wrongdoings will not prosper, but one who confesses and abandons them will find compassion.” (Prov. 28:13). Poor health can come for many reasons unrelated to sin. Thus, you should not presume that poor health is a punishment. Yet, regardless of the reasons for an illness, God wants you to turn Him.
God can heal you when you cry out to Him. On other occasions, David also confessed his sins and asked for God to heal him: “As for me, I said, ‘LORD, be gracious to me; heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.”’ (Ps. 41:4). Whenever God did heal him, David praised God and gave Him the credit: “LORD my God, I cried to You for help, and You healed me.” (Ps. 30:2). “Who pardons all your guilt, who heals all your diseases;” (Ps. 103:3). “He sent His word and healed them, and saved them from their destruction.” (Ps. 107:20). “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Ps. 73:26). Isaiah also revealed that our Messiah would be crushed for our sins. Through the promised suffering of our Messiah, believers can also be healed: “But He was pierced for our offenses, He was crushed for our wrongdoings; the punishment for our well-being was laid upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Is. 53:5). Just as Isaiah foretold, Jesus suffered for our sins (2 Pet. 2:16). When you repent of your sins and cry out, He can also heal you of your illnesses.
David also cried out for relief from his shame and anguish. David was also plagued with shame and rejection. But he again gave these burdens to God: “3 And my soul is greatly horrified; but You, Lord—how long?” (Ps. 6:3). As part of his punishment, the sins that he concealed would be known to everyone: “Indeed, you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and in open daylight.’” (2 Sam. 12:12). Among other forms of public humiliation, his son Absalom later publicly slept with his concubines (2 Sam. 16:22). Others, like Shimei, publicly cursed him (2 Sam. 16:5-6). David was not asking for people to bow down before him as their king with honor and respect. He instead sought to have his strained relationships restored. David showed Shimei forgiveness in the hopes that God would also forgive and restore him: “Perhaps the LORD will look on my misery and return good to me instead of his cursing this day.” (2 Sam. 16:12).
Only God could heal David from his shame and anguish3
Whenever David felt anguish, he gave his burdens to God. David also recorded many psalms where he turned to God in the face of his anxiety: “How long am I to feel anxious in my soul, with grief in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” (Ps. 13:2). “I remember these things and pour out my soul within me. For I used to go over with the multitude and walk them to the house of God, with a voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude celebrating a festival.” (Ps. 42:4). When Job felt anguish, he also cried out to God for relief: “And now my soul is poured out within me; days of misery have seized me.” (Job 30:16). When Hannah was mistreated and felt anguish, she also cried out to God for relief and deliverance: “But Hannah answered and said, ‘No, my lord, I am a woman despairing in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the LORD.”’ (1 Sam. 1:15). Shame and grief are not necessarily signs of God’s discipline. Job and Jesus both suffered rejection without sinning. Yet, whatever the cause of your rejection, turning to God is the answer.
God can restore what you have lost because of sin. When others put you down, Jesus can lift you up and restore you: “And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, and I will offer sacrifices in His tent with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.” (Ps. 27:6). “He rescues me from my enemies; You indeed lift me above those who rise up against me; You rescue me from a violent man.” (Ps. 18:48). “He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the mud; and He set my feet on a rock, making my footsteps firm.” (Ps. 40:2). God later restored David as king, and even his former enemies like Shimei asked David for forgiveness (2 Sam. 19:8-19).
Approach God with confidence to ask Him for your every need. Through faith in Jesus’ atoning death, your sins are forgiven, and you can approach God with confidence to petition Him for your needs: “Therefore let’s approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help at the time of our need.” (Heb. 4:16). Just as David poured out his heart to God with his most intimate needs, God also wants you to be transparent in your prayers to Him: “Think about David’s approach. He was saying to God: ‘Help me!’ ‘Listen to me!’ ‘Don’t be mad at me!’ ‘Where are you?’ David boldly went to God and told Him what was on his mind. Of course, God expects us to come to Him with a clean heart, and we need to approach Him with reverence - but we don’t have to be afraid to tell God what we’re thinking and feeling. Next time you talk with your heavenly Father – tell it straight. He’ll listen, and He’ll understand.” (Dave Branon, Mart DeHann, Together with God, A Devotional Reading for Every Day of the Year, Discovery House, (2016), p. 6).
David’s cry for mercy included a request for his salvation. More important than David’s immediate physical and emotional pain, he cried out for God’s eternal mercy on his soul: “4 Return, Lord, rescue my soul; save me because of Your mercy. 5 For there is no mention of You in death; in Sheol, who will praise You?” (Ps. 6:4-5). David also requested God’s deliverance so that He could praise God and encourage others.
Turn to God when you are in need of deliverance. The psalms include many examples where David’s cries for mercy included a request for God’s deliverance: “Arise, LORD; save me, my God! For You have struck all my enemies on the cheek; You have shattered the teeth of the wicked.” (Ps. 3:7). “Save, LORD; may the King answer us on the day we call.” (Ps. 20:9). David had the faith to know that God would be faithful to him. God was faithful even though David had not been faithful to God: “Make Your face shine upon Your servant; save me in Your faithfulness.” (Ps. 31:16). “God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us— Selah” (Ps. 61:1).
Thank Jesus that His deliverance includes eternal salvation. The psalms also include many praises that God’s mercy includes deliverance from eternal death: “For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; You will not allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.” (Ps. 16:10). This foreshadowed Jesus, who died for our sins but never decayed in the grave (Act 13:35). “But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, for He will receive me. Selah” (Ps. 49:15). “For Your graciousness toward me is great, and You have saved my soul from the depths of Sheol.” (Ps. 88:13). “For You have rescued my soul from death, My eyes from tears, and my feet from stumbling.” (Ps. 116:8). “I will not die, but live, and tell of the works of the LORD.” (Ps. 118:17). The promise of eternal life included eternal joy: “You will make known to me the way of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” (Ps. 16:11).
Praise God publicly when He delivers you to encourage others. As a man after God’s heart, David’s cries were not just for his own benefit. He also wanted to praise God for his faithfulness to encourage others to also turn to God during their trials: “Next is the motivation for the Lord to answer the prayer – the praise that will be offered. The righteous know full well that God answers prayers so that people will give glory to God through public praise. According to Psalm 111:4, God made all His wonderful works a memorial. In other words, His great deeds, especially His saving acts, were to be kept alive in the memory of the people by the constant praise of the faithful. In line with this the psalmist reasons that if God does not deliver him, he will die, and God will not receive any praise from him. People will not hear how God delivered him because he would not be there to participate in the festivals where praises would be offered (Ps. 122:4).” (Allen Ross, A Commentary of the Psalms: Volume 1 (1-41), Kregel Academic (2011) p. 265-6). When God answers your prayers, do you publicly praise God?
David’s cry for mercy included a request for God’s comfort. Although David sinned, he had the faith to cry out for God’s comfort during his times of intense suffering and crying: “6 I am weary with my sighing; every night I make my bed swim, I flood my couch with my tears. 7 My eye has wasted away with grief; it has grown old because of all my enemies.” (Ps. 6:6-7). David cried out just as a son cries to his father: “God’s chastising hand was heavy upon David. His life seemed to be nothing but tears and misery. David’s trial has at least three components: He felt God was angry with him, he lacked a sense of God’s presence, and he couldn’t sleep. . . . David’s eyes were red and sore from all the tears and lack of sleep . . . David is brought so low that his enemies no longer spur him to seize victory. He seems depressed and discouraged.” (David Guzik on Psalm 6).4
Cry out to God when you are in need of comfort. The psalms are also filled with examples where the psalmist cried out for God’s comfort: “Be gracious to me, LORD, for I am in distress; My eye is wasted away from grief, my soul and my body too.” (Ps. 31:9). “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?”’ (Ps. 42:3). “I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched; My eyes fail while I wait for my God.” (Ps. 69:3). “My eye grows dim from misery; I have called upon You every day, LORD; I have spread out my hands to You.” (Ps. 88:9). If you are suffering, cry out to Jesus. He longs to comfort you in your distress.
Encourage others with the comfort Jesus gives you. When others around you suffer, God wants you to encourage them with the comfort that He gives you: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (1 Cor. 1:3-4). “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb. 3:13). “But I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly.” (Heb. 13:22). When others around you suffer or are in trials, do you encourage them?
David gave thanks that God heard his prayers and delivered him. Because David knew that God only responded to his prayers out of grace, he praised God for His deliverance: “8 Leave me, all you who practice injustice, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. 9 The Lord has heard my pleading, the Lord receives my prayer.” (Ps. 6:8-9). Like David, God will also hear you when you are in distress and pour out your heart to Him: “Is it not sweet to believe that our tears are understood even when words fail! Let us learn to think of tears as liquid prayers.” (Charles Spurgeon on Psalm 6).5
David prayed for deliverance from his enemies6
Give thanks that God hears you and delivers you. On many other occasions, the psalms also recorded David’s gratitude that God heard him and delivered him: “I was crying out to the LORD with my voice, and He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah” (Ps. 3:4). “But know that the LORD has set apart the godly person for Himself; the LORD hears when I call to Him.” (Ps. 4:3). “Leave me, all you who practice injustice, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.” (Ps. 6:8). “In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears.” (Ps. 18:6). “Blessed be the LORD, because He has heard the sound of my pleading.” (Ps. 28:6). Whenever God hears your prayers and delivers you, God also deserves your praise. This will boost your faith. It will also encourage others to turn to God for deliverance during their times of trials or pain.
David confidently proclaimed that his enemies would fail. Knowing that God would keep His promises, David prayed with that his enemies would face God’s judgment: “10 All my enemies will be put to shame and greatly horrified; they shall turn back, they will suddenly be put to shame.” (Ps. 6:10). God did not cause David’s enemies to attack him. But God did temporarily lift His hand of protection. This in turn caused David to turn back to God. God then fulfilled His promises of justice against David’s enemies.
David trusted in God’s promises to protect him from his enemies. David’s prayer against his enemies was not a desire for vengeance. Instead, David prayed in faith with the promises that God previously gave David in the first two psalms: “The confidence that returns in Ps 6:8-10 is like a shoot from a stump whose roots are firmly planted in soils of Pss 1 and 2. Yahweh’s decree in Ps 2 and the blessings described in Ps 1 enable David to warn his enemies that Yahweh has heard his prayers and will punish them . . . The fact that Yahweh has heard David’s plea that Yahweh ‘turn’ (6:4 [MT 6:2-4]) means that the enemies are about to experience what Yahweh said they would in Pss 1 and 2. Thus, David announces in 6:10 (MT 6:11) that they will be shamed and ‘terrified’ – again using the term from 2:5, but this time the right people experience the terror – those who hate the Lord’s anointed. When they turn back from their wicked plots (2:1-3) and experience their sudden shaming it will be like wind driving away chaff (1:4), like the way of the wicked perishing (1:6), like those who have received fair warning being destroyed in the way (2:12).” (James M. Hamilton Jr., Evangelical Bible Theology Commentary Psalms (Vol. I: Psalms 1-72) (Lexham Academic 2021) p. 135) (italics in original).
God’s mercy and grace can also grow your faith. Jesus is both the author and perfecter of your faith: “looking only at Jesus, the originator and perfecter of the faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2). This means that He will develop and grow your faith. Part of this comes from experiencing His faithfulness and His mercy and grace. Another part of this comes from reading or hearing His promises: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Ro. 10:17). If you know His promises, you can pray in faith for God to bless you with His mercy and grace the same way David did. If He delivers you or comforts you and you give Him the credit, your faith will also grow.
God puts you through trials so that you may rely upon Him. God frequently tests His people to draw them back to Him: “for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” (Ex. 20:20(b); Dt. 8:2). David also warned that even the righteous are not beyond God’s testing: “The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked . . .” (Ps. 11:5; Jer. 17:10). When you are tested, you may find that your heart has hidden anger, lust, or covetousness. When God exposes wickedness, He expects you to repent of it (Jer. 17:9). David invited God’s testing to show him where he needed to change (Ps. 139:23). Your trials should produce both perseverance and endurance (Ro. 5:3; Jam. 1:2-3). Paul advised that God put him through trials so that he would rely upon Him and not his own strength (2 Cor. 1:8-10). When you face trials, do you turn to Jesus to build up your faith?
Jesus sometimes takes you into the wilderness so that you will listen. In Hosea 2:14, God says “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness and speak kindly to her.” Sometimes life becomes so busy that you can’t hear the Holy Spirit’s direction. Sometimes, He must pull you into the wilderness before you will listen. If every minute of your day is filled with activity, how much time does He have to speak with you?