The Word Made Fresh
(To the worship leader: accompanied with stringed instruments to the tune of the Sheminith. A psalm of David.)
1LORD, don’t bawl me out in your anger.
Don’t punish me when you’re furious.
2Be kind to me, LORD. I am weak,
and trembling with fear, and I need your healing touch.
3My soul is terrified in anguish,
but for how long, LORD, how long?
4Return, LORD, and rescue me!
Surely your unfailing love can recue me.
5No one can remember you in death.
No one can praise you from the grave.
6I am worn out from groaning.
Every night my bed is wet with my tears.
My pillow is soaked from my weeping.
7My eyes are blurred from sorrow
and are weakened because of all my enemies.
8Get away from me, you troublemakers!
The LORD has heard my cries.
9The LORD has heard me praying,
and has accepted my prayer.
10All my foes will be ashamed and terrified.
They’ll turn around and sneak away in shame.
Superscription: the 4th “psalm of David.” The word “sheminith” first occurs at 1 Chronicles 15:21 where we are told that some priests were to lead the chorus with harps according to “Alamoth,” while others were to lead the singing with lyres according to “Sheminith.” Alamoth is thought to refer to soprano voices; Sheminith may refer to lower male voices. It is related to the word that means “eighth,” and many scholars think it refers to a musical tone or perhaps to an eight-stringed lyre. In Christian tradition the psalm has been included in the 7 “penitential” psalms, along with 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143.
1-3: The author is suffering from an illness that makes him weak and fearful and prays that God will bring healing. It is a common sentiment in the Old Testament that illnesses are sent by God as disciplinary measures.
4-5: He is anxious for his life and asks God to rescue him for God’s sake. He maintains that it will be to God’s advantage to let him live because if he dies, he won’t be able to praise God any longer or even remember God. This is an audacious sentiment; he is a person of some importance in the religious community as well as being a king, since the king in ancient Israel was also a key religious figure.
6-7: He describes the suffering his illness causes. The reference to “all my enemies” seems out of place here, and indeed constitutes a change in the direction of the psalm. Of course, if the psalmist is David or another royal official, his illness might be seen by some ambitious courtiers as an opportunity for their own advancement.
8-10: Now he addresses those imagined (or real!) enemies, telling them to go away. He avers that God has heard his prayers and therefore he will recover, and their ambition will quickly turn to fear. The situation may be foreign to us but would that we could be as confident about the outcome of our prayers!
We may not believe that God sends illnesses to discipline us, but God certainly allows illnesses to intersect with our lives, and there’s very little difference between those two statements. So, if God allows us to become ill, what could be the reason, other than that God wants all the experiences we encounter in life to teach us something? So, consider what is happening in your life today, and what is God trying to teach you?