Psalm 6 (2): Lord Have Mercy on Me
Thoughts from Psalm 6 in six parts (Each section begins with the verses I will comment on, followed by a prayer and a concluding verse).
=== 2 ===
Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint;
heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
It may be that David was physically ill. If so, this was either life threatening or so debilitating that David felt compelled to ask for mercy. We all know how paralysing a headache can be - that it can cause or be made worse through stress - so we hardly need to know the detail of his discomfort to understand his anguish, only that he is deeply troubled. That the Psalms don't rhyme has nothing to do with the translation; Hebrew poetry often uses repetition to emphasis a point. Here we see a theme repeated twice but from a new perspective each time.
David is faint, in agony and deeply troubled, everything you would associate with a severe illness, but just as illness causes distress, so does distress manifest itself in physical symptoms. We hear much these days about holistic medicine whereby the whole body is treated as a combination of physical, mental and spiritual. Modern medicine acknowledges that a person's state of mind can have a significant impact on their physical wellbeing. It's been said that the majority of cases seen by a GP have a significant psychological dimension and increasing numbers of surgeries have been employing specialists to meet needs that have now been recognised as genuine.
In biblical times it was common for illness to be thought to have a moral connection and the word disease (dis + ease) suggests being out of sorts with yourself and your environment. In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Paul says, "May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless." Many have used this to justify their view that we are made up of three distinct parts but I'm sure that Paul means our whole lives. Both Jesus and Paul argue that it is not your body that's evil (even though its wasting away) but what is in your heart. We think of the heart being our core being yet in Hebrew scripture, that which is rendered 'heart' in English often means intestines (our gut), which is where we feel things most deeply. We will have a resurrection body but if God only saves our soul what role will our body have? Jesus, after his resurrection, had a spiritual body that could disappear through walls yet eat a fish. We acknowledge Jesus with our mind yet scripture says nothing of the brain. There is clearly no biblical systematic theology of man in a physiological sense.
David clearly sees every aspect of his life as merely an expression of where he is in his relationship with God. His life force is fading; his frame is crumbling; he is struggling as a person. As we shall hear later, he feels oppressed by his enemies. Whatever ails him, his LORD is the remedy. If God were to write a prescription the remedy would be shalom - peace, healing and wholeness that can only come from knowing God who will enrich his life in every way.
Lord, in a world that divides families, communities and nations - prescribe shalom for my life. Restore what has been broken by others and by myself. You have promised healing for the nations; ignore my craving for physical health when it would make me complacent and unmindful of the suffering of others. Have mercy on me Lord for you alone can bring true restoration.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9)
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