Title. This Psalm is commonly known as the first of the Penitential Psalms, (The other six are Psalms 32:1-11, 38:1-22, 51:1-19, 102:1-7, 130:1-8, 143:1-12) and certainly its language well becomes the lip of a penitent, for it expresses at once the sorrow, (Psalms 6:3, 6, 7), the humiliation (Psalms 6:2, 4), and the hatred of sin (Psalms 6:8), which are the unfailing marks of the contrite spirit when it turns to God. O Holy Spirit, beget in us the true repentance which needeth not to be repented of. The title of this Psalm is “To the chief Musician on Neginoth upon Sheminith (1 Chronicles 15:21), A Psalm of David,” that is, to the chief musician with stringed instruments, upon the eighth, probably the octave. Some think it refers to the bass or tenor key, which would certainly be well adapted to this mournful ode. But we are not able to understand these old musical terms, and even the term “Selah,” still remains untranslated. This, however, should be no difficulty in our way. We probably lose but very little by our ignorance, and it may serve to confirm our faith. It is a proof of the high antiquity of these Psalms that they contain words, the meaning of which is lost even to the best scholars of the Hebrew language. Surely these are but incidental (accidental I might almost say, if I did not believe them to be designed by God), proofs of their being, what they profess to be, the ancient writings of King David of olden times.
Division. You will observe that the Psalm is readily divided into two parts. First, there is the Psalmist’s plea in his great distress, reaching from the first to the end of the seventh verse. Then you have, from the eighth to the end, quite a different theme. The Psalmist has changed his note. He leaves the minor key, and betakes himself to sublimer strains. He tunes his note to the high key of confidence, and declares that God hath heard his prayer, and hath delivered him out of all his troubles.
The Treasury of David.
The Lord hath heard my supplication. The Holy Spirit had wrought into the Psalmist’s mind the confidence that his prayer was heard. This is frequently the privilege of the saints. Praying the prayer of faith, they are often infallibly assured that they have prevailed with God. We read of Luther that, having on one occasion wrestled hard with God in prayer, he came leaping out of his closet crying, “Vicimus, vicimus;” that is, We have conquered, we have prevailed with God.” Assured confidence is no idle dream, for when the Holy Ghost bestows it upon us, we know its reality, and could not doubt it, even though all men should deride our boldness.
The Lord will receive my prayer. Here is past experience used for future encouragement.
He hath, he will. Note this, O believer, and imitate its reasoning.
The Lord hath heard my supplication, etc. The psalmist three times expresses his confidence of his prayers being heard and received, which may be either in reference to his having prayed so many times for help, as the apostle Paul did (2 Corinthians 12:8); and as Christ his antitype did (Matthew 26:39, 42, 44); or to express the certainty of it, the strength of his faith in it, and the exuberance of his joy on account of it. John Gill, D.D., 1697-1771.
Past answers the ground of present confidence. He hath, he will.
The Treasury of David.
A Godly and Fruitful Exposition on the Sixt Psalme, the First of the Penitentials; in a sacred Septenarie; or, a Godly and Fruitful Exposition on the Seven Psalmes of Repentance. by Mr. Archibald Symson, late Pastor of the Church at Dalkeeth in Scotland. 1638.
Sermones on the Penetential Psalms, in “The Works of John Donne, D.D., Dean of St. Paul’s,” 1621-1631. Edited by Henry Alford, M.A. In six volumes. 1839.
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