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Psalm 6

A cry in the dark

We live amid the stark daily realities of sickness, grief and death, which put peace and security finally beyond our control. But what if God is behind such problems? If so, then he’s also the solution—our only hope.

A David psalm.

1 Don’t rebuke me in anger, Yahveh
or punish me in your wrath.
Pity this poor weakling and heal me
because even my bones shudder
as anguish shakes me to my core.
And you, Yahveh—how long?

Let up, Yahveh
for the sake of your steadfast love.
Look down and rescue me
before it’s too late.
What good am I to you dead—
will I sing to you from my coffin?a

I’ve exhausted myself crying—
my pillow awash with me
on the salt sea of my tears.
Anger darkens my vision
aging me under the outrages of my foes.

Back off, all you evildoers!
Because Yahveh has heard my crying.
Yahveh has heard my plea for mercy.
Yahveh will answer my prayer.
10 That’s right—
my enemies will suddenly convulse
and run for their lives
like shamefaced fools!

David is ill. But the psalm concludes focusing on his enemies’ defeat and leaves his healing only implicit. This may mean his illness isn’t primary, caused by the stress of enemy attacks that threaten his life. Alternatively, his enemies may be attacking him because he’s weakened by illness, which was often fatal in ancient times. Either way, his enemies’ threat—devastating, scandalous, ongoing—leaves him furious, anguished, shaken to the core, exhausted, asking God, “How long?”

But to David it’s not just mortal enemies against him. He clearly sees his many challenges as God’s rebuke, making God David’s real problem. So, he begs God—who clearly has his full attention—to stop angrily rebuking him and rescue, heal and restore him before it’s too late.

God’s anger isn’t random or inscrutable. It always directly relates to wrongs that inflict harm, but David doesn’t mention his sins or express contrition as we might expect. He simply begs God to let up for the sake of his steadfast love. Then in humble dependence on God, he voices his conviction that Yahveh has heard his cry for mercy and will assuredly rescue him. That’s why, though still at risk, David orders his enemies to back off, confident that God will turn the tables on them very soon.

In a world riddled with sickness, violence and death, I cry, How long, O God? Yet I’m comforted to know that none of these things can separate me from your unfailing love—my certain hope in this dark night. Deliver me from evil so I can glorify you with my every breath. Amen.

In your free moments today, savor these words:

Let up, Yahveh, for the sake of your steadfast love.
Look down and rescue me before it’s too late.


a This argument seems odd today, but ancient Israelites had little grasp of life beyond the grave. The psalmist is just asking God to let him live out all his days to God’s glory.

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.