More thoughts on King David...
Psalm 6 For the director of music. With stringed instruments. According to sheminith. (probably a musical term) A psalm of David.
This psalm does not tell us where he was living or what was going on in David's life at the time. It is possible that he wrote it during his exile, while running from King Saul. (Perhaps he memorized the words and later wrote them on clay or parchment). With the notation at the top of the Psalm - "with stringed instruments" - it seems likely that this was intended for use during worship at the tabernacle or tent of meeting, even before Solomon built the temple.
David had organized the Levites into their many positions during the latter years of his reign as king. Among those Levites were a group dedicated to music with instruments and singing. Asaph wrote many of the psalms used during this time, and David had not only created the tunes and words, but made some of the musical instruments as well. (2 Chronicles 7:6)
A stringed instrument could have been a lyre (also known as a kinnor or harp) and was probably strummed like a guitar rather than plucked like a harp. Other instruments used in David's day were cymbals, tambourines, drums, flutes, trumpets, shofars, and probably many more. I suspect David was the type of musician who loved to experiment with something new, to create, to sing to the heavens a brand new song. Psalm 144:9 confirms this: "I will sing a new song to you, my God; on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,"
But back to Psalm 6:
"LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint; heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, LORD, how long?
As I mentioned above, I wonder if this is a cry for relief in the midst of the persecution David suffered at the hands of King Saul (his unpredictable father-in-law) who would stop at nothing to end David's life. His anguished "How long, LORD, how long?" strikes me as coming from one who is near the breaking point. (Whatever the circumstances, how many of us can relate to that cry for relief?)
Turn, LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave?
David likely wondered if he would survive Saul's pursuits. There was a point sometime after he married Abigail and had again spared Saul's life, when despair took hold of him. He said, "Now I will perish one day by the hand of Saul." So he escaped to the land of the Philistines.
I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.
After escaping to the Philistines, David's two wives, Ahinoam and Abigail, were among the women and children who were kidnapped by Amalekites. 1 Samuel 30:4 says, "Then David and the people who were with him lifted their voices and wept until there was no strength in them to weep." His men were on the verge of stoning him for taking them to a place where their wives and children had been put in such peril. While this psalm might also apply to other times in David's life, it is certain that he was no stranger to grief.
Away from me, all you who do evil, for the LORD has heard my weeping. The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer. All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish; they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.
In 1 Samuel 30:6, David hears the comments of the men who want to stone him and is "greatly distressed" by this. The men were angry and bitter - a combination that can quickly escalate to rage.
But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.
If this psalm relates to this period in David's life, then God did quickly answer his prayer and led David to track down the kidnappers and rescue all. Even his men, who had hours earlier turned into enemies (ready to stone him) would have (or should have!) been ashamed at their lack of trust in God to save.
If this psalm was written at a different time, it is possible that the psalm ended without a direct answer to his prayers. Either way, this is David's declaration of faith, believing that God would act. He may have begun on a note of anguish or grief, but he ended with faith and hope, based on the character of God.
I think this is a great example to us in modern times, who want to see before we believe, who want instant answers to our questions. Maybe the answers don't come as quickly as we would like...and maybe our faith is tested to the point of utter despair...but we, like David, can cling to this truth: God is faithful. And He hears the prayer of those who earnestly seek Him.