Psalms 6–8: Breadth & Depth

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 3: Wednesday

O Yahweh, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who displays Your splendor above the heavens!
Psalm 8:1 LSB

In today’s Bible reading of Psalm 6–8, each one written by David, underscore that David knows God. The depth of his knowledge of God is seen in David’s trust as he pours out his dismay and weariness, his cries for vindication and judgment, and his praise and wonder to God. The breadth of his knowledge is seen in his understanding and affirmation of who God is. The two are interwoven together, for the breadth of his understanding of God is reflected in the depth of his outpouring of his soul.

Thus says Yahweh, “Let not a wise man boast in his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast in his might; let not a rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am Yahweh who shows lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares Yahweh.
Jeremiah 9:23–24 LSB

Psalm 6 is written out of dismay and weariness. In an evident quandary of mind, David asks God not to reprove him or discipline him, but to have mercy on him and heal him, to return and rescue him. David is worn down and in a state of exhaustion. He has no respite from his grief and tears. Derek Kidner tells us,

This is the first of the seven so-called ‘penitential psalms’, viz. 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143. Prayer, by one who is deeply troubled and alarmed fills the first half of the psalm…

The poignant how long? is often heard in the Psalms (e.g. 13:1; 74:9f.), where we learn, however, that ‘all God’s delays are maturings’, either of time, as in Psalm 37, or of the man, as in 119:67.1

The second half, from verse 6, contains no petition: only, at first, weeping, but finally an outburst of defiant faith. The prayers and tears have not been for nothing.2

Whatever the original circumstances (the title to Ps. 3 suggests a possible origin), the psalms gives words to those who scarcely have the heart to pray, and brings them within the sight of victory.3

Have you ever had days and nights where you feel like David? Pining away, weary and weeping? I have. David’s appeal is remarkable to me. Look at what he says.

Return, O Yahweh, rescue my soul;
Save me because of Your lovingkindness.
Psalm 6:4 LSB

Do you see how the Psalms teach us to know God and trust Him as we grieve, when we are in pain? David knows God delights in lovingkindness, and when he is at rock bottom he appeals to God because of His lovingkindness. And then at the end of Psalm 6, he says he knows God has heard his prayer.

In Psalm 7, David is actively being pursued by an enemy, Cush, a Benjamite. We don’t know who Cush is, but because Saul was also of the tribe of Benjamin, this could have been someone hunting David on Saul’s behalf to kill him.4 David vehemently declares his own integrity in this psalm, asking God to let his enemy take his life if he has done evil to his friend or plundered an adversary without cause. At the end of verse 8, he asks God to, “Vindicate me, O LORD, according to my righteousness and my integrity that is in me.”  The Hebrew word translated as vindicate, שָׁפַט (shāpaţ), is the same word translated as judge in verse 11.

The primary sense of shāpaţ is to exercise the processes of government…although the ancients knew full well what law—whether civil, religious, domestic of otherwise—was, they did not think of themselves as ruled by laws rather than by men…The centering of law, rulership, government in a man was deeply ingrained.

…in a situation of government by persons rather than merely of laws, the civil officer (the shāpēţ “one judging”’) had the executive as well as judicial powers…Hence such words as deliver, vindicate, condemn, punish, and related words of judicial-executive import are justly used in the translations.

…Because all true authority is God’s and he shall ultimately act as judge of the world in the last great assize, he is shāpēţ pre-eminent (Ps. 96:13;  50:6; 75:8 [H 7] and meanwhile through providence he is always supreme shāpēţ (Ps. 94:2; cf. 103:19) of the universe.”5

What kind of judge is God?

God is a righteous judge,
And a God who has indignation every day.
Psalm 7:11 LSB

David’s reliance for vindication is on God, who exercises and delights in justice and righteousness.

I will give thanks to Yahweh according to His righteousness
And will sing praise to the name of Yahweh Most High.
Psalm 7:17 LSB
O Yahweh, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who displays Your splendor above the heavens!

Psalm 8 is a psalm of praise and awe as David considers God’s display of His splendor in the heavens, and asks, What is man that You remember him, And the son of man that You care for him? He then answers in wonder at whom God has made man to be and all that God has given to man.

O Yahweh, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who displays Your splendor above the heavens!
From the mouth of infants and nursing babies You have established strength
Because of Your adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.
When I see Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have established;
What is man that You remember him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
Yet You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen,
And also the animals of the field,
The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.
O Yahweh, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth!
Psalm 8 LSB

The opening words literally mean:

‘O Yahweh, our Sovereign’. Speaking as an Israelite who knows God as Yahweh, the psalmist acknowledges that none other than He is the universal sovereign ruler. It is from this truth that the assurance of faith springs: I am in the care of Him whose hand controls all and whose will as sovereign none can gainsay.6

Notice Psalm 8 begins and ends with the same phrase. Kidner writes about the opening verses (his emphasis),

This adoration is ardent and intimate, for all its reverence. The God whose glory fills the earth is our Lord: we are in covenant with him.7

Read that again. “The God whose glory fills the earth is our Lord: we are in covenant with him.” O Yahweh, our Sovereign.

Dismayed and weary, in deep grief and nightly tears; pursued unjustly, needing deliverance and wanting vindication; in his deepest needs and darkest valleys, David prays. In wonder of God’s majesty, humbled by His works, and in awe God condescended to make man all that he is, David praises God.

Lovingkindness…

Righteous…

Majestic…

David wrote his psalms as poetry, and they are certainly great poetry; however, David did not write them for the purpose of having an eloquent format for his thoughts and feelings—his psalms were addressed to someone—he was calling on God. He cries out, O Yahweh; O Yahweh, my God; O Yahweh, our Lord. David knew God, and he was also a man like us knowing adversity, fears, and dismay in the midst of perilous times. He appealed to God for help because he knew and understood who God is. He praised God because he knew and understood who God is.

May this be our prayer: to know God, to know Him as He is. May He deliver us from our fears and distorted understanding about Him. Through His Word, may God, our Yahweh, teach us who He is. May we know and understand Him: Yahweh, who exercises and delights in lovingkindness and justice and righteousness; Yahweh, whose name is majestic in all the earth.


There’s a brief overview of the structure and poetry of Psalms in my  post, The Five Books of Psalms,
Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Heavens Above Her: Ian Norman (http://www.lonelyspeck.com). (CC BY-SA 2.0).
1,2,3,7Derek Kidner, Psalm 1–72 (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1973) 60–61, 60, 61, 66.
4,6Leslie S. M’Caw, J. A. Motyer, “The Psalms,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 454–455, 455. Psalm 7: “Cush (see title) is not named in the chronicles of the time. The Talmud identifies him with Saul; he may have been one of Saul’s fanatical fellow-tribesmen like Shimei (2 Sa. 16:5). It is generally assumed that the poem belongs to the period of Saul’s persecution of David…Evidently those who sought David’s life accused him also of dishonour, i.e., of attempting to seek vengeance on the anointed Saul. The words of 4b recall the incident of 1 Sa. 24:1–12.”
5Robert D. Culver, “2443 שָׁפַט (shāpaţ) judge, govern.Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol.2, R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke, eds. (The Moody Bible Institute, Chicago IL: 1980) 947–948.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2011–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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