What do you do with a nerdy kid who daydreams of being a daring crime fighter or superhero? Send him to gym class — or PE as it is known today. Nothing could bring me down to earth more quickly — and literally — than trying to do a layup when I had not yet mastered the skill of walking and chewing gum at the same time. The only redeeming feature in the gymnasium was the row of climbing ropes. Owing largely to my small stature, I could have climbed up and down those things all day long. On the other hand, some of the beefier participants had trouble overcoming the effects of gravity. Fortunately, they were saved from sliding to the floor in a heap of exhaustion by a knot at the bottom of the rope.
In Psalm 6, David is a man at the end of his rope. His prayer paints a picture of extreme desperation. He is “languishing.” His “bones are troubled,” and his “soul also is greatly troubled” (vv. 2-3). He has been brought to the point of weeping and grief. In fact, this has been going on for some time, for he says, “every night I flood my bed with tears” (v. 6). He talks about his “eye” (singular):
My eye wastes away because of grief;
it grows weak because of all my foes. (v. 7)
This is not some kind of ophthalmological disease. He is having trouble seeing, but not merely in the literal sense. David is being oppressed by his enemies to the point that it is affecting his outlook. That is why he begins his psalm with:
O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath. (v. 1)
I have never been a coach in the formal sense, but I am a parent and grandparent. As such, I am a coach. I have faced those situations where my child has been brought to the place of desperation through a combination of factors, including poor judgment or sinful choices. Now the PE coach might deride the jock dangling at the end of the rope for having eaten too many french fries. But the parent knows when his desperate child is in need of rescue, not rebuke and ridicule. David is appealing to God’s fatherly affections. In fact, he is expressing dismay that God has not yet come to his aid:
But you, O LORD — how long?
Turn, O LORD, deliver my life;
save me for the sake of your steadfast love. (vv. 3-4)
These characteristics of gentleness and compassion were the very signs that Israel was to look for in the Messiah:
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice. (Isa. 42:3 cf. Matt. 12:20)
No wonder Jesus was called “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Matt. 11:19). Where others saw revelry and debauchery, Jesus saw desperate hearts at the end of their rope. Where the religious elite found opportunity to harass, Jesus found the opportunity to invite, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
David had placed his hope in the tender compassion of Israel’s great Deliverer. Whatever the reason for David’s condition, he pleads, “Turn, O LORD.” There is something very dear to David — even dearer to God — that is at stake here. God had chosen David as an object on which to display his “steadfast love.” David was about to break, his flickering light was almost extinguished. God forbid that should ever be! God’s love cannot fail.
The God who loves, also hears. And in God’s hearing, there is certain deliverance for the beloved. So at the end of his rope, David found a knot. In that knot, David found his confidence:
Depart from me all you workers of evil,
for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.
The LORD has heard my plea;
the LORD accepts my prayer.
All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled;
they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment. (vv. 8-10)
The apostle Paul would argue that we should have even more confidence. For he asks, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all thing?” Are we talking financial wealth, physical vitality, and a carefree life? Evidently, that is not what Paul had in mind. He went on to say:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being
killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep
to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, not angel nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:35-39)
So, fellow, desperate Christian, at the end of our rope is a knot. It is no granny knot. It is solid and unfailing, carefully tied with the intricate precision of divine, eternal, omnipotent love. We are secure!
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