David gives the church a wonderfully simple outline in Psalm 6 for understanding how the Spirit of God works on the heart of the individual. This wisdom is timeless even though it has fallen out of favor in modern times.
(Psalm 6:1 KJV) O LORD, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. The first thing the awakened heart realizes is that God is righteously angry with the sinner. The Holy Spirit reveals this horrifying truth and, like the psalmist, the sinner begins to cry out.
(Psalm 6:2 KJV) Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed. With a view of the indignation of God the sinner then comes face to face with his or her own inability. The helplessness of our condition places us in a hopeless situation. We can’t make it. We aren’t able. We are truly vexed by the corruption of our nature. We find nothing attractive in us to make an argument for relief from His heavy hand.
(Psalm 6:3-4 KJV) My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long? Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies’ sake. The sinner comes to realize that it is not the body or the bone that is the cause of the weakness but it is a spiritual matter. The soul is vexed. So, with a righteously angry God threatening judgment and his complete inability to appease Him the man in this state cries out. Notice the prayer. It begins in verse two, “Have mercy upon me,” “heal me,” “deliver my soul,” and “save me for thy mercies sake.” The condemned can only plead for mercy. But who is he pleading to? He is pleading to none other than the God of Lovingkindness and Mercy.
(Psalm 6:4-5 KJV) Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies’ sake. For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks? Notice that his plea is desperate. This illustrates the broken condition he has entered. “How long?” is the stammered shout of the heart. His eyes begin to gaze toward the grave. He feels his feet slipping. It won’t be long before he joins his fathers there. There’s not much time left! “Please hurry Lord. I can’t thank you for deliverance if I’m dead.”
(Psalm 6:6-7 KJV) I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears. Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies. The penitent soul languishes in this condition for a time. His or her groaning over their sinfulness in light of God’s righteousness gives great unction to the body. Tears flow. The imagery here is quite beautiful. The bed is flooded and the eye fails because of the intensity of grief.
(Psalm 6: 8-9 KJV) Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping. The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer. Suddenly there is a change! Something has happened. Look at the confidence. We no longer hear, “How long?” but now a voice of faith arises. He has heard my weeping, He has heard my supplication, and He will receive my prayer replaces the desperate voice of the man sliding into hell. Somewhere between the sheets of a soggy bed the Holy Spirit gave the sinner faith to believe.
This is all the work of God. From the first glimpse of an angry God who has justly condemned the sinner, to the repentant heart receiving the faith to believe, it is all God’s work to his eternal glory. This is a model of true conversion, a lesson for modern day evangelicalism.