Confident Assurance

Leave me, all you who practice injustice, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.  The Lord has heard my pleading, the Lord receives my prayer.  Psalm 6:8-9  NASB

Receives – Does God really care?  Perhaps just asking the question seems monstrously irreverent, but I’m pretty sure that at least a hint of this has crossed your mind once or twice.  The world is filled with injustice.  Wickedness seems to prevail everywhere we look.  A friend wrote to me:

“I have only been made aware of the enormity of the evil and didn’t understand your broken heart until now. It is crushing! God gave man dominion over the earth so do we not have the responsibility to bring the change? I keep hearing God’s in control. Well, is He? Or does He give us the responsibility to fix it? The power that the evil people have is so great and so completely encompassing in the earth that I literally have no ability to effect real change in the earth. So I am left with the reality that you speak of ‘that if God doesn’t show up we are all doomed’. How do we simply go about living ‘good lives’ thinking that is enough?  I am left with a haunting, angering and peace-sucking situation. What is the point of being enlightened if there is no ability to effect real change?”

Why doesn’t God show up?  If Heschel is right, and we have exiled God from this world, are we left with the consequences of “might makes right”?  Is it our fault?  As Steve Brown once told me, “I don’t doubt God’s sovereignty, but I do doubt His benevolence.”  Most of the time, I think I’m the one who’s at fault.  Why?  Because I know I’m not a righteous man.  Maybe I don’t hear God because I have turned from Him, not because He has turned from me.  Maybe I suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune because I am disobedient and I am experiencing the inevitable punishment that comes with my disobedience.  Maybe I deserve it.

Or maybe God really doesn’t care.  Maybe He’s just too busy with His own plans.

But everything in the Bible says He does.  In fact, He cares more than I can possibly imagine.  So it must be me, right?  I must be the one who isn’t aligned, right?  Furthermore, what right do we have to address God in the second person familiar (“You”)?  This is not how we would address a king.  Maybe we’re just too presumptuous in our approach.

These concerns directed my rabbi to point me to Psalm 6, a psalm of complaint about injustice.  It is crucial to note that the psalmist never voices a need for repentance, never suggests that he has sinned, never pleads for forgiveness.  Why does this matter?  Because we know the psalmist is just like us—imperfect, morally wounded, vacillating, questioning. He’s just as confused, discouraged, despondent, perhaps just as aware of his personal faults.  And yet, he writes, “The Lord has heard my pleading, the Lord receives my prayer.”  This sequence is important.

the psalmist turns to the LORD, invoking him with a triple invocation of his name, writing “the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping / the LORD has heard my supplication / the LORD will accept my prayer” (Psalm 6:9-10). This is done in confidence that he will be heard. In verse ten, although the nouns remain parallel, “supplication” and “prayer”, the verbs are sequential, “[he] has heard” in the perfect, being complete, and “[he] will accept” in the imperfect, expressing confidence that it will happen.[1]

In Pirke Avot, Rabbi Shimon said: “Be careful in the reciting of the Shema and in prayer. When you pray do not make your prayer a form of routine but a plea for mercy and supplications before God, for it is written, ‘For he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.’ Do not be wicked in your own mind.”

Note the last comment, “Do not be wicked in your own mind.”  This does not mean, “Don’t be wicked.”  It means, “Do not think of yourself as wicked.”  Don’t imagine that you are so bad that God will not listen.  Don’t tear yourself down in your own thoughts, for if you think of yourself as wicked, you will be tempted to ignore righteousness.  You will think God doesn’t want to  turn toward you.  You will think yourself unworthy of His concern.  And you will do wicked things.

The psalmist declares that God accepts his prayer—and he is no more righteous than we are.  There is no prerequisite of perfection before prayer.  God accepts his prayer—and ours—because  . . .  (you can finish the thought).

Topical Index:  prayer, worthiness, acceptance, wicked, Psalm 6:8-9

Just a note:  Look at Ronchetto’s article on this psalm (cited below).  You will discover the important fact that even in the Tanakh there are variants and questions about the text.  You will also discover that different scholars offer considerably different opinions about meanings and Hebrew constructions.  There’s a sense of freedom knowing that it isn’t as rigid as we were taught to believe.

[1]Kyle Ronchetto, “Lamenting a Wasting Disease: A Commentary on Psalm 6,”



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Michael Stanley

I gained the most insight from the very last sentence of the note at the end ( speaking of Hebrew grammar): “There’s a sense of freedom knowing that it isn’t as rigid as we were taught to believe.” By using the same internal logic that Skip skillful employed in the main text one could conclude: ‘There’s a sense of freedom knowing that YHWH isn’t as rigid as WE WERE TAUGHT OR TAUGHT OURSELVES to believe.’
The majority of my “gain” in the last decade (when my diet first included a daily dose of Skip) has been a putting off, a removal, a negation of a combination of Greek thinking, Roman (Catholic) beliefs, Protestant Pagan practices and Charismatic craziness. I learned most of these ‘unconsciously’ – that is, trusting the source of the teachings without testing the veracity of the claims by logic, history, context or most importantly by the whole of Scripture. But it has taken a considerable conscious effort to disabuse my self of these false belief systems. It is just like the relationship between gaining weight and losing it. Everyone who has had to lose a considerable amount of excess weight will agree it is harder to diet and exercise than it is to gorge and gain. But now after 10 years of purging and putting off I have lost at least a ton of religious dogma and the doctrines of man; however now I need to begin to rid myself of the real result of believing those philosophies, theologies and vanities…a low view and a hard opinion of God. I find myself in the prickly position of the man in the parable in Matthew‬ ‭25:24-26‬: “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown and gathering where thou hast not scattered; therefore, I was afraid and went and hid thy talent in the earth; behold, thou hast what is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful slave, thou knewest that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I have not scattered…” oy vey.

It is as if all I have accomplished in these past 10 years of study and musing is to have knocked down (the majority of) the walls and windows of the building, but the steel superstructure remains seemingly as solid as when that inglorious tower first rose on the plains of Babel. And steel, as we all know, is stronger than gypsum, wood and glass.

Who I believe God is (in His essence and character) has been primarily shaped by what I was taught about God- His attributes and authority. But I want and need is to KNOW and have a relationship with the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Israel, like David did and especially like Yeshua did. To do that I suspect I need to tear down that steel behemoth that still resides rent free in my mind. But which method of demolition is best? Implosion by explosives? Sounds painful. Removing each girder by hand? Sounds long and laborious. Magical thinking? That has been both my default and my bane. Oy Vey. Now the hard work must begin and quite honestly I am old, tired and weary….But wait. Didn’t YHWH Himself destroy the Tower of Babel? He didn’t ask the laborers who built it to deconstruct or demolish it or the King to decommission and repurpose his temple. Just so with my steel tower of rebellion and idolatry. Yah will topple it. I need to get out of His way, lest I am buried in the rubble.

Ric Gerig

Amen! I feel every word you wrote! Thank you Michael (and Skip!).

Richard Bridgan

Amen, Michael, Ric, and Skip. 

As odd as it may seem, Paul’s (Shaul’s) epistles are a source of encouragement to me in this common and shared awareness of needing and desiring this sense of freedom, described in Skip’s TW. 

Certainly, as Peter also noted, it is “as he (Paul) does also in all his letters, speaking in them about these things, in which there are some things hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction, as they also do the rest of the scriptures.” But it is also as Paul reminds us, “we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, in order that we may know the things freely given to us by God,” and, “who has known the mind of the Lord; who has advised him?” “But we have the mind of Christ.” 

Gaining this sense of freedom is not “freely” acquired; it is costly in terms of time, effort, and due diligence. But, the freedom that is gained is well worth the required work. “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery…” that yoke of our own making in failing to recognize His willingness to give in response to our plea and remaining subject to the sense of our own weakness(es) rather than the freedom freely given of God in Christ.

Jacqualine Avery

Michael, when this happened to me, probably 4 years ago, after 30 or so years in the Christian church, everything was put on the table…EVERYTHING! It is quite confronting, in the end I let go of everything I had ever heard in the Christian church.
I now only follow the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob with the Tenak, which includes the Torah, The Prophets, The Minor Prophets and The Writings (Psalms & the rest).
I cannot go back, I have found immense freedom in knowing that God’s forgiveness is there for everyone. His love is abounding and He is the only One that I need, there is no-one else. Psalm 91 says it all for me.