(H) A psalm of David for a memorial. (1) Yahweh, do not rebuke me in your wrath nor discipline me in your burning anger, (2) for your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down upon me. (3) (There is) no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation, nor (is there) health in my bones because of my sin, (4) for my iniquities have gone over my head. They weigh like a burden too heavy for me. (5) My wounds stink and decay because of my foolishness. (6) I am utterly bowed down and prostrate. All the day I go about mourning, (7) for my loins are filled with burning, and (there is) no soundness in my flesh. (8) I grow numb and am crushed. I cry out because of the great turmoil in my heart.
David repeats just one phrase in these eight graphic verses, “no soundness in my flesh” (vss. 3 & 7). The entire segment serves to explain what this one phrase means for a person under God’s severe hand of discipline (vss. 1 & 2), a discipline imposed because of sin and iniquity (vss. 3 & 4).
The results of such chastening are couched in terms that may shock and disgust us: stinking and decaying wounds (vs. 5), utter prostration (vs. 6), burning loins (vs. 7), a mixture of numbness and turmoil (vs. 8). David uses these evocative descriptions to portray the devastating effects sin can have in our lives.
I. The plea of one undergoing discipline (1)
II. The reason for discipline: unconfessed sin (2-4)
III. The effects of discipline: physical and emotional devastation (5-8)
God’s discipline for unconfessed sin can become so harsh that all we can do is cry out for his mercy and restoration.
The first half of Hebrews 12 is the principal New Testament passage describing how God disciplines a straying believer. Consider the following statements taken from that chapter: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father” (Heb. 12:5-7)? The author’s primary purpose is not to explore what such discipline feels like for the one undergoing it but rather to help us understand why God would need to discipline us.
All the writer of Hebrews says about the subjective experience of discipline is contained in this understatement, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful” (Heb. 12:11). David, who bore the consequences of his sin with Bathsheba for many years, is the author who most vividly describes for us the physical effects of God’s discipline: arrows piercing my flesh, being held down so I cannot rise, fever and aching as from an illness, drowning in a sea of my own iniquities, stinking and seeping wounds, physical burning and numbness mixed with emotional agitation. His message: “If we only knew how terrible divine discipline can be, we would resolve never again to offend God with our sins.”