Yael Eckstein | March 5, 2023
For the director of music. With stringed instruments. According to sheminith. A psalm of David. —Psalm 6
We start out every week with an inspirational lesson from the beloved Psalms. For centuries, these ancient poems of King David and others have been the foundation for Jewish and Christian worship. Enjoy!
Have you ever had a bad habit that you felt like you just couldn’t break? It can be disheartening and even depressing to fail over and over to correct something that has become so ingrained in us. We think that it will always be a part of who we are.
If you feel this way about yourself and some problem you just can’t seem to overcome, know that you’re not alone.
But even worse than struggling with a habit we can’t break is rationalizing it. People often tell themselves that this habit is not so bad in order to make themselves feel better and less guilty. But is this really better than recognizing the truth? How many times have I heard someone try to justify themselves by saying, “It’s just the way I am. It’s the way God made me.”
It’s true that God made us with weaknesses. We’re human. We’re flawed. But the fact that sin is natural doesn’t make it good. Recognizing our weaknesses opens us up to God’s mercy and to His help in overcoming them.
We see this in the opening words of Psalm 6, even before verse 1 begins. We read the following instructions: “For the director of music. With stringed instruments. According to sheminith. A psalm of David.”
This may look like it’s merely a musical instruction, but Jewish tradition teaches that these “superscriptures” that open most psalms contain deep teachings about the verses that follow.
Sheminith literally means “eighth.” According to the Talmud, this was an eight-stringed harp used in the Temple. But there is a deeper symbolism to this instrument.
According to Jewish teaching, the number eight is symbolic of going beyond the laws of nature. That’s why the covenant of circumcision is on the eighth day. It’s why the Hannukah miracle lasted eight days in the wake of a seemingly impossible victory. Seven, the number of days in the week, represents nature. Eight is supernatural.
In Psalm 6, King David pours out his soul to God, pleading with Him to rescue him from his own sin. He doesn’t rationalize. He doesn’t even beg for forgiveness. Rather, David recognizes his human weakness and pleads with God to deliver him from the anguish caused by his own behavior.
Do you have any doubt that God listened to David?
The message of Psalm 6 is that no matter our natural weaknesses, by drawing closer to God, we become supernatural. This is the lesson of the sheminith.
Are you struggling with a habit you just can’t seem to break? Pray Psalm 6 and ask God to help you overcome.