Weds 13 July - Psalm 13
1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
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Meditation on Psalm 13
This is one of the psalms that don’t have a fixed point in the story of David. It could relate to the relationship between Saul and David. After all, Saul hated David.
Reading 1 Samuel 18 after David had defeated Goliath, we learn of Saul’s attitudes to David.
Verse 8 ‘Saul was very angry’
Verse 9 ‘From that time Saul kept a close eye on David’
Verse 12 ‘Saul was afraid of David because … the LORD had departed from Saul’
Verse 29 ‘Saul became still more afraid of David and he remained his enemy the rest of his days’.
Or perhaps it was the relationship between Absalom and David? After all, Absalom tried to have himself crowned king in Hebron and we read in 2 Samuel 15:12 ‘the conspiracy gained strength and Absalom’s following kept on increasing’.
In both cases, David was on the run from Saul and from Absalom. He was God’s anointed king over the whole of Israel and yet he is in trouble.
Four times he cries out – “How long, LORD?”
How many times have you or I called out “How long, Lord?”
Back to Psalm 6:3 David cries out – “my soul is in deep anguish. How long, LORD, how long?”
Come to Isaiah 6:11. Isaiah has just been commissioned by the Lord to go and speak to the Israelites, not with a message of comfort and assurance but with a message of judgment – verses 9-10.
Isaiah cries out “For how long, Lord?”
Habakkuk was in a similar situation when the LORD told him to take a message of judgment to the Israelites. This seems to be an age-old problem i.e. why does evil seem to go unpunished? Why does God not answer prayer?
Habakkuk 1:1 Habakkuk cries out, “How long, LORD, must I call for help but you do not listen?”
LOOKING BACK Verses 1-2
Back to our psalm. Why is David crying out “How long, LORD?”
- LORD, have you forgotten me? It seems like it. “Will you forget me forever?” This is not some passing issue that will just blow over. This is hurting. I feel as if I am on my own. Have you been there? You may not have but just think of those around the world at this time for whom this cry is not in a void. It is the reality of their life at this moment in time – those in a war zone; those internally-displaced people; those in refugee camps; those refugees who have fled their country for whatever reason; those caught up in floods, earthquakes, famine, sickness, bereavement – the list goes on and for millions of people they feel forgotten. There is loneliness.
- LORD, why have you hidden your face from me? This is the opposite to the priestly blessing we read of in Numbers 6:25-25 ‘the LORD make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace.’ I feel as if the light has gone out and I am surrounded by darkness. Lord, you are the Light of the world – but I can’t see you. There is despair.
- LORD, why have I got to battle with my thoughts? They weigh me down and I am filled with sorrow. And it hurts. There is sadness.
- LORD, why is my enemy always on my back? This may be Saul or Absalom for David – what about us? Who is our ‘Saul’; who is our ‘Absalom’? We know from our New Testament that our enemy is the devil. He was the enemy of Jesus. He is the enemy of the children of God. He is my enemy. Peter makes it clear that ‘the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.’ There is defeat.
I am reminded again of Philip Yancey’s book ‘Where is God when it hurts?’
Allow me to be personal for a while – please!
For six years we had experiences that either blew us out of the water or sunk us in the water. I hear people say, ‘Christians don’t have breakdowns; Christians are on the victory side’ – and other so-called helpful comments. Maybe I once thought like that but experiences over those six years have changed my thinking and my breakdown was a reality. I know where the edge is. And a breakdown doesn’t just affect the person who is going through the wringer. It affects the whole family.
I can tell you – it hurts.
It affects the mind, the heart, the spirit. The emotions explode. The body is exhausted. Life becomes an existence. The spiritual dimension becomes dry. Family life plods on. Church is a place to go to stop people asking spiritual questions.
And the cry was ‘How long, Lord? How long? How long? How long?’
Dave Wright helpfully says: David is feeling abandoned by God, no longer experiencing God’s blessing, not sensing God’s presence. His thoughts are driven by his sadness. Then he asks one more “how long” question. How long will my enemy triumph over me? David had enemies. Saul hated him. Others fought against him. But he may have been meaning the same enemy that we all have. As Martin Lloyd-Jones puts it, “The devil is the adversary of our souls.”
He takes advantage of our struggles and our emotional state and seeks to destroy us. For a person wrestling as David was at this time, it’s no exaggeration to feel that the enemy is triumphing over us.’
LOOKING UP Verses 3-4
There were many times during those six years that I had to rely on other people to pray because I found it very difficult.
The psalmist helps in such times for however low he sank he knew who to turn to.
So he looks up to heaven. He pleads with the LORD in three very simple but direct prayers because, when all was said and done, he thought that he might be about to die.
- ‘Look on me’. In other words David was asking the LORD not to forget him any longer. His is a desperate prayer – perhaps ours is too. Remember, He is listening! And David doesn’t just plead for God to ‘look on him’. He adds, ‘and answer’.
- ‘Give light to my eyes’. I am walking around in the dark – sometimes very dark – please, Lord, be my light and dispel the darkness. The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about as it may lead to death, both spiritually and physically. Hear Paul’s prayer for the Christians in Ephesus: Ephesians 1:17-18a ‘that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened…’
- ‘give me victory over my enemy’ We long to live lives that bring glory to our God and Father. We certainly don’t want the devil to think he is winning. Why should he ‘rejoice when I fall?’
LOOKING FORWARD Verses 5-6
BUT … all that has gone before in this short psalm is now brought under control as David, having poured out his soul and then prayed, almost in desperation, trusts the One to whom he has prayed.
What a transformation in his language – from doubt and despair to trust and confidence in the LORD.
- ‘your unfailing love’
- ‘your salvation’
- ‘your goodness to me’
What a testimony David speaks about. What a testimony we have as we trust, rejoice and sing the Lord’s praise.
Spurgeon says of this psalm: ‘Whenever you look into David’s psalms, you may somewhere or another see yourselves. You never get into a corner but you find David in that corner. I think that I was never so low that I could not find that David was lower; and I never climbed so high that I could not find that David was above me, ready to sing his song upon his stringed instrument, even as I could sing mine.’