Psalms 13

Psalm 13

How Long, O Lord?

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

13   How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
  How long must I take counsel in my soul
    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
  How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
  Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
    light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
  lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
    lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
  But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
  I will sing to the LORD,
    because he has dealt bountifully with me.

(ESV)


Psalm 13 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

This psalm is general enough to speak to anyone going through a crisis but specific enough to contain the primary elements of a prayer for help. It is a solid illustration of how we can pray to God.

There is the complaint or issue in verses 1-2. This is something we read often in Psalms and many times from David. Some would suggest that it’s inappropriate to complain or question God to this degree, however, we read it in Scripture all the time. As Mona Jean Workman would say, “You might as well tell God exactly how you feel… He already knows it anyway!” She would follow that statement with a warning of making it a habit and always remembering that, like any relationship worth treasuring, you should be quick to apologize.

Next, there is the cry for help found in verses 3-4. A cry for help comes with an expectation for an answer. In other words, how often do we believe God hears us and is interesting in the suffering of our lives? The reality is, if we are not crying out for help very often, we probably have little faith that God cares. Some have come to realize that they cannot function unless they are crying out to God in all circumstances and situations. To some this is considered weakness, however, I would argue just the opposite. It exemplifies that we truly believe God hears us and that we expect Him to be active and involved.

Finally, there is the affirmation of trust (verse 5) and the vow to praise (verse 6). I absolutely LOVE the affirmation of trust. Notice, the trust is placed in the promise of God, not necessarily in the answer that the psalmist desires. He gives no specifics. Despite the general complaint and cry for help, the writer will firmly plant his feet on the foundation of God’s love and coming Salvation. No matter what, he comes back to what he knows and understands. He doesn’t overcomplicate or over-spiritualize the issue. It’s a simple and heartfelt trust in the foundational elements of God’s character. We KNOW God loves us and we KNOW Jesus’ sacrifice delivers us from sin and death.

The vow to praise is an attitude that God will care for His people. When we think about what that looks like specifically, we picture a tangible solution. We assume that means that God will rescue us and give us what we desire. Sometimes He does. But, I wonder, did God love the early church? Did He love John the Baptist and Phillip and Peter and Paul who all died as martyrs? Did He love His own Son, Jesus Christ, who went to the cross for the horrific sins of humanity?

The comfort for the writer comes from his trust in God, not his trust in a happy outcome. His words specifically state that he will “sing because the Lord has dealt bountifully with him.” So, before he even knows the outcome, he professes that he will praise God because he believes wholeheartedly that the Lord knows what is best. That word ‘bountiful’ literally means ‘to reward’ or ‘to do good.’ So, the reward is waiting! It may not be what we expect or even what we want, but if we trust God, we know that He has promised to love us and never forsake us!

So, what would it look like for you to pray using this same mentality? What would it look like for you to be authentic with the Lord, cry out for help, affirm that you trust Him, and then vow to praise Him for His goodness?

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