Psalm 13: A question, a prayer, then trust and rejoicing
What we believe and apply about our LORD God is more important than how we feel.
Tod Kennedy, March 25, 2015
Even though one feels forsaken or ignored by the LORD God, one can pray, and therefore trust in God’s loyal gracious love and deliverance. This trust results in rejoicing and praise to the LORD even before deliverance because of confidence that God will deliver and bless.
Psalm 13. This psalm is for the choir director, so it will be placed in the sanctuary. The Levitical choir can then sing it. Therefore the application is for more than David. It will be used for any believer who may feel abandoned by God. The psalm finds David stalked by an enemy, which happened many times during his life. Possibly Saul’s lookouts were watching him, but we have no evidence of the specific event. He feels abandoned and neglected. He asks the LORD four questions: 1. how long will the LORD forget him,2. how long will the LORD hide, 3. how long must David bear this heartfelt sorrow, and 4. how long will David’s enemy gloat over him (Psalm 13.1-2)? David then prays that God will answer by both encouraging him and delivering him. Otherwise, David’s enemies will claim victory and rejoice at David’s defeat (Psalm 13.3-4). After David prays and before God delivers him, David trusts in God’s lovingkindness (hesed). He will rejoice in God’s deliverance. He will sing to the LORD because the LORD will greatly bless him (Psalm 13.5-6). Delitzsch says “The Psalm consists of three strophes, or if it be preferred, three groups of decreasing magnitude. A long deep sigh is followed, as from a relieved breast, by an already much more gentle and half calm prayer; and this again by the believing joy which anticipates the certainty of being answered.” (Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Psalms, 199)
- Psalm 13.1-2. David senses that the Lord has abandoned him and cries out “how long.”
- Psalm 13.3-4. David prays that God will answer his cry and deliver him.
- Psalm 13.5-6. David in faith anticipates the LORD’S deliverance and will rejoice and sing to the LORD.
- Psalm 13.1-2. David senses that the Lord has abandoned him and cries out “how long.” David poses four questions to the LORD. Each begins with “how long.” How long: will you forget me (not answer my prayer), how long will you hide your face (hold back blessing), how long shall I take counsel (try to figure out what to do by myself, but nothing works), how long will my enemy be exalted over me (taking power over David). Clearly David feels abandoned with no answers (sorrow in my heart). Where is God? Will God ever come to my rescue? I have no workable answers to my dilemma. Every believer can at some time identify with David. We feel alone and God is not there. Our emotion takes over our thinking. We are discouraged, without answers, alone, helpless.
- Psalm 13.2. Psalm 13.3-4. David prays that his LORD God will answer his cry and deliver him. David then prays that God will answer by both reviving his attitude and delivering him. David prays to “LORD my God.” If God does not step in, David’s enemies will claim victory and rejoice at David’s defeat. He asks his LORD God to look with consideration at his plight and answer his prayer. Note that David uses Yahweh God. The first recognizes relationship, the second God’s power and majesty. God knows everything, so David’s request is not to inform God of what he does not know, but expresses David’s plea to pay personal attention to him. Both verbs are imperatives expressing David’s strong plea. David went right to the heart of the matter. Either God steps in or David is finished (sleep the sleep of death, die). The request to enlighten his eyes can mean give information or to revive his attitude. It probably means to revive his attitude by instilling confidence in him. Through God responding in some way, David’s attitude and discouragement will be changed. See Psalm 31.16; 67.1; 80.3,7,19. Psalm 13.4 states the reaction of his stalkers if God does not intervene. They will claim victory and rejoice over David’s defeat and death. The enemies will claim that David was wrong and they are right. They will say that David’s God forsook him. This will dishonor God and his promises to David.
- Psalm 13.5-6. David in faith anticipates the LORD’S deliverance and will rejoice and sing to the LORD. Note David’s faith response. It has three parts. The verse begins with a strong adversative (but I), which shows the contrast with what his enemy will say, have trusted (בָּטַח batach). The object of David’s action comes first in the line because of its centrality in David’s thought. “Your lovingkindness” is the Hebrew word hesed חֶסֶד Strong 2617. This word primarily means loyal love, the LORD’S faithful covenant love for his people. This combines the ideas in grace, love, and faithfulness. No matter what the world is like, the LORD God maintains loyal love for his people, primarily Israel as his physical nation, but also for all those who follow him by faith. David knows this. The verbs are “I have trusted,” “shall rejoice,” and “I will sing.”I have trusted. The object is God’s character, his loyal love word hesed חֶסֶד Strong 2617. He has already trusted and will continue to trust. The verb is בָּטַח batach, to feel safe, trust, be full of confidence, Strong 982 (see Isaiah 12.2, Psalm 118.8). David has trusted and will continue to trust in the character, the person of the LORD God. He believes, trust, holds onto the LORD God. Knowing who God is, having a relationship with him, and trusting him is David’s part.
- I have trusted. The object is God’s character, his loyal love word hesed חֶסֶד Strong 2617. He has already trusted and will continue to trust. The verb is בָּטַח batach, to feel safe, trust, be full of confidence, Strong 982 (see Isaiah 12.2, Psalm 118.8). David has trusted and will continue to trust in the character, the person of the LORD God. He believes, trust, holds onto the LORD God. Knowing who God is, having a relationship with him, and trusting him is David’s part.
- My heart shall rejoice. The object is “your salvation” (יְשׁוּעָה jeshu’ah Strong 3444). The verb rejoice (גִּיל gil Strong 1523) is the same word used for the response of the enemy if they triumph over David. See Proverbs 23.24 for an illustrative use. David is sure that God will deliver him, and he knows that he will have great joy as opposed to his previous discouragement. What is the difference between then and now? The difference is that he focused on the LORD God’s character and his relationship to his God. The deliverance refers to David’s physical deliverance.
- I will sing. Sing is שִׁיר (shir Strong 7891). The object is “to the LORD.” This entire psalm has the focal point of the LORD God. Singing reflects great joy and feeling. David is now convinced that the LORD God will answer his prayer because his God is characterized by lovingkindness. Note the difference between this and the first two verses—discouragement, a sense of abandonment, and questions compared to trust, rejoice, and singing. Why will he sing? Because the LORD has dealt bountifully with David by reviving his attitude, mainly by refocusing David’s thinking on his LORD God and convincing David that God has not forgotten him and is able to do even more than David needs. God has recompensed, dealt adequately,(Strong 360, גָּמַל gamal) with David in this situation.
So what for us?
- Knowing God personally is crucial. It all begins there.
- Knowing God’s character, his nature, his personality informs us about how God thinks and acts.
- Just knowing the facts is not enough. We must believe and apply what we know in every circumstance.
- Therefore, what we know and believe is more important than how we feel. Emotional and mental discouragement is very real, but concentrating on it only makes the situation worse. It is no solution. What we know, believe, and apply about our LORD God must be more real to us than how we feel.
- Final summary. David was being stalked. He began to focus on the circumstances and therefore feel abandoned by God. His discouragement and his emotions began to dominate him. Only when he went to the LORD his God in prayer with specific requests based upon his knowledge of God and faith in God was there a change in David. He believed and therefore applied what he knew to be true. His attitude and very life changed. He trusted, he will rejoice, and he will sing to the LORD. He is convinced that God is working on his behalf. What more could he or any of us want?