Reflection on Psalm 13

Reflection on Psalm 13*

1 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?

3 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.

5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

6 I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Periods of anxiety are something we all have to learn to deal with, and Psalm 13, for all its brevity, is a marvelous instruction. First, there are three areas of experience from which troubling worries may arise—the spiritual (verse 1), the personal (verse 2a), and the circumstantial (verse 2b). 

The first (meriting two cries of “how long?”) is given prominence. We know beyond question that the LORD will never forget us, but the plaguing thought arises that maybe our sins and failures have so alienated him that he has withdrawn his favor (verse 1b). Even those who never entertained such a thought can well imagine its anguish. “Sorrow in the heart” (verse 2) is something to be watched like a hawk. It is the tendency to retire into a corner and talk to ourselves about ourselves! It can only further focus attention on our miseries! 

The verses of Psalm 13:3-4, so to say, begin the real “fight back” against the pressing anxieties. “Answer” (3a) is asking the LORD to break silence and come back into my life; “light up” seeks personal relief from agony of soul, not only looking inwardly but by turning upwardly. The three “lest” raise disagreeable possibilities: that we should end this life under the cloud of apparent divine displeasure (3c), that the enemy should come out on the winning side (4a), and that, under all this anxiety, I might “let the side down” by “slipping” (4b). 

Now we come to what David proposes as the real winning reaction (verses 5-6). Notice how four “how longs” (verses 1-2) were followed by three “lest” (verses 3-4), and now by two exultations (verses 5-6). By progressively narrowing its focus in this way, the Psalm lays a sharp emphasis on the last two verses—the delight and the song that follow from taking the nature of the LORD’s love into account and adopting a clear position of trust. In verse 5, his love is “steadfast” (= faithful, committed)—not a potentially fleeting emotion, perhaps dependent on favorable conditions on our side of the relationship. No, it is love arising from a determination and unchangeable disposition of the LORD’s will—the love he expressed to us, his bride, when in return to the question, “Will you love her?” he replied, “I will.” In the light of that love, thoughts of forgetfulness and the hidden face evaporate. The only response is to reply to very questioning thought or experience: I trust him! And to make that reply as each day starts, and, if necessary, moment by moment throughout the day.

* Adapted from Psalms by the Day by Alec Motyer

This Week’s Bible Reading Schedule:

Monday: Psalms 16 Thursday: Psalms 19
Tuesday: Psalms 17 Friday: Psalms 20
Wednesday: Psalms 18 Saturday: Psalms 21

Bible Column & Reading Plan by Rev. Chang Soo Lee
Mississauga Camps Lead Pastor