The Thirteenth Psalm
“How Long O Lord?” (Psalm 13) (Vs.1) “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will You hide your face from me?” (Vs.2) “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my Enemy triumph over me?” (Vs.3) “Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;” (Vs. 4) “my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.”(Vs.5) “But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation.” (Vs.6) “I will sing to the LORD, for He has been good to me.”
If anyone had times of depression and anxiety and implacable enemies to deal with on all sides, David did. When he was a shepherd boy he had learnt to defend the sheep against marauding lions and bears and with his staff without hesitation had taken them out when protecting the sheep. When the Israelites were confronted with the Giant Goliath David had also taken him out with his slingshot and decapitated him with his own sword. He had seen the LORD give him victory over his enemies when he and his men were greatly outnumbered.
In the Psalms we have a glimpse into David’s inner spiritual conflicts with himself, with his human frailties that we all have, and wrestling with fear and even at one time feigning madness, even foaming at the mouth to save his own life and that of his men before the pagan king Abimelech. It is clear that David wrestled not only with physical enemies but also wrestled with principalities of wickedness in the unseen spiritual realm. In the Old Testament when we see Israel fighting battles in the physical world at the same time there were spiritual battles being fought in the unseen spiritual realm.
When you look at David’s experiences down through his long life both the good ones and the bad ones and even his sin of adultery and murder from which he repented and received restoration from the LORD, he, like us, experienced spiritual highs and lows and often in the psalms he himself wrote we see him almost acting like one with a bipolar disorder. He had times when he could praise God to the heights but other times when in deep depression it seemed to him that even God had forsaken him.
One of the greatest blessings of the psalms is that in them we can see our spiritual highs and lows reflected in David’s life, and not only in his alone, but in the lives of the other psalmists as well in the Book of Psalms. David often went from times of exuberance in the Lord to times of deep depression when “he felt like the pits.” In this Psalm of David we can see our own spiritual experience as New Covenant believers reflected in what he was experiencing deep down on the inside at the time he wrote this Psalm. Let’s briefly look at this Psalm
(Vs.1) “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will You hide your face from me?”
Four times in this psalm David cries out “How long!” It is a cry of desperation. It seemed to David that God was not answering his plea but leaving him to his own devices to solve the inner conflict by himself, or at least this was his inner feelings. Our feelings are no barometer for our spiritual state before the Lord. Feelings are affected by many things. It can be through physical sickness, unyielding temptations to sin, adverse circumstances, difficult relationships, financial problems and even through other brothers and sisters in Messiah Jesus that seem to make life hard for us because we do not go along with their views.
Sometimes it will seem that God has hidden his face from us when we are going through deep depression and when it seems everything is going against us. But has God forsaken us or turned a deaf ear to our please and inner conflicts? If we have examined our hearts and find no unconfessed or un-renounced sin there then why does God seem to be silent?
At such times the only consistent comfort is the unchanging Word of God which will say the same thing tomorrow as it says today. God never changes neither does He go back on His Word. It is settled in heaven forever! As it is written; “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations; You established the earth, and it stands” (Psalm 119:89-90).
Can God forget those He has redeemed by the blood of His dear Son the Messiah our Lord Jesus? Look at what He says through the prophet Isaiah; “But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.” Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands (Isaiah 49:14-16).
It is inscribed in the palm of the hands, the feet and the side of his beloved Son and cannot be erased. Even now seated at His Father’s right hand our great faithful intercessor and High priest our Lord Jesus the Messiah ever lives to intercede with God on our behalf. As the author of Hebrews writes; “But because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:24-25). As our faithful High Priest, He has an indestructible life (Hebrews 7:16). He can never be destroyed, being God the Son and that same indestructible life is in you and me as His redeemed blood purchased brothers and sisters. “He is our Life!”
God often delays the answers we seek, not to discourage us, but to make us more diligent in trusting Him so that when He does answer according to His good, acceptable and perfect will, we find that His timing is impeccable, a delight and most certainly a relief to our troubled soul. He is never too early or never too late but always on time! Now let’s continue…
(Vs.2) “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my Enemy triumph over me?”
Wrestling with our thoughts and inner feelings which are connected can produce in us a deep sense of sorrow especially when we have faced disappointment, rejection or a situation which has not been resolved. Just because we are members of God’s royal Household and a priest in His kingdom does not guarantee that we will be spared sorrow. This is part of the inner experience of a saint of God. Paul tells us that it is through much tribulation that we must enter the kingdom of God and that these tribulations cannot be avoided. Of course God knows when to remove it as well!
Our enemies are not human beings but spiritual principalities and powers of wickedness in the unseen spiritual realm that uses others to afflict and to wear down the saints of the Most High God who seek to love Him and to follow after His Commandments. Even though our obedience is not perfect in this life we want to love Him and be faithful and obedient children. Man looks on the outward appearance but God looks upon the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). He sees the motives and desires of our hearts and nothing is hidden from His sight (Psalm 139:1-4, 23).
David had real enemies and often his very life was at stake, as are multitudes of our beloved brothers and sisters being persecuted in Islamic countries, in Russia, in China and in North Korea. Our times are in the hands of God. David also understood this when he also wrote; “But I trust in You, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in Your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. Make Your face shine on Your servant; save me by Your loving devotion” (Psalm 31:14-16). Do you believe this? Do you desire to do his will above all else? If you do then no human on earth or demon or principality will be able to take your life until God’s will has been accomplished, and then after that you go home anyway to receive your heavenly reward even if it is through martyrdom!
God has many mansions in heaven and has one prepared for you personally! Our Lord Jesus the Messiah Himself said; “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe in Me as well. In My Father’s house are many rooms (mansions). If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3). While He was addressing His disciples “the many rooms” tell us that there are more than 12 rooms! If we die before the return of the Lord Jesus then we will be absent from this body but present with the Lord, whether we live and remain until He returns or fall asleep in Him we win!!! (2 Corinthians 5:8) If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14:8).
Even though our closest family members or friends forsake us the Lord will take us up because we are family! As David also wrote; “Hide not Your face from me, nor turn away Your servant in anger. You have been my helper; do not leave me or forsake me, O God of my salvation. Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me” (Psalm 27:9-10). There will be times in our walk with God when He in His wise and loving providence will allow Satan and his cohorts from Hades to afflict us sorely and without letup, not to destroy us or make us unduly suffer, but because He wants us to learn how to overcome these spiritual forces from Hades arrayed against us. We see this with Job. However, look at the end of Job’s life! As we read; “The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than at first” (Job 42:12). What a kick in the backside for Satan!!!
In the Messiah our Lord Jesus God has given us the power of His indestructible life to tread upon snakes and scorpions (demonic powers and principalities) and that the enemy will in no way will be able to touch our spiritual standing in the Lord! As we read; “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy. Nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:18-20). Let’s read on…
(Vs.3-4) “Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.”
There will always be those without and even within the wider Body of Messiah who may mean well in their comments and actions towards us but in their deep hearts are our enemies. David understood this when he wrote; “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers… My companion attacks his friends; he violates his covenant. His talk is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords. (Psalm 55:12-14, 20-21).
After this David also said; “Cast your cares on the Lord (roll off your burden onto the Lord) and He will sustain you; He will never let (or permit) the righteous to be shaken” (Psalm 55:22). Sadly, there will always be those who have it in for us if we seek to stay faithful to the Word of God. If they cannot refute what you say from the Word of God they will attack you personally for saying it. This does not only come from the unsaved in this world but sadly from those within the Body of Messiah.
The sticking point for them is the Absolute and final authority of the Word of God. One of Satan’s main strategies is to get the saints of God to doubt or to tamper with the Word of God because Satan knows that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God and that when it is wielded in the hand of a New Covenant believer it will do much damage to Satan’s kingdom!
The Word of God is the spiritual weapon the Holy Spirit uses to save sinners, sanctify the saints and drive Satan out of their affairs! (Ephesians 6:17) (2 Corinthians 10:4). Whenever we pray in times of great affliction, temptation and adversity we must always seek to hold up God’s honour and that His name is not defamed by our responses to those who are afflicting us. We must always keep His glory in mind and choose that way which will bring Him glory and this in itself will cause Him to act on our behalf! Sometimes He permits a test or trial so that we might learn through it to always keep in mind His glory and that when the answer and solution comes we will praise Him and through it and bring Him glory which is His due as the Triune God. And then we read David’s response to his dilemma…
(Vs.5) “But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation.” “I will sing to the LORD, for He has been good to me.”
The two key word in David’s response to God are the words “trust” and “I will.” Whenever you see a “but” it is an indication that what is to follow will overshadow what has been said before it and be the opposite of it. There are three things David had cultivated in his life, a life which was certainly one of many ups and downs, dangers, afflictions and yet also times of exuberant joy in the Holy Spirit. David says…
“But I trust in Your unfailing love.” David understood the sacredness and permanency of the blood covenant that God had cut with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and with the whole Israel of God. It was this understating of its power and permanency when as a boy David went against Goliath and took him out big time! By calling Goliath “an uncircumcised Philistine” David was saying that Goliath did not have a covenant with God which David had and understood its power to protect him and give him the victory. No matter what David Faced he always trusted in God’s unfailing love. Then we read…
“My heart rejoices in Your salvation.” We are told in the Book of Nehemiah that “the joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). This joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit and it is one that needs to be cultivated and exercised and that by faith. It is released by faith and by an act of our will and not by some self-generated human emotion. It is a wellspring of divine life and contentment that springs up from the inner well of our regenerated spirit man (John 4:10, 13) (John 7:37-39). It is independent from our outward circumstances. It circumnavigates anxiety and is the Shalom of God which garrisons our hearts and minds in the Messiah Jesus and that transcends all human understanding (Philippians 4:6-7).
If we have no other blessings in this life we can rejoice in our salvation! Of course God does bless us with every spiritual blessing in the Messiah Jesus but many of our brothers and sisters in affliction through manifold temptations, trying circumstances, extreme difficulties of one sort or another, or through bodily sickness and persecution are to this day rejoicing is so great a salvation, which not only delivers us from the power and penalty of sin and from the coming wrath upon sin, but will ultimately deliver us from the very presence of sin in our indestructible, immortal, eternal glorified bodies at the rapture and resurrection. Finally we read…
“I will sing to the LORD, for He has been good to me.” Trusting in the Lord is not primarily an emotion or feeling but an act of the will. All through the psalms we see David and the other psalmists saying “I Will” You see my brothers and sisters in the Messiah every spiritual blessing and endowment is bestowed upon the saint of God through faith which pleases God and who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us. (Hebrews 11:6) (Ephesians 3:20).
Singing, praising, praying, interceding and extoling God are all acts of faith and when exercised in faith the appropriate feelings and emotions will come. In our entire Christian walk as New Covenant believers in the Messiah our Lord Jesus, the action of our wills is what brings to bear in our lives the power of the Holy Spirit. We can have all kinds of emotionally gratifying experiences in our walk with the Lord but what He really wants is the surrender of our wills. This is not an overnight spiritual fix but a walk with God which teaches us just to say “No” to ungodliness and “yes” to righteousness, especially in light of the Second Coming of the Messiah our Lord Jesus.
As we read in Titus; “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of [c]our great God and Saviour, The Messiah Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:11-14). This is only possible thorough the power of the Holy Spirit.
Whenever David was afflicted, troubled, endangered, hunted and betrayed he exercised his will towards God and that by faith, and the joy and deliverance would come every time but not instantly. David also wrote much about waiting on God and that in waiting his expectation was enhanced to the point where He knew that God would come to the rescue even though the outward circumstances he faced had not changed in the natural.
The surrender of our will to God is not a once off experience but must be cultivated over a lifetime and this can only come through trusting, waiting, praising, thankfulness and with an expectation that God will honour his Word every time regardless of how we might be feeling. It is always spiritually edifying in a time of darkness to reflect on how God has been good to us in the past and rescued us out of situations and circumstances that would have spiritually shipwrecked our faith. David and the other psalmists also practiced this as the psalms reflect. Surrendering our will to the will of God at first will seem quite difficult because of the old fleshly sinful nature that does not want to stay crucified, but in the end submitting to the whole will of God will prove to be the best and sweetest thing in all the world!!!
At present we may be crying out “How long O Lord?” but let us keep in mind what the Messiah our Lord Jesus said when He spoke about the persistent widow in her request to an unjust judge deliver her from her adversary. She did not give up, even though the judge neither feared God nor man, but because of her persistence he granted her request.
With this situation in mind the Lord Jesus said; “And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, why cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you. He will see that they get justice, and quickly.” He also added, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith (faithfulness in persistence) on earth?” As has already been mentioned that God is never too late or too early but always on time! “How Long O Lord?” As long as it takes according to the wise, infinite, tender and loving providence of our Triune God!