The header of this psalm begins by stating that this is to the chief musician and that it is a Psalm of David. David is going to show that he is comfortable questioning God as we should be, but we must ask in faith, remain humble, and not doubt when we incite God to respond. David is going to create a long list of questions starting with the words, “How Long?”, to get a timetable from God for any sign of relief from his daily woes and sorrows caused by his enemies. David is going to come away revived and led to worship God.
Let’s begin by reading Psalm 13
How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken. But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
How Long? (vs. 1-2)
How long will You forget me oh Lord? forever? how long will You hide Your face from me? As we begin to break down what David is saying first, he not only claims that he is the author but also the individual portrayed in the lyrics. This is not the first time that we have seen David use this “how long, Lord?” to question to what extent he would have to endure trials. He asked, “How long will you forget me?” and then he asks a secondary question, “is it going to be forever?”
Then he says, “how long will you hide your face from me? David is trying to express to God what is happening and tells Him how he feels about the absence that he is experiencing from the presence of God. While he is going through his troubles often the question is asked “how long?” Most of us can endure something if we know that there is an end in sight. It is a plea to God to step into the dire situation that we find ourselves in daily and show us some reprieve. We know that God doesn't forget anything unless we are referring to the sins that we have repented of before Him. Outside of that God never forgets His people. In Isaiah 49:15-16 we find the words of God,
“Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.”
In Hebrews 6:10, we find that God never forgets His faithful children, “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.” God’s people have often suffered and when it won’t go away it leads to longsuffering for extended periods of time. It doesn’t seem right or fair and so we are led to prayer and petitioning God for His help.
No amount of suffering lasts forever. We say, “this too shall pass” when undergoing some unfortunate event that is causing us discomfort. One thing that does last forever is the love of the Lord. When David says that God hid His face from him this is a way of expressing that he felt that God was distancing Himself from him and his calamity. The Bible is very plain that God turns his face away from sinners. Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). God's face is toward the righteous his ears are open to their cry. David is living righteously in this moment, and he wants to know why God isn’t listening.
In Psalm 74 verse 10 it is stated by Asaph
“Oh God how long shall the adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme your name forever?”
Here again we see the extremes. David uses the word “forever” and also asks “how long?” Again, in Psalm 79 verse 5 Asaph says, “how long Lord? will you be angry forever? shall your jealousy burn like fire?” You could also read Psalm 89 verse 46 for a similar sentiment from Ethan the Ezrahite.
Why did David believe these things? In Isaiah chapter one verse 15 God said
"when you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you even when you offer many prayers I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!”
If God was not listening to David and he was walking with God in his heart, then God would be acting out of His divine character. But God was not aloof or disconnected from David as we will see. David is going to end this passage with a deeper understanding of the way God loves and cares for His people despite what we have to face daily. We are not promised that this world is going to take it easy on us, but we are guaranteed that if we overcome, we will have great and precious treasures awaiting us.
As we enter into verse 2, David asks again "how long?" He says how long shall I take counsel in my soul having sorrow in my heart daily? This is followed by another asking of "how long?" only this time he says how long shall my enemies be exalted over me? In other words, since God has forgotten, I have had to turn to my own heart (understanding) and mind (knowledge) for counsel. But David knows that the word of God teaches us to trust in the Lord will all of our heart. We are not to lean on our own understanding. The problem with taking advice from yourself when you are in despair is that your mind is not thinking clearly. Take note that David is facing enemies at the same time that his heart is filled with the sorrow of feeling separated from God. David is concerned that his enemies will prevail and he will be put to shame.
I want to take a brief moment to address the subject of suicide. It appears in this text, that David is looking for any out from his daily sorrows. He is basically saying to God, if I don't get relief soon my soul might make a plan to end my life or it will ultimately kill me. This is why it is critically important that we are accountable to one another when going through difficult times. This is why we confess our faults to one another and pray for one another. Also keep in mind that when you feel abandoned by God that He promised to never leave you or forsake you (Deut 31:6; Isaiah 41:10; Hebrews 13:5-6). If you humbly turn to God in prayer with the heart of repentance, He will bless you. To live with sorrow or grief every day can lead to severe depression. Don't wait until it's too late to pray to God and take the time to lean on your brothers and sisters in Christ who can help us bear our burdens (Gal. 6:2).
Give Light (vs. 3-4)
In verse 3 David turns to prayer again. He says consider and hear me oh Lord my God light (enlighten) mine eyes lest I sleep the sleep of death. This type of asking is common to David as in Psalm 141 verse 1 David says
"Lord I call upon you. Hurry to me; listen to my voice when I call to you."
The idea behind giving light to the eyes is that he wants to be revived. In Psalm 67 verse one we find,
“God be merciful to us and bless us cause his face to shine upon us Selah."
In Psalm 80 and verse 3 David said
"restore us oh God let your face shine that we may be saved.”
In Ezra Chapter 9 and verse 8 we read,
“But now for a brief moment grace has been shown from the LORD our God, to leave us an escaped remnant and to give us a peg in His holy place, so that our God may enlighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our bondage.”
If David prays He needs answers from God (See Psalm 19:8; Eph. 1:18-19) David states that if this revival doesn't happen soon he would enter the sleep of death.
Although the New Testament portrays the idea that Christians are asleep in death because they have the hope of the resurrection, this idea is not unique to the New Testament (John 11:11, 13; I Cor. 11:30; I Cor. 15:51; I Thess. 4:14-15). In Job Chapter 14 verse 12 the text states,
“So a man lies down and does not rise. Until the heavens no longer exist, He will not awake nor be woken from his sleep.”
In Daniel 12:2, the prophet said,
"And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.”
David connects these ideas here by calling death the sleep of death. When darkness sets in and we don’t see light at the end of the tunnel we eventually lose heart and face the urge to perish without any hope of deliverance. I know that some of you have prayed for some time for answers about very important matters in your life, but you feel that God is not responding. Perhaps you have even felt like you wanted to die or that it would cause you to perish because of how much a burden you are bearing.
David now reveals that he has been praying because he has been up against enemies. If God doesn’t help David, his enemies will triumph and make a mockery of David and his God. In Psalm 38:16-17 David wrote,
“For I said, 'May they not rejoice over me, Who, when my foot slips, would magnify themselves against me. For I am ready to fall, And my sorrow is continually before me.'”
David wants to rejoice in the victory that God can provide and doesn’t want the evildoers around him to be able to gloat that God doesn’t hear him and respond soon.
Praise God (vs. 5-6)
David then contrasts the triumph of His enemies with trusting in God. David contrasts the rejoicing of these arrogant sinners with his rejoicing before the Lord when He delivers the godly out of their troubles. When our enemies surround us and we feel like hope is gone, that is when we bear down and put full trusting faith in God and spend time in worship before Him. Praise Him in the midst of the battle or storm. Rejoice in your suffering and pray in faith that God is going to move on your behalf instead of allowing your enemies to move you.
Sing, “I shall not be, I shall not be moved!” Remember that David is likely writing this song after the event that it reflects. He wants us to see how he met the depths of his despair with prayer and praise.
David concludes in verse 6,
“I will sing unto the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.”
It is hard to sing sometimes in worship while we are in a state of longsuffering. Truthfully, the Bible says in James 5:13, "is anyone among you afflicted (suffering), let him pray." The result of our prayer is that we would be brought through every hardship and give glory to God. James continues,
“Is anyone cheerful, let him sing psalms.”
So once you realize that the Lord has preserved you and you are free from the enemy and safe in His bountiful care, praise Him and adore Him in worship (Psalm 7:17). In Psalm 57:3, 5, David said, “He will send from heaven and save me; He reproaches him who tramples upon me. Selah. God will send forth His lovingkindness and His truth…Be thou exalted O God above the heavens; let thy glory be above all the earth.”
While David sees himself in the bountiful care of God, this was often a prayer request that he would utter, as in Psalm 119:17,
“Deal bountifully with Your servant, That I may live and keep Your word.”
What we learn from this is that when God is overflowing blessings into our life, and delivering us from evil, we should keep His word through a life filled with adoration and devotion to Him.
If you have spiritual needs that you want to discuss further, please reach out to me and I will be glad to assist you.