How long, till you ask, “How long?” Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) comments, “If the reader has never yet found occasion to use the language of this brief ode, he will do so ere long, if he be a man after the Lord’s own heart.”
David asks, “How long?” Rev. Spurgeon explains, “This question is repeated no less than four times. It betokens very intense desire for deliverance, and great anguish of heart . . . It is not easy to prevent desire from degenerating into impatience. O for grace that, while we wait on God, we may be kept from indulging a murmuring spirit!’”
Rev. Spurgeon also comments, “Whenever you look into David’s Psalms, you may somewhere or another see yourselves. You never get into a corner but you find David in that corner. I think that I was never so low that I could not find that David was lower; and I never climbed so high that I could not find that David was up above me, ready to sing his song upon his stringed instrument, even as I could sing mine.”
Rev. W. Wilson D.D., recounts, “There are many situations of the believer in this life in which the words of this Psalm may be a consolation, and help to revive sinking faith. A certain man lay at the pool of Bethesda, who had an infirmity thirty and eight years. John: 5:5. A woman had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, before she was ‘loosed.’ Luke 13:11. Lazarus all his life long laboured under disease and poverty, till he was released by death and transferred to Abraham's bosom. Luke 16:20-22. Let every one, then, who may be tempted to use the complaints of this Psalm, assure his heart that God does not forget his people, help will come at last, and, in the meantime, all things shall work together for good to them that love him.”
Dr. John Phillips (1927-2010) explains, “David wrote this psalm when he was exhausted and depressed. His troubles with King Saul had gone on year after year and he was dispirited and discouraged. He had already been driven to desperate human expedients to escape his relentless foe. This psalm was wrung out of the extremity of his soul. He simply could not go on, not for another day, not for another hour, not for another minute.”
What about you? Are you facing an uncomfortable or unpleasant situation with no end in sight? As a trusting obedient believer, when you experience these long-term trials, remember God is doing something for your good and for His glory! Remember Job.
From our text found in Psalm 13:1-6, we read, “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 daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death; Lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed against him’; Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved. But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.”
Allow me to point out three things about this prayer of David.
I. We find David’s poignant outburst about his situation.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary the term “poignant,” among other things, means “painfully affecting the feelings: PIERCING” or “deeply affecting: TOUCHING.”
We read Psalm 13:1-2, “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 daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?”
Dr. R. E. O. (Reginald Ernest Oscar) White (1914-2003), former Principal of the Baptist Theological College of Scotland from 1968-1979, comments, “The psalmist utters a poignant cry of spiritual desolation that is quite unexplained (v. 3 does not necessarily imply sickness). The poet is acutely aware of the loss of God's conscious favor; of ceaseless inward debate, of continual sorrow, of the gloating of opponents over his state. He also seems afraid of dying in his spiritual darkness. Many of the truly devout have known such seasons of despair and have found with the psalmist that the memory of God's past goodness and trust in his unfailing love provide the answer to such dark moods.”
Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe observes, “God had promised David the throne of Israel, yet that day of coronation seemed further and further away. Saul was doing evil things, and God wasn't judging him, and yet David was doing good things and felt abandoned by the Lord. David was certainly disturbed by what the enemy was doing, but he was more concerned about what the Lord was not doing.”
Don Fleming, a prolific author and Bible teacher from Belmont, Queensland, Australia, explains the following about David’s situation, “Continual persecution can be hard to bear. It tries the psalmist's patience to the limit, causing him to cry out to God, almost in despair, asking when will God deliver him from his troubles (13:1-2). If he dies, his enemies will think they have won the battle against him (3-4). However, the very act of crying out to God lightens his burden. It reminds him that the one to whom he cries has bound himself to his people with a covenant love, and he will not fail (5-6).”
We read in Hebrews 13:5-6, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’”
Dr. F. B. Meyer (1847-1929) comments in his Choice Notes on the Psalms, “Saul’s persecutions probably lasted for eight or nine years; and no hope of termination appeared (1 Sam. 27:1) David was a man who spends five hundred days passing through a forest. The tangled over-growth hides the sun; and he begins to despair of ever emerging.” From 1 Samuel 27:1 we read, “And David said in his heart, ‘Now I shall perish someday by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape to the land of the Philistines; and Saul will despair of me, to seek me anymore in any part of Israel. So I shall escape out of his hand.’”
Rev. Andrew Fuller, D.D. (1754-1815) observes, “It is not under the sharpest, but the longest trials, that we are most in danger of fainting.” When going through a long trial, many people become frustrated and angry with God. Have you ever been angry with God? Dr. Ray Stedman (1917-1992) advises, “If you are angry, try Psalm 58 or Psalm 13.” I would recommend both.
Rev. E. M. Bounds, D.D. (1835-1913) shares the following poetic verse in The Essentials of Prayer:
Trials must and will befall;
But with humble faith to see
Love inscribed upon them all
This is happiness to me.
Trials make the promise sweet
Trials give new life to prayer;
Bring me to my savior's feet
Lay me low, and keep me there.
II. We find David’s potential outcomes in his supplication.
In Psalm 13:3-4 we read, “Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death; Lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed against him’; Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.” Dr. Allen P. Ross comments, “The psalmist received assurance that the Lord would arise and free the weak and... the needy from oppression. God promised to deliver those who trusted in Him from those who were maligning them.”
David’s supplication reminds me of a supplication of Moses, where he reminds God what the heathen will think if He does not deliver the children of Israel. We read in Exodus 32:1-14, “Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And Aaron said to them, ‘Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.’ Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ And the Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.’ Then Moses pleaded with the Lord his God, and said: ‘Lord, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ So the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.”
David is not giving information to the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-seeing God. He is spreading the situation before Him much like King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20:1-12, where we read, “It happened after this that the people of Moab with the people of Ammon, and others with them besides the Ammonites, came to battle against Jehoshaphat. Then some came and told Jehoshaphat, saying, ‘A great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea, from Syria; and they are in Hazazon Tamar” (which is En Gedi). And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. So Judah gathered together to ask help from the Lord; and from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord. Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, and said: ‘O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You? Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever? And they dwell in it, and have built You a sanctuary in it for Your name, saying, ‘If disaster comes upon us—sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine—we will stand before this temple and in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple), and cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save.’ And now, here are the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir—whom You would not let Israel invade when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them and did not destroy them— here they are, rewarding us by coming to throw us out of Your possession which You have given us to inherit. O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.’”
III. We find David’s positive outlook for his salvation.
David writes in Psalm 13:5-6, “But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.” Dr. Lawrence O. Richards comments, “Under pressure, David feels forgotten by God (13:1-2) and cries out for the Lord to act (vv. 3-4). No immediate answer comes, yet David finds peace remembering God's loyal love (vv. 5-6).”
The term “salvation” means “deliverance.” For the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, ultimately, salvation means to be free from the penalty of sin, free from the power of sin, and free from the presence of sin. Jesus said in John 8:36, “Therefore, if the Son make you free, you will be free indeed.” This is true for those who humbly and honestly confess with Paul the Apostle, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12b).
Here, David believes the Lord will deliver him from those who persecute him. Let me assure you that his positive outlook is not mere positive thinking or wishful thinking. When we take time to come to the Lord in prayer about every area of life, we become keenly aware of His presence.
Commenting on Psalm 13:6, Dr. Joseph Parker (1830-1902) shares the following “Reasons for Praise.” Dr. Parker writes, “There is a reason for singing. The singing that has no reason is really not singing. Why do we sing? what moves the tongue to utterance? Is it because it is time to sing? then the song will be poor and formal. Is it because we are expected to sing? then will the very pith of the song go out of it. Do we sing because we cannot help it? then there may be strong, tender, heaven-seeking music. –Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. v. p. 118.”
As we look across the landscape of the United States of America, we realize the only hope for this country is genuine revival and spiritual awakening. This land once blessed by Almighty God, now marked by violent attacks and marred with vile abominations, and we wonder, “How long?” We ask, “How long, before the Lord acts?” At this point, we are ripe for judgment, but we must cry out with the psalmist, “Will You not revive us again, That Your people may rejoice in You?” (Psalm 85:3)
Dr. John Phillips explains, “When we are at our wit's end, without resources, at a loss for a way, perplexed and desperate—that is usually when we see God begin to work. But before He does anything about our situation He wants to do something about ourselves, and that is where we begin to hedge. We want God to deal with our complication; He wants to develop our character. We want Him to change our circumstances; He wants to change us first. That is why He allowed the circumstances. We cry: ‘Hurry up, Lord!’ He says: ‘It's your move. I won't move until you do.’ That is what this little psalm is all about.”
How long, till you ask, “How long?”
C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Vol. 1, Psalm I To XXVI, Third Edition, (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1883), 169
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1893), 253
C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Vol. 1, Psalm I To XXVI, Third Edition, (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1883), 174-175
John Phillips, The John Phillips Commentary Series – Exploring Psalms, Volume One, “How Long? How Long? How Long?”, 99
Accessed: 07/22/13 http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/poignant
R. E. O. White, Baker Commentary on the Bible, ed. Walter A. Elwell, Psalms, Introduction, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1989), 375, Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.
Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary: The Old Testament: Wisdom and Poetry, (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 112, © 2004, Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.
Don Fleming, AMG Concise Bible Commentary, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publications, 1988, 1994), 191, Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.
F. B. Meyer, Choice Notes on the Psalms [originally titled Gems from the Psalms], (Grand Rapid: Kregel, 1984), 23
E. M. Bounds, The Essentials of Prayer, (New Kensington, PA: 1994, 2001), 54
John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Bible Knowledge Commentary, Victor Books, A Division of Scripture Press Publications Inc., 1985, Database ©2003 WORDsearch Corp
Lawrence O. Richards, Bible Reader's Companion (Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communications Ministries, 1991, 2004), Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.
The Expositor's Dictionary of Texts, Volume 1, Part 1: Genesis through Proverbs, Eds. Sir W. Robertson Nicoll, M.A., LL. D. and Jane T. Stoddart with the co-operation of the Rev. James Moffatt, M.A., D.D., (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1892), 374, Database © 2008 WORDsearch Corp.
John Phillips, The John Phillips Commentary Series – Exploring Psalms, Volume One, “How Long? How Long? How Long?” 99, Database, WORDsearch Corp.
By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527
Author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice Available on Amazon.com and WORDsearchbible.com
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