For September 2022, I’m trying to read and reflect – briefly – on a Psalm each day. I’ll read the Psalm, pray, and then ponder a few questions:
- What is this Psalm about?
- What does this Psalm teach about God?
- How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?
I’ll close the post with a simple prayer, trying to draw the themes together.
Almost two weeks in to September, here’s Psalm 13:
1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
What is this Psalm about?
We are back in lament – with the first four verses feeling relentless. Ascribed to David, there is no clue as to what was going on – which makes it’s presence in the Psalter interesting. This is a Psalm that starts in honest lament – but moves through a decision (v5) to end in praise of God (v5+6). This Psalm offers a model for entering into worship – starting honestly, even if it is painful, before moving to the proclamation of truth and the decision of trust.
What does this Psalm teach about God?
This Psalm seems at first to say little about God. Yet in it’s absence, much is said. First, the Psalmist laments the triumph of the enemy – with the flip side being the wonderful suggestion that God is on the Psalmist’s side. Second, as we see in verse three, it is only God’s action (‘give light to my eyes’) that makes life possible – the Psalm, in lament, recognises the foundation of reality. Thirdly (though arguably not finally!) verse five reminds us of one of the qualities of the love of God – with the fact that God is loving no mere incidental. God’s love is unfailing, unlike everything else, and ultimately unlike every other love.
How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?
The fact that we don’t really know what David was lamenting makes this a powerful Psalm for God’s people today – regardless of our reason for lament, Psalm 13 gives us permission to do so, language to lament in, and eventually a way forward. The challenge, perhaps, is to know when a ‘verse five’ moment comes – at what stage in lament we should or even can move to praise. Regardless of our feeling, the truth about God remains, and that can be proclaimed, even through gritted teeth and wet eyes.
A Prayer from Psalm 13
Lord, how long will this go on? How long will this circumstance encumber me? These people frustrate me? Help me to know how long to lament, and help me to learn to praise you even in the pain and the mundane. Amen.