Have you ever read a novel where the protagonist ushers up a prayer in the midst of terrible anxiety or when facing something unbeatable? I have. The character facing a real need makes a hopeful calling. The distressed character will pray to the “anyone” listening out there. Many times the author does not give their characters any real hope that anyone is listening. There is no substance for their trust. It is not a living hope.
While that novel may fall short on Christian truth it does not fall entirely short. What is there are a couple of humanity’s core conceptions. One is that we are not alone. The other is that we need something bigger than us; bigger than our problems.
David knew he was not alone, because God had often come alongside of him. That real and palpable connection meant so much for David both in good times and bad. Jesus also knew that palpable connection and expressed its absence as a grievous thing, saying, “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” David expressed its absence with great pathos too. That is what we see recorded in Psalm 13.
1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 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, 4 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. (Psalm 13–ESV)
God seems gone
David wrote this passage while he was mired in something that was lost. That lost thing was the communion of togetherness that he had had with God. He had experienced an intimacy that made a great difference in the moments of his life. That nearness was felt palpably. It was a thing he had grown to rely upon and so in the midst of its absence he cried out, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?”
God had been there to hear, to untangle David’s thoughts, to quell sorrow, to triumph over his inner demons (to use the common parlance of our day). God had been the answer to David’s needs, his way forward, his good choices, he restful sleep.
Life is bad without God
The second verse here uncovers David’s life without God.
Where did the real David function as he ruled over Israel? In his mind. He was the one who had to make the tough choices. David had to settle squabbles. He had to set the course of the nation aright. David had to balance the demands of a monarch. God’s presence had counterbalanced the strong winds that blew in the kingdom.
Now though, he was wrestling with these thoughts seemingly all by himself. The weight of it was causing a great sorrow. The pressures against him were threatening to undo him and we see that he feared he will sleep the sleep of death. It seemed likely to him that he would die. He asked in verse 3 that he might see what needed to be done so that he would not die, so that his enemy would not prevail over him.
Here comes the trust
David’s solution to the problem was God himself. He knew God’s character was marked by unfailing love. The quandary that David was mired in was not so big that God’s love failed. Unfailing love doesn’t fail. That is a truism, but sometimes we need to tell ourselves the obvious and put our trust there. That was the anchor that David landed upon. Knowledge of God was called to the rescue.
David was not seeing or feeling God’s leading or presence, but feeling happy and seeing a solution for the present situations are are never the backbone of faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for. Faith trusts. David went back to what had worked for him in the past. In essence he said, “Since I know your love is unfailing I will trust in that.”
He goes on to say that he heart rejoices in God’s salvation. This can be taken in two ways. It may be that David says that faith worked. He trusted in God’s unfailing love and then the rejoicing came. It may, though, be that rejoicing, like faith, was done on purpose. The same approach can be taken with verse 6. He may have started singing as a result of God’s arrival or he may have used song and thoughts of the past as the source of his restoration.
David ushered up prayers, but his faith was in a living hope. The Bible is no novel. It is God’s word for the life of everyone which would take the offer. God was David’s living hope.
Key points from this chapter:
- Even kings wrestle with their thoughts.
- David was plagued with sorrow and uncertainty; we should not be surprised to see this in our lives.
- When life bites hard on our lives recall the love of God.
- Rejoice in what God has already done.
- When uncertainty comes sing.
- Terror now does not nullify the good things that used to be.