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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Psalms 13

 

 

Verses 1-6

Psalms 13:1-6

How long wilt Thou forget me, O Lord?

Distress and confidence

This little Psalm begins in agitation and ends in calm. However true it is that sorrow is “but for a moment,” it seems to last for an eternity. Sad hours are leaden footed and joyful ones winged. That “How long,” reiterated, betrays how weary it was to the Psalmist. Very significant is the progress of thought in the four-fold questioning plaint, which turns flint to God, then to himself, then to the enemy. The root of his sorrow is that God seems to have forgotten him; therefore his soul is full of plans for relief, and the enemy seems to be lifted up above him. Left alone, without God’s help, what can a man do but think and plan and scheme to weariness all night, and carry a heavy heart, as he sees by daylight how futile his plans are? The agitation of the first strophe is somewhat stilled in the second, in which the stream of prayer runs clear without such foam as the impatient questions of the first part. The storm has all rolled away in the third strophe, in which faith has triumphed over doubt and anticipates the fulfilment of its prayer. The sad minor of “How long?” if coming from faithful lips, passes into a jubilant key which heralds the full gladness of the yet future songs of deliverance. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Sorrow lingers

That which the French proverb hath of sickness is true of all evils, that they come on horseback and go away on foot; we have often seen that a sudden fall, or one meal’s surfeit, has stuck by many to their graves; whereas pleasures come like oxen, slow and heavily, and go away like post horses, upon the spur. Sorrows, because they are lingering guests, I will entertain but moderately, knowing that the more they are made of the longer they will continue; and for pleasures, because they stay not, and do but call to drink at my door, I will use them as passengers with slight respect. He is his own best friend that makes the least of both of them. (Joseph Hall.)

The relative changes of the immutable God

He is unchangeable. “Job says, “He is in one mind.” James, “With Him there is no variableness.” And He Himself says, “I am the Lord, I change not.” In reality He is thus, but relatively He seems to change.

I. God as looked at through the soul in trouble. He seemed to be--

1. Forgetful. “How long wilt Thou forget me?”

2. As unkind. “How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me?” To turn away the face was the sign of aversion and displeasure.

3. As utterly neglectful. “How long?” Four times he repeats this. As if God was utterly regardless of him. So it seemed to him.

II. God as looked at through the soul in devotion. In the midst of his troubles he prays, “Consider and hear me, O Lord, my God: lighten mine eyes,” etc. As he prays the cloud withdraws, and he cries, “My heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation.” Prayer changes the night of the soul into morning, its discords into music, its dark and chilly November into a sunny and life-giving May.

III. Conclusion.

1. The power of circumstances to disturb the soul. While no man need be their creature, it is impossible for him not to feel their influence.

2. The rapid changes which occur in the mood of the soul. The Psalm begins in gloom and ends in sunshine.

3. The influence of prayer to elevate the soul. Prayer is the power that changes the whole horizon of our spiritual nature. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

What total desertion by God would mean

When the king removes, the court and all the carriages follow after; and when they are gone, the hangings are taken down, nothing is left behind but bare walls, dust, and rubbish. So if God removes from a man or a nation where He kept His court, His graces will not stay long behind; and if they be gone, farewell peace, farewell comfort; down go the hangings of all prosperity, nothing is left behind but confusion and disorder. (J. Staughton.)

Soul eclipses

I. The nature of such eclipses. It is quite true that God never ceases to love His children, but still the people of God are sensible of eclipses of the soul such as the Psalmist describes in this Psalm. God has not really deserted His children, but it seems as if He had. In providential matters they fail to recognise His hand; His consolations cease in their spirits, and they are full of darkness and bitterness.

II. The causes of these eclipses. Why does God thus appear to desert His people at all? The end of God’s discipline is to make His people feel their absolute dependence upon Himself. These eclipses teach us--

1. That God is the source of happiness;

2. The source of wisdom;

3. The source of strength; and

4. The source of life. Why does God hide His face so long? Simply because we are so slow to learn the great truths which He designs to teach.

III. The duty of the saints in these hours of darkness. Not discontent, and not despair.

1. Wait in faith.

2. Wait in prayer.

3. Wait in hope. When the trial is over your soul shall be deeper, brighter, and more fruitful. (W. L. Watkinson.)

A sigh and a song

The “salute” of this Psalm is a sigh, the “adieu” is a song. We sight the Psalmist prostrate before the mercy throne, wrapped in grim shadows of gloom, bowed in soul by the weight of a great sorrow, and howling “How long?” We leave him sitting in the stillness of a new confidence, enwreathed with sunbeams of gladness, pealing forth from harp and lip an exultant Te Deum!

I. Earliest inquiry (Psalms 13:1-2). A fourfold inquiry. Can God forget? He hides His face, not willingly, but of necessity, that we may seek His face. And the longer, that we may seek it the more earnestly.

II. Devout and fervent entreaty (Psalms 13:3-4). Trouble gives point, pathos, and power to prayer. Genuine entreaty comes from a soul that has--

1. A clear recognition of its personal relationship to God.

2. It is definite in request. It knows what it wants, and asks for it. Entreaty has aim, directness, special need; hence is definite in request--e.g., Jacob, Jabez, etc. Here it seeks the Divine attention. The Divine illumination.

3. Genuine entreaty has powerful reasons for what it requests. “Lest I sleep,” etc. This is from the self-side. “Lest mine enemy say,” etc. This is from the God-side. Prevailing against him would be injurious to the truth.

III. Entreaty rising into triumphant assurance and praise. Here we have trustfulness--

1. Well located;

2. Triumphant;

3. Exultant. (J. O. Keen, D. D.)

God’s forgettings

It is quite unnecessary to point thus: “How long wilt Thou forget me?--For ever?” as if there were two distinct questions. It is natural to a perturbed and doubting heart thus to express itself in a confused and almost contradictory manner. In its despair it thinks, “God hath forgotten me”; and yet out of the very midst of its despair there rises up the conviction, “No, not forever”; and then its hopelessness is changed to expostulation, “How long wilt Thou forget me?” We may, if we choose it, paraphrase, “How long wilt Thou make as if Thou wouldest forget me forever?” God’s anger, the hiding of His countenance, as Delitzsch observes, cannot but seem eternal to the soul which is conscious of it. Nevertheless, Faith still cleaves to the Love which hides itself under the disguise of severity, and exclaims, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” “When we have long been crushed by sufferings, and no sign appears that God will succour us, the thought will force itself upon us, God hath forgotten me. For by nature we do not acknowledge that God cares for us in our afflictions; but by faith we lay hold of His invisible providence. So David, so far as he could judge from the actual state in which he was, seemed to himself forsaken of God. But at the same time, because the Light of Faith was his guide, he, with the eyes of his mind, looked through and beyond all else to the grace of God, far as it might seem hidden from his sight.”--Calvin. “Does he not portray in fitting words that most bitter anguish of spirit, which feels that it has to do with a God alienated, hostile, implacable, inexorable, whose wrath is, like Himself, eternal? This is a state in which hope despairs, and yet despair hopes at the same time. This no one understands who has not tasted it.”--Luther. (J. J. Stewart Perowne, B. D.)

The continuance of trial

In laying forth his grief he beginneth at his apparent desertion; then speaketh of the perplexity of mind arising herefrom; and, last of all, he mentioneth the continuance of his outward trouble from his enemies. Whence learn--

1. Trouble outward and inward of body and spirit, fightings without and terrors within, vexations from heaven and earth, from God deserting and men pursuing, may fall upon a child of God at one time, and continue for a long time enough, as here. “How long wilt Thou forget me; how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?”

2. When trouble is continued, and appearance of delivery is not, and God withholdeth inward and outward help, sense calleth this the Lord’s forgetting and hiding of His face. “How long wilt Thou forget me, and hide Thy face?

3. The Lord’s children, in their resolution for faith and patience, do set to themselves a shorter period usually than the Lord doth for making them have their perfect work; therefore, when their hope is deferred, it makes their heart sick, and to cry out, “How long?”

4. When comfort trysteth not with our time, fear of eternal off-casting may readily slide in; and this fear a soul acquainted with God, or that loveth Him in any measure, cannot endure. “Wilt Thou forget me forever?” saith he.

5. Whatsoever sense do speak, or suggested temptations do speak, faith will relate the business to the Lord, and expect a better speech from Him. For in this condition the Prophet goeth to God, saying, “How long, O Lord?”

6. A soul finding desertion multiplieth consultations, falleth in perplexity, changeth conclusions, as a sick man doth his bed; falleth in grief, and cannot endure to live by its own finding, but runneth upon God for direction, as here we see it. “How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily?”

7. The enemies taking advantage (by the continuance of trouble upon the godly), against his cause and religion and against God, doth augment both the grief and temptation of the godly. “How long shall mine enemies be exalted over me?” (David Dickson.)


Verses 1-6

Psalms 13:1-6

How long wilt Thou forget me, O Lord?

Distress and confidence

This little Psalm begins in agitation and ends in calm. However true it is that sorrow is “but for a moment,” it seems to last for an eternity. Sad hours are leaden footed and joyful ones winged. That “How long,” reiterated, betrays how weary it was to the Psalmist. Very significant is the progress of thought in the four-fold questioning plaint, which turns flint to God, then to himself, then to the enemy. The root of his sorrow is that God seems to have forgotten him; therefore his soul is full of plans for relief, and the enemy seems to be lifted up above him. Left alone, without God’s help, what can a man do but think and plan and scheme to weariness all night, and carry a heavy heart, as he sees by daylight how futile his plans are? The agitation of the first strophe is somewhat stilled in the second, in which the stream of prayer runs clear without such foam as the impatient questions of the first part. The storm has all rolled away in the third strophe, in which faith has triumphed over doubt and anticipates the fulfilment of its prayer. The sad minor of “How long?” if coming from faithful lips, passes into a jubilant key which heralds the full gladness of the yet future songs of deliverance. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Sorrow lingers

That which the French proverb hath of sickness is true of all evils, that they come on horseback and go away on foot; we have often seen that a sudden fall, or one meal’s surfeit, has stuck by many to their graves; whereas pleasures come like oxen, slow and heavily, and go away like post horses, upon the spur. Sorrows, because they are lingering guests, I will entertain but moderately, knowing that the more they are made of the longer they will continue; and for pleasures, because they stay not, and do but call to drink at my door, I will use them as passengers with slight respect. He is his own best friend that makes the least of both of them. (Joseph Hall.)

The relative changes of the immutable God

He is unchangeable. “Job says, “He is in one mind.” James, “With Him there is no variableness.” And He Himself says, “I am the Lord, I change not.” In reality He is thus, but relatively He seems to change.

I. God as looked at through the soul in trouble. He seemed to be--

1. Forgetful. “How long wilt Thou forget me?”

2. As unkind. “How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me?” To turn away the face was the sign of aversion and displeasure.

3. As utterly neglectful. “How long?” Four times he repeats this. As if God was utterly regardless of him. So it seemed to him.

II. God as looked at through the soul in devotion. In the midst of his troubles he prays, “Consider and hear me, O Lord, my God: lighten mine eyes,” etc. As he prays the cloud withdraws, and he cries, “My heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation.” Prayer changes the night of the soul into morning, its discords into music, its dark and chilly November into a sunny and life-giving May.

III. Conclusion.

1. The power of circumstances to disturb the soul. While no man need be their creature, it is impossible for him not to feel their influence.

2. The rapid changes which occur in the mood of the soul. The Psalm begins in gloom and ends in sunshine.

3. The influence of prayer to elevate the soul. Prayer is the power that changes the whole horizon of our spiritual nature. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

What total desertion by God would mean

When the king removes, the court and all the carriages follow after; and when they are gone, the hangings are taken down, nothing is left behind but bare walls, dust, and rubbish. So if God removes from a man or a nation where He kept His court, His graces will not stay long behind; and if they be gone, farewell peace, farewell comfort; down go the hangings of all prosperity, nothing is left behind but confusion and disorder. (J. Staughton.)

Soul eclipses

I. The nature of such eclipses. It is quite true that God never ceases to love His children, but still the people of God are sensible of eclipses of the soul such as the Psalmist describes in this Psalm. God has not really deserted His children, but it seems as if He had. In providential matters they fail to recognise His hand; His consolations cease in their spirits, and they are full of darkness and bitterness.

II. The causes of these eclipses. Why does God thus appear to desert His people at all? The end of God’s discipline is to make His people feel their absolute dependence upon Himself. These eclipses teach us--

1. That God is the source of happiness;

2. The source of wisdom;

3. The source of strength; and

4. The source of life. Why does God hide His face so long? Simply because we are so slow to learn the great truths which He designs to teach.

III. The duty of the saints in these hours of darkness. Not discontent, and not despair.

1. Wait in faith.

2. Wait in prayer.

3. Wait in hope. When the trial is over your soul shall be deeper, brighter, and more fruitful. (W. L. Watkinson.)

A sigh and a song

The “salute” of this Psalm is a sigh, the “adieu” is a song. We sight the Psalmist prostrate before the mercy throne, wrapped in grim shadows of gloom, bowed in soul by the weight of a great sorrow, and howling “How long?” We leave him sitting in the stillness of a new confidence, enwreathed with sunbeams of gladness, pealing forth from harp and lip an exultant Te Deum!

I. Earliest inquiry (Psalms 13:1-2). A fourfold inquiry. Can God forget? He hides His face, not willingly, but of necessity, that we may seek His face. And the longer, that we may seek it the more earnestly.

II. Devout and fervent entreaty (Psalms 13:3-4). Trouble gives point, pathos, and power to prayer. Genuine entreaty comes from a soul that has--

1. A clear recognition of its personal relationship to God.

2. It is definite in request. It knows what it wants, and asks for it. Entreaty has aim, directness, special need; hence is definite in request--e.g., Jacob, Jabez, etc. Here it seeks the Divine attention. The Divine illumination.

3. Genuine entreaty has powerful reasons for what it requests. “Lest I sleep,” etc. This is from the self-side. “Lest mine enemy say,” etc. This is from the God-side. Prevailing against him would be injurious to the truth.

III. Entreaty rising into triumphant assurance and praise. Here we have trustfulness--

1. Well located;

2. Triumphant;

3. Exultant. (J. O. Keen, D. D.)

God’s forgettings

It is quite unnecessary to point thus: “How long wilt Thou forget me?--For ever?” as if there were two distinct questions. It is natural to a perturbed and doubting heart thus to express itself in a confused and almost contradictory manner. In its despair it thinks, “God hath forgotten me”; and yet out of the very midst of its despair there rises up the conviction, “No, not forever”; and then its hopelessness is changed to expostulation, “How long wilt Thou forget me?” We may, if we choose it, paraphrase, “How long wilt Thou make as if Thou wouldest forget me forever?” God’s anger, the hiding of His countenance, as Delitzsch observes, cannot but seem eternal to the soul which is conscious of it. Nevertheless, Faith still cleaves to the Love which hides itself under the disguise of severity, and exclaims, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” “When we have long been crushed by sufferings, and no sign appears that God will succour us, the thought will force itself upon us, God hath forgotten me. For by nature we do not acknowledge that God cares for us in our afflictions; but by faith we lay hold of His invisible providence. So David, so far as he could judge from the actual state in which he was, seemed to himself forsaken of God. But at the same time, because the Light of Faith was his guide, he, with the eyes of his mind, looked through and beyond all else to the grace of God, far as it might seem hidden from his sight.”--Calvin. “Does he not portray in fitting words that most bitter anguish of spirit, which feels that it has to do with a God alienated, hostile, implacable, inexorable, whose wrath is, like Himself, eternal? This is a state in which hope despairs, and yet despair hopes at the same time. This no one understands who has not tasted it.”--Luther. (J. J. Stewart Perowne, B. D.)

The continuance of trial

In laying forth his grief he beginneth at his apparent desertion; then speaketh of the perplexity of mind arising herefrom; and, last of all, he mentioneth the continuance of his outward trouble from his enemies. Whence learn--

1. Trouble outward and inward of body and spirit, fightings without and terrors within, vexations from heaven and earth, from God deserting and men pursuing, may fall upon a child of God at one time, and continue for a long time enough, as here. “How long wilt Thou forget me; how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?”

2. When trouble is continued, and appearance of delivery is not, and God withholdeth inward and outward help, sense calleth this the Lord’s forgetting and hiding of His face. “How long wilt Thou forget me, and hide Thy face?

3. The Lord’s children, in their resolution for faith and patience, do set to themselves a shorter period usually than the Lord doth for making them have their perfect work; therefore, when their hope is deferred, it makes their heart sick, and to cry out, “How long?”

4. When comfort trysteth not with our time, fear of eternal off-casting may readily slide in; and this fear a soul acquainted with God, or that loveth Him in any measure, cannot endure. “Wilt Thou forget me forever?” saith he.

5. Whatsoever sense do speak, or suggested temptations do speak, faith will relate the business to the Lord, and expect a better speech from Him. For in this condition the Prophet goeth to God, saying, “How long, O Lord?”

6. A soul finding desertion multiplieth consultations, falleth in perplexity, changeth conclusions, as a sick man doth his bed; falleth in grief, and cannot endure to live by its own finding, but runneth upon God for direction, as here we see it. “How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily?”

7. The enemies taking advantage (by the continuance of trouble upon the godly), against his cause and religion and against God, doth augment both the grief and temptation of the godly. “How long shall mine enemies be exalted over me?” (David Dickson.)


Verse 2

Psalms 13:2

How long shall I take counsel in my soul?

Plan making

The literal rendering of this verse brings before us the folly of mere plan making. David is taking counsel in his own soul: inventing plans of self-deliverance; making up schemes of daily life and programmes of service and progress. He no sooner makes one plan than it is displaced by another. His schemes follow in quick succession, but the second always amends the first, and both give way to the third, and he finds that in much scheming is much disappointment; it brings sorrow into his heart daily. By day he is mocked by harassing thoughts; by night he reverses all his plans in dreams; and in the morning he awakes to forget both day and night in some new vision of possible self-deliverance. Thus the mind, left to itself, is self-tormented; being limited in range, it is continually checking its own conclusions, and hesitating as to its own purposes. How true it is, “Without Me ye can do nothing.” This is what Jesus Christ said to His disciples, and we feel it to be true in our own souls when we endeavour to invent plans for ourselves, and to make our will into a kind of divinity. It is curious to observe, too, how the Psalmist continually mixes up the right view and the wrong one, and how he is certain to fail into the wrong view the moment he turns away his complete attention from the living God. In this verse he occupies the wrong standpoint when he is wondering how long his enemy is to be exalted over him. When a man is truly living in God he has no time to think about his enemy, nor any disposition to consider what that enemy will do. God occupies the whole soul with equal vividness at every point, and dominates in gracious sovereignty over every beating pulse and living thought. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)

Having sorrow in my heart dally.

Sorrows

Can this be a common experience? Many of us would say so. Sorrow is an excellent discipline, and a healing medicine. Let us notice a few of our sorrows.

I. There is that of our lonely path. Many people find a friend, husband, wife, business, pleasure on which they can lean, but there comes a time when you feel helpless. Sometimes you say, “There is nobody who has to walk in a path like mine.” This is true, but then we all feel the same. Let our loneliness teach us to seek the presence of God. You will always be disappointed until you feel the touch of God.

II. That which is too painful to receive sympathy in words. See the history of Job, when his three friends came to mourn with him. “None spake a word unto him; for the) saw that his grief was very great.” None but God can comfort you.

III. That which arises from doubt. Satan said to our Lord, “If Thou be the Son of God.” So we all feel at times, and we say, “Is there really a God?” “Can He care for me? No,” seems the answer to everything at times. You may have a medicine chest in your house, which may help you in slight disorders; but there may come a time when it fails, and you look for other help. And so, at times, the Bible, the Church, and the minister are like that medicine chest, and you turn from each, saying, “I cannot obtain any relief there.” At such time go into your room, shut your door, and speak to God Himself. It is a sin to doubt if you make it despair. Last night, when I went up to bed, my little child called out, “Papa, I am so afraid!” I comforted her, and said, “Don’t be afraid, dear!” She whispered, “Papa, leave your door wide open, and then I can go to sleep.” I went to my room, and let the door bang against the chair, to let the little one hear that it was wide open. The thought that my door was wide open, and that my care reached her from my room to hers rested her little, anxious heart, and she slept the sleep of the innocent. In your doubts and fears keep fast hold on this fact--that Jesus Christ is God’s door, wide open for you.

IV. That from temporal losses. A ruined merchant came home one afternoon earlier than usual, and, sitting in his chair, buried his face in his hands. When his wife touched him on the shoulder he exclaimed, in a groan like as from a man who is being buried alive, “Mary, I have lost all! I am ruined!” She said, “But, James, you have not lost me!” Then a sweet child came up, saying, “Father, you haven’t lost me either!” One of his daughters said, “Father, have you lost God? Another asked, Father, have you lost heaven? Stupid man, he said he was ruined! Fancy a man saying he has lost “all” when he has at least one or two kind friends, and also a loving God and a blessed heaven!

V. That from sin. There is great sorrow in the heart of a sinner, and it is well to be so. It would be a calamity else. The wages of sin is the death of happiness, but the life of misery.

VI. That from bereavement. Some of you keep relics of your departed ones. The boy’s rusty knife, with only one blade, and that broken; but how the eyes of the mother glisten when she looks on that old knife. Here is a toy soldier, without a head; but see the tear of that strong man drop thereon. Ah, your children who have gone from you! Are they not the Lord’s magnets to draw you up to heaven? (William Birch.)

Advice to the dejected

To “commune with” our own hearts and to “take counsel,” as is meant here, are not the same things. We may pore over our guilt and wretchedness, and overlook our highest mercies. Such, for a time, was the case with David, and there are many who still do the same.

I. The disconsolate situation, with the remedy to which he repaired under it.

1. He was sorely persecuted.

2. The Lord seemed to prosper his persecutors and not him.

3. His most intimate acquaintance seemed to have forsaken him.

4. And there were spiritual distresses beside. The Lord “hid His face.”

5. And for a long time. “How long,” etc. Now concerning all this load of trouble, he is said to have taken “counsel in his soul.” He was in much perplexity and distress. It did not last long, however, for, he says, “I have trusted in Thy mercy.” What cannot Divine mercy effect?

II. Those who are like David and need the same help. Such are--

1. Those who sink into despondency under the adverse providences of God.

2. Those who at the outset of their religious concern are encompassed with darkness and long-continued dejection. Various are the causes of this. Circumstances without them. False ideas as to election. Something within them, as a propensity to take unfavourable views of themselves; or a species of self-righteousness.

3. Those who during the most part of their Christian profession live under habitual fear lest they should prove reprobate at last. Now if we would wish to discover whether there were any particles of steel in a heap of rubbish, the best way would not be to search for them, but to hold a large and powerful magnet over it. And this, if it be there, is the way to discover true religion in our souls. Hold the truths of the Gospel over them and this will draw it forth. (Andrew Fuller.)

Sources and remedies of disquietude

Presumption and despair are the two fatal rocks on which we are in danger of making shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience. A vain conceit of our own righteousness and strength exposes to the one; sad and gloomy reflections on our own sin and corruptions, as if they exceeded the mercies of God and excluded us from the hope of forgiveness, plunge us into the other. There is a godly jealousy of ourselves which is highly proper and necessary, as it leads to watchfulness and circumspection and a constant dependence upon Divine strength. But this jealousy may, like zeal, be without knowledge, and may exceed its just and proper limits. Point out some of those things on account of which good men take counsel in their souls and have sorrow in their heart daily.

1. Many humble and sincere Christians are apt to complain of irregular and wandering thoughts, in prayer and other religious duties. Whence they conclude that their minds are not duly impressed with a sense of Divine things. Doubts and fears of this nature constitute the grand distinction between man, as a being capable of religion, and the inferior creatures. In everything we attempt we are interrupted with various impressions and distractions of mind. There are many who cannot attend upon any religious duty with that steadiness and alacrity which they discover in their secular employments. Others, more deserving of our sympathy, both desire and endeavour to have their minds composed when engaged in devotional duties; but, to their sorrow of heart, they fall short of their wishes and fail in their attempts. The best of men are not wholly exempted from these wanderings of heart. It may be asked, how are we to distinguish the suggestions and temptations of Satan from those that arise from the remains of sin and corruption in the renewed heart? We may distinguish them by the welcome reception we give them on the one hand, and by the pain and uneasiness they give us on the other. Do you abhor the evil thoughts and suggestions you complain of? In that case you have no reason to be east down or discouraged. His grace will be sufficient for you. It is the consent of the will that constitutes the criminality of any action whatever; and, while it is our daily struggle to withhold this, and we are, by Divine grace, enabled to withhold it, we have no reason to be cast down or disquieted.

2. Another source of inward disquietude arises from the defects and imperfections that attend our best services. There is not a just man that liveth and sinneth not, is the language of Scripture and of universal experience. But this consideration, though it ought to humble, need not discourage us in our Christian warfare. Though we cannot hope wholly to eradicate our sins and corruptions, it is our duty to resist and oppose them by our constant endeavours and fervent prayers. Those who imagine that they have arrived at sinless perfection must be unacquainted with the spirituality of the Divine law, and with the extent of its obligations. This is our encouragement, that if any man sin we have an advocate with the Father. With regard to those who have fallen into grievous sins after the most solemn engagements, their case requires to be treated with the utmost caution. A good man may be “overtaken in a fault.” Such are fit objects of Christian compassion, and stand in need of all that comfort which the nature of the Gospel covenant, rightly understood, abundantly administers.

3. Another source of disquietude arises from the outward troubles and afflictions of life. When these overtake the Christian he naturally looks up to God for relief. But guilt is suspicious, and there is sin enough in the best of men to justify the severest trials with which they may be visited in this world. When affliction brings the sins of men of distinguished piety to their remembrance the recollection of them is accompanied with many aggravating circumstances. In all the trying circumstances of this changeful life the Christian has an anchor of hope sure and steadfast.

4. Another source of disquietude is seen in the case of David--“The Lord hid His face from him.” He walked in darkness. This is not peculiar to the case of David. The exercised Christian knows what is meant by it, and has felt it in his painful experience. Job experienced the same. David says, “I have trusted in Thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation.” This remedy will be found effectual in every similar case. We shall not pretend to state all the reasons why God permits some of His dearest children to lose their spiritual comfort. One reason may be, that they are apt to build too much on their frames and feelings. Practical reflections--


Verse 3

Psalms 13:3

Lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.

Moral and spiritual death

The Psalmist’s cry was for a physical deliverance from mortal danger--probably from a violent death at the hands of his enemies. With little or no straining of the words they may be turned into a prayer against the peril of moral and spiritual death. Under the emblem of death, virtuous and pious souls in all ages have been wont to depict a torpor, coldness, and inactivity of the moral and spiritual faculties. We dare not affirm that spiritual death is, like physical death, a final condition.

1. Moral death. The main point in bringing up children is to give moral life, so that at maturity conscience may be in them a living power. You must not only give your child rules of conduct, you must teach him likewise to hate evil and to love goodness. For moral death in the young man or woman there is but one remedy--the opening, lightening of the eyes. Another form of moral death is discoverable in those of maturer years, whose whole morality consists in simple imitation of others by habit, and in ruling the life by the ordinary customs and opinions of one’s own little circle. Hundreds and thousands of quite respectable people are destitute of moral life. The essential conditions of moral life are absent. Such temptations as may come to then, are resisted from motives of self-indulgence rather than of self-denial and self-conquest. The worship of ease and respectability has gradually brought them into a state of moral torpor, indifference, and inactivity--has brought upon them, in fact, the sleep of death. Close akin to this is another form of moral death, into which some sink who once knew the nobility and the blessedness of the moral life. They began their worldly career not only innocent, but good, longing and striving to be good; but through adverse circumstances, through the pressure of the struggle for existence, they have been led to follow the evil example of the multitude, to copy their small dishonesties and their petty deceits in the matter of business, and to cease to have scruples in doing things and conniving at things which in their early days they shrank from as wicked. They become morally weaker from day to day, and at last the sleep of death comes over their hearts and consciences, and moral activity or heroic virtue is for them no longer possible. It is forgetfulness of God that most of all brings on this dreadful torpor. For the great mass of people, as they are, I can affirm, without fear of contradiction, that a religious life, a life of earnest prayer to God, is absolutely indispensable to a life of true and lofty morality.

2. Spiritual death. Moral death is widespread, even among respectable citizens. Spiritual death is equally prevalent among professedly religious people. Torpor, indifference, and inactivity of soul towards God is, I fear, the rule rather than the exception. And this is due to ignorance rather than to baseness, to a darkness which only the light of God can dispel. Spiritual death may be brought on by such means as these: by falseness in the creed detected, but not rejected; by superstition; by an unfounded fear of God; by undue regard for the mere externals of religious observances; by ignorance of what is really essential to true religion. These may be called the intellectual agents of spiritual disease and death. But there are other agents which are practical, such as being over-engrossed in worldly pursuits, giving up regular habits of prayer, seeking too eagerly the pleasures and indulgences of the flesh. We need a knowledge of the truth, which only God can give us, and which is much more than intellectual accuracy and consistency in our creed. The sleep of death may creel, over us when exhausted by the eternal problems which we make for ourselves, or find already made in our search after God. (Charles Voysey, M. A.)

Death in the midst of life

David was under no ordinary distress of mind, arising from some adversity into which he had fallen through the instrumentality of a fellow mortal. David knew that adversity is uniformly attended with one of two results: either a serious consideration of the causes which have brought down these inflictions and a consequent turning to God, or a reckless inattention to and a hardened disregard of the dealings of God’s providence, which eventually lead to an utter disregard of Him here, and an eternal separation from His favour and presence hereafter. In the text we have three petitions--

1. That the Lord would condescend to make him the object of His most gracious consideration. He grounds his plea upon a sense of utter helplessness in the sight of God. How blessed are days of adversity, when they bring with them such distrust in ourselves, and such unshaken confidence in the protection of God!

2. That the eyes of his spiritual understanding might be lightened.

3. That he might not be permitted to sleep the sleep of death. By death the Psalmist does not exclusively mean the separation of soul and body. We are inclined to think he is praying for deliverance from that spiritual death in which all, though naturally alive, are involved, on whose heart the spirit of the living God has not wrought a saving work. (James Robertson, A. M.)

Letting in the light

A passer-by one day asked of an Irishman, whom he observed breaking a large hole in the wall of an old cellar, what he was doing. The answer of Barney was prompt, “Shure, an’ I’m lettin’ out the dark.” We spend much time and energy in the same foolish idea; we attack the dark, instead of putting all our powers into the glorious work of letting in the light. Whether the darkness be that of uncivilised ignorance, or infidel prejudice, let us shine in the light of the glorious Gospel, and the darkness will fly. (W. Luff.)


Verse 5

Psalms 13:5

But I have trusted in Thy mercy.

On the mercy of God

I. What is meant by the mercy of God? Mercy differs from goodness in that it supposes guilt. Without the fall of man there could have been no occasion for his redemption; and without the plan of redemption it does not appear that we could have formed any opinion of the Divine mercy.

II. How does it remedy man’s misery? The two evils to which man is exposed are sin and death. Yet they differ only as cause and effect. Sin is the distemper, and death the issue of it. Against sin God hath provided by giving us the light of Scripture; against death by the new principle of life infused into the Christian from the time of his baptismal regeneration.

III. What is it to trust in this mercy? We cannot do so till we know what we have to fear. But men are insensible of this, because self-satisfied and resting in a mistaken confidence. To trust in God is to renounce all self-confidence, and to rely on the mercy of God. Do not mistake presumption for trust. They who do, think that God’s mercy is only to deliver from punishment. It is to deliver from sin.

IV. The joy and comfort following. “My heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation.” (A. Jones, M. A.)

Mercy and joy

The minister of the Gospel is to proclaim free grace everywhere. But the heart must be awakened ere it can receive the truth of God’s grace.

I. The experimental statement of David. “I have trusted in Thy mercy.” He was a sinner, but here was all his hope. This the test of true discipleship, whether we have come to trust as David did, and to hope in the mercy of God through Jesus Christ. And he knew this experimentally. Dry doctrines will not suffice alone. They would starve a soul. There must be experience. David here tells out his sorrow. He mourns God’s delays. But he trusts in God.

II. His experience. “My heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation.” He had trusted, and he anticipates rejoicing. Here was the shelter, the anchor of his soul. The Church and the Christian can never be ship wrecked, for the anchor holds. He speaks of a heart joy. No one can know anything about heart rejoicing but those who have been heartachers. “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” How blessed it is to experience the stillness and the quietness of the peace of God. Compared with this, what is the world worth? (J. J. West, M. A.)

My heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation.

A renovation of heart essential to a state of salvation

1. Without the renovation of the heart there can be no distinct knowledge of the Gospel. The natural mind cannot receive the things of God; they are spiritually discerned. The mind must be renewed, that the man may become spiritual.

2. Nor can there be a new nature. This is essential to the enjoyment of salvation. For how can we enjoy that which is opposed to our feelings, desires, habits? We have no enjoyment in the society of those who are the objects of our aversion. The “enmity” of the mind must be “slain” by the constraining power of the love of Christ; but this involves renovation.

3. Unless the heart is renewed by the Spirit of God there is no possibility of accounting for the discovery and preparation of a plan of redemption at all. Was it worthy of the Divinity to do all that He has done in redemption for the sake of saving those He never intended to change and purify?

4. This renovation of heart is essential to the enjoyment of heaven. Take an individual from the lowest ranks of society, and place him in the midst of the high born, the educated, the refined; where will be his enjoyment? The unrenewed man, set in the midst of those who have their “conversation in heaven,” has no relish for the company, and gladly turns from it. The reason for finding no interest in heaven is--unrenewedness of heart. (J. Burnet.)


Verse 6

Psalms 13:6

I will sing unto the Lord.

The passing of morbid states of mind

Much spiritual darkness is no doubt caused by the mind’s sympathising with a morbid condition of the body, a condition not always known to the sufferer, and often not even suspected. Nevertheless, the morbid condition exists, and prevents the mind from rightly estimating the evidences of its conversion. No sooner, however, is the believer’s health restored than he finds himself in a new world of religious hope and feeling, and yet without a single new evidence of his being a child of God. His repentance is not more sincere, his faith more entire, nor his purpose to serve God more determined. His restoration to health alone has invested his evidences of conversion to God with pleasurable emotions. He has, of course, more enjoyment in his religion, but not an iota more of genuineness and safety in it than there was before. (David Caldwell, A. M.)

Joy in God’s ways with us

This Psalm, like many others, begins in sorrow, but ends in joy. In all God’s works there is a great likeness running throughout--a change from bad to good, from hope deferred to real enjoyment; as the proverb has it, “No cross, no crown” Thus it is that daylight succeeds the darkness of night, and disperses it. Health and strength follow so often after a bed of sickness, inward joy after a long period of outward sorrow. Our Lord Himself “went not after joy; but first He suffered pain.” And such is the life’s history of all God’s most chosen saints. How differently a man goes through the world who dwells upon the blessings he has received more than the sorrows and trials he may have undergone, who tries to see in all circumstances of his life God’s goodness towards himself, instead of repining continually in discontent at everything which crosses his will or his hopes. It is in this way that God so often draws the hearts of men to Himself, weans them from the love of this world, makes them to love Him supremely before all else, and thus sows the seed of eternal life in their hearts. We are all surrounded by a thousand blessings, of which we take little or no account. These words of the text contain a direct expression of our own individual blessings and mercies. It is the work of God’s Holy Spirit in us to shed abroad in our hearts the love of God. And when we love God we love all that belongs to God. Let this be one object of our daily life, to see more and more God’s love towards us. (W. J. Stracey, M. A.)
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Psalms 14:1-7

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 13:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/psalms-13.html. 1905-1909. New York.

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