Psalm 13 The Longest Time

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Questions: How long must we wait for God’s salvation? Does God forget? Is He ever late? Is He ever early? What must we do while we wait? “Read More” to pursue answers in the Psalms.

Lord, speak to me through your Spirit and your Word, your Body and your Blood;
that I might know you as you are, and manifest the image of Christ in this world,
and the world to come. Amen.

Psalms 13:1-6

How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?

Today we have a short Psalm about long waits. It is a very popular Psalm, since anybody who’s followed God for any length of time knows “God may never be late, but he’s seldom early.” Okay, Lord, I believe you will eventually rescue me and punish the wicked — but when? How long must I wait?

How long shall I take counsel in my soul, [having] sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?

I don’t think this is a rhetorical question; David is at the end of his rope, and knows he can’t hold on much longer. Therefore, he asks God to pay attention, and move quickly:

Consider [and] hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the [sleep of] death;

Intriguingly, David isn’t merely focused on his own failure, but on his enemies’ triumph:

Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; [and] those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.

I actually think David is genuine in pointing this out. That is, he isn’t saying it to feel sorry for himself, or to make God feel sorry for him. Rather, he really believes it is a Bad Thing for the wicked to triumph — and thus something God is properly concerned about.

So, does God answer with a timetable? Or even a promise?

But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.

Okay, this is a surprise. I was looking for something like “The LORD has heard me; and said ‘You are my Son, in whom I am well pleased.'” In other words, I was expecting God to do something explicit in response to David’s pleas. Isn’t that pretty much what we all want, when we cry out to God?

Instead, David turns back to the past, and reflects — and rejoices — over what God has already done.

Dang.

Is that the answer? Not mere fatalism, but active, joyful faith that God has heard, and cares. Thus, He will not let us suffer beyond what we can bear — but He requires us to remember Him.

This is a hard truth. It means the real question is not whether God is waiting too long, but whether we are willing to praise Him long enough. Where ‘long’ is not defined by what I think I deserve, but what I know God deserves for his past faithfulness.

That doesn’t mean it is arbitrary. Someone who has known little of God’s nature — say, an orphan child on the streets — can’t be expected to know much of love and faithfulness, or to wait very long for proof.

But what about us? We, who have the benefits of 4,000 years of Scripture, two millennia of the Church, a thousand years of Western History, an unbroken chain of missionaries, apostles and pastors who have taught us the good news, not to mention Christ Himself.

How long should we wait?

Prayer

God, I am humbled by David’s faith. Though he had none but the barest glimpses of Christ, though the salvation of Israel through Moses and Samuel appeared to have rotted and gone to seed, yet still he praised you. Father, grant me a faith like that, a faith rooted on the past rock of your faithfulness, not the present sands of circumstances. Teach me to praise you always, most especially it seems as if you had forgotten and were hiding from me. Though I know it is a hard school, yet I long to graduate with honors. For your glory, and in thy name, I pray. Amen.

About the Title:

Today’s title is in honor of one of my favorite singers (even though I hate a couple of his songs :-), Billy Joel.

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