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Why Do We Sing Psalm 13?

psalm 13 lament

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

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.

It’s one of the phrases that gives good leaders nausea...a statement that makes good parents wonder where they went wrong...words a good pastor never wants to hear:

“I didn’t think I could come to you.”

Maybe you've experienced it differently - “I didn’t think you would listen,” “I didn’t think you would care,” “I didn’t think you could actually help.” The thought behind each one is the same.

If there’s some sort of scandal involving an assistant coach, a good head coach hopes his assistant and his players will come to him, even if that assistant coach is his friend. Good parents want their children to have the freedom and desire to come to them first when they’re getting bullied or struggling in school, not as a last resort.

The King’s King

But where does the leader go when he needs someone? Where does a king go when he is in pain?

As so often happens with feelings of despair, David hurls one question after another at God: “Are you going to forget me forever?” “Why have you abandoned me?” “How long are you going to leave me feeling like this? “Why are my enemies doing well when I’m so miserable?”

He asks these questions because He knows He has a good God. David knows that if his own children were feeling this way, he’d want them to come to him with these concerns. How much more will his heavenly Father desire to listen to him? Only after these questions are asked does he plead before God - “consider and answer me...light up my eyes...”

The Passage of Time

One of the problems we run into is that we don’t know how much time has passed from verses 1-4 to verses 5-6. Christians are not called to resolve their laments instantly. There are times when these feelings go away almost instantly as we remember the steadfast love of our God, but other times, months and even years can pass and we can still feel like God has abandoned and forgotten us.

Yet even for this latter group, verses 5-6 remain:

As a sign of hope – "My brothers and sisters have trusted in God’s love, and I may one day soon."

As an exhortation – "God lovingly commands me to sing of God’s faithfulness even if I don’t feel it, because it is objectively true."

As a reminder – "God has dealt bountifully with me, and there is coming a day when there will be no more reason to lament."

Why Sing this Psalm

When we keep struggling with that same sin over and over and over again, we can cry out, “Will you forget me forever?” When we continually pray for someone’s salvation and seem to get no answer, God himself invites us to ask, “How long will you hide your face from me?” When it seems like others are prospering in their sin while you are struggling to live according to God’s ways, it seems appropriate to wonder: “How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”

We sing this psalm because we have a God who is not unaware of the troubles we do and will experience in this life, and as a good father likes to listen to his children,
He desires to hear our laments. We sing this psalm because even though we currently may not lament as the psalmist did, there may come a day when we do, and we need to be prepared now.

But remember, the Psalms are for the corporate worship of the corporate people of God. So when the time comes to sing psalms of lament on Sunday morning, if we are indeed lamenting something in our lives or in this world, then we sing as an expression of what we ourselves are feeling.

We sing this psalm because when the pain has subsided and we are once again able to be honest with ourselves, we can say as David did - “I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me.”

But what if we are joyful? What if we just had a baby or got a promotion at work or are just prone to being happy? Do we refuse to sing?

No, brothers and sisters, we must sing this psalm all the more because there are others in the congregation who are not rejoicing. There are those among us who are suffering from great sadness and when we sing, we are coming alongside our brother and sister and communicating “we have not forgotten you. God has not forgotten you.”

And finally, we sing because we have the sssurance that things will not always be this way. Jesus promises us that He is even now "making all things new" (Revelation 21:5).

To help you sing these beautiful truths, consider these songs:

Psalm 13 – The Corner Room

Psalm 13 – Alisa Turner

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