Psalm 13

In the following article you will find a brief commentary on Psalm 13 that goes along with our Riverside Church Two Year Bible Reading Plan (Volume 1 & Volume 2).  This plan will allow you to read the New Testament and Psalms once every year and the Old Testament once every two years.

How Long?

From C.H. Spurgeon

1. How long? This question is repeated no less than four times. It betokens the very intense desire for deliverance, and great anguish of heart. And what if there be some impatience mingled with it—is not his the more true portrait of our own experience? It is not easy to prevent desire from degenerating into impatience. God is not far from the voice of our roaring, for he does not regard the music of our prayers, but his own Spirit’s work in them in exciting desire and inflaming the affections.

How long do our days appear when our soul is cast clown within us! Long sorrow seems to argue abounding corruption; for the gold which is long in the fire must have had much dross to be consumed, and hence the question, how long? may suggest deep searching of heart. How long wilt thou forget me? Ah, David, how like a fool you talk! Can God forget his own beloved child? Let us drive away the thought, and hear the word of our covenant God by the mouth of the prophet (Isaiah 49:14–16). Forever? No, his anger may endure for a night, but his love will abide eternally. How long wilt thou hide thy face from me? This is a far more rational question, for God may hide his face, and yet he may remember still. A hidden face is no sign of a forgetful heart. It is in love that his face is turned away; yet to a real child of God, this hiding of his Father’s face is terrible, and he will never be at ease until once more he has his Father’s smile.

2. There is in the original the idea of “laying up” counsels in his heart, as if his devices had become innumerable but unavailing. In this we have often been like David, for we have considered and reconsidered day after day, but have not discovered the happy device by which to escape from our trouble. Ruminating upon trouble is bitter work. How long shall mine enemy be exalted over me? This is like wormwood in the gall, to see the wicked enemy exalting while our soul is bowed down within us. It quite breaks down our patience; therefore let us make it one chief argument in our plea with mercy.

The careful reader will note that the question “How long?” is put in four shapes. The writer’s grief is viewed as it seems to be, as it is, as it affects himself within and his foes without. We set up monumental stones over the graves of our joys, but who thinks of erecting monuments of praise for mercies received?

3. But now prayer lifts up her voice, like the watchman who proclaims the daybreak. The gloomy thought of God’s having forsaken him is still on the psalmist’s soul, and he therefore cries, Consider and hear me. He remembers at once the root of his woe, and cries aloud that it may be removed. The final absence of God is Tophet’s fire, and his temporary absence brings his people into the very suburbs of hell. God is here entreated to see and hear, so he may be doubly moved to pity. What should we do if we had no God to turn to in the hour of wretchedness? O Lord my God. Note the cry of faith. Our interest in God is not destroyed by all our trials and sorrows. Lighten mine eyes. That is, let the eye of my faith be clear, that I may see my God in the dark; let my eye of watchfulness be wide open, lest I be entrapped; and let the eye of my understanding be illuminated to see the right way. Perhaps, too, here is an allusion to that cheering of the spirits so frequently called the enlightening of the eyes because it causes the face to brighten, and the eyes to sparkle. Well may we use the prayer, “Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord,” for in many respects we need the Holy Spirit’s illuminating rays. Lest I sleep the sleep of death. Darkness engenders sleep, and despondency is not slow in making the eyes heavy. From this faintness and dimness of vision, caused by despair, there is but a step to the iron sleep of death. David feared that his trials would end his life, and he rightly uses his fear as an argument with God in prayer; for deep distress has in it a kind of claim upon compassion, not a claim of right, but a plea which has power with grace. Under the pressure of heart sorrow, the psalmist does not look forward to the sleep of death with hope and joy, as assured believers do, but he shrinks from it with dread, from which we gather that bondage from fear of death is no new thing.

4. Another plea is urged, and it is one which the tried believer may handle well when on his knees. We make use of our arch-enemy for once, and compel him, like Samson, to grind in our mill while we use his cruel arrogance as an argument in prayer. It is not the Lord’s will that the great enemy of our souls should overcome his children. This would dishonour God, and cause the evil one to boast. It is well for us that our salvation and God’s honor are so intimately connected, that they stand or fall together.

Our covenant with God will complete the confusion of all our enemies, and if for awhile we become their jest, the day is coming when the shame will change sides, and the contempt shall be poured on those to whom it is due.

5. What a change is here! The rain is over and gone, and the time of the singing of birds is come. The mercy-seat has so refreshed the poor weeper, that he clears his throat for a song. David begins many of his psalms sighing, and ends them singing; and others he begins in joy and ends in sorrow. All the powers of his enemies had not driven the psalmist from his stronghold. As the shipwrecked mariner clings to the mast, so did David cling to his faith; he neither could nor would give up his confidence in the Lord his God. O that we may profit by his example, and hold by our faith as by our very life! My heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. Listen to the music which faith makes in the soul. There is joy and feasting within doors, for a glorious guest has come, and the fared calf is killed.

6. The voice joins itself in the blessed work, and the tongue keeps tune with the soul. He hath dealt bountifully with me. The psalm closes with a refutation of the charge of forgetfulness which David had uttered in the first verse. So shall it be with us if we wait awhile. The complaint which in our haste we utter will be joyfully retracted, and we shall witness that the Lord hath dealt bountifully with us.[1]


[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (1993). Psalms (pp. 35–37). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

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