PSALM 13 = HOW LONG, O LORD?
Bible Background: The most common type of Psalm is the psalm of lament or complaint. There are two types: Personal lament, and Community lament. Psalm 13 is a textbook example of a personal lament. Notice the parts: v. 1-2 The Complaint, v. 3-4 The Request, v. 5-6 An Expression of Trust. This is a common ‘movement’ from despair to faith in these lament psalms!
Digging Deeper: 1. The cry “How long?” appears 4x’s in these opening lines. The writer expresses the pain, the misery, the hopelessness of his/her situation. More than that, the writer expresses a feeling or a fear that God has not just forgotten them, but that God has turned God’s back on them! Oh my! Think of a time when you or someone close to you has been at the end of their rope, and wondering if God sees, knows, or cares….
2. In what ways is the “How long?” question part of most everyone’s life experience? Sometimes our oldest friends wonder how long before God takes them home to heaven? Someone moved by the sufferings in this world will ask: How long will children go starving? Or until mass shootings stop? Or until wars cease? Or until there is justice for ____________? Is there any better place to take these cries and longings than to the heart of God?
3. The middle paragraph of this psalm is the “ask” part: “Look on me, God! Answer me! Give light to my eyes or I am a goner!” (And the note that my enemies would celebrate my demise!) What do we ask God for when we are desperate? What do we need most? Rescue? A quick fix? The assurance of God’s presence? How do we pray for someone else who finds themself completely down and out?
4. The first two parts of this lament psalm are no surprise. Why? Because a) life is often terribly difficult, and b) we do cry out to God for answers. But the third part of this psalm is surprising! Why? Because it’s as though the situation has completely turned around and the psalmist has something to celebrate! Wow! What changed? The situation? (i.e. Did God rescue them just like that?) or the Pray-er? (i.e. The person has a new awareness of God’s presence and new strength to keep going.)
5. Martin Luther said that the mood of this prayer is the “state where hope despairs and despair hopes at the same time” (The New Interpreter’s Bible Vol. 4 Page 727) How is this the challenge of the Christian life? We are people of the cross and people of the resurrection at the same time, and we’re caught in that tension between the two every day…which is why we always pray “Come, Lord Jesus!”