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Psalm 13

Psalms 13:1-6 For the director of music. A psalm of David. How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? (2) How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? (3) Look on me and answer, LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, (4) and my enemy will say, "I have overcome him," and my foes will rejoice when I fall. (5) But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. (6) I will sing the LORD's praise, for he has been good to me.

[slide 1]

I don’t know what you were told would happen when you came to faith in Christ. I have a good friend, who along with a number of others, was led to believe that putting his faith in Christ would solve all his problems. That life would be as easy and beautiful as a life full of fluffy bunnies and rainbows.

It didn’t take him long to find that was not the case. In fact life got more difficult for him rather than easier. He now has a condition that produces kidney stone after kidney stone… currently on number 342 or so, and lives with constant pain. Where was God?

A slightly older story - there was successful lawyer in Chicago whose multiple real estate was destroyed in the great fire of 1871. He lost a fortune. The next year his four year old son dies of scarlet fever. The next year he decided to take his wife and four daughters on a trip to the UK to help out the the preacher DL Moody on his mission to England. This was to give them a break from the stresses of life in Chicago. Something came up that stopped him going but his wife and daughters were able to make the trip and he would follow a few days later. He caught his boat but while en route he received a telegram from his wife: “ship sank. I alone survived.” In smooth waters in the north atlantic the luxury liner his wife and daughters were on was struck by another vessel and sank within minutes. Tell me, where was God for this man?

And I know it's not just historic stories. there are many stories in this room of struggles with health, or of really difficult situations that seem to go on forever. And it's not just one thing. It seems it's a never ending series of one thing after another - one thing coming in on top of the other. And we ask How Long O Lord How Long?

One thing is clear. We live out our Christina lives it in a broken, and sometimes hostile world. If this hasn’t been your experience yet, just live long enough and it will be. And we need a faith that is able to make sense of what we face.

How we do in hardship is the crucial test of our faith. These trials don’t just reveal what we really believe about God, they can be, if we respond well, God’s way of shaping and maturing us in a way that would not be possible otherwise

[slide 2 - carving a horse]

 [sculptor carving horse illustration - I just chip away at everything that doesn’t look like a horse]. God uses hardships to chip away from us anything that doesn’t look like Christ.

Over the next few weeks we are doing a short series on some different psalms. One of the great things of the psalms is that they give us a model on how to pray for every emotion and experience in life – whether we are happy or sad, anxious or rejoicing.. And these psalms aren’t just WHAT to pray they teach us HOW to pray. That is, although we can learn them by repetition – that is not really the point. They teach us how to approach God whatever circumstance we are in. The attitudes and the perspective we are to adopt to encounter God, and in doing so they coach us into a more mature and robust faith.

This psalm, psalm 13 is a psalm of lament. A psalm of sadness, a psalm for when life is hard. But more than that it’s a psalm of deep disappointment with God. … of feeling God is far away because things are hard. A psalm where they pray-er (the one praying) feels overwhelmed with the ongoing difficulties in life.

The psalm itself doesn’t tell us exactly what the problem is for David. It just talks of enemies that threaten without making it clear what the enemy is - whether a person, a nation making war against him, illness or a sin or temptation that he seems unable to resist. In fact we could think of instances in David’s life where any one of those could have been the enemy he was concerned about. We really don’t know the specifics, and that means we can use the psalm in any situation where we have a similar difficult experience.

I know for Annie and myself, the past 2.5 years have involved a situation which has been the most difficult we have ever experienced together. Psalm 13, along with some others, have often given us words to go to God with, words that help us get God’s perspective and to hear his voice. So what I am sharing this morning is not abstract theory. Its lived out.

I know we are not the only ones with a story that Psalm 13 speaks into. In fact, if you aren’t there yet, just live long enough and you will be …

[slide 4] Overview of Psalm 13

It’s a short psalm – just 6 verses. But 6 verses well worth absorbing.

Vs 1,2 – There is a complaint against God, in fact a series of them – four questions each starting with “How Long …?” we will look at each in more detail shortly.

Vs 3,4 A request for help

Vs 5,6 An statement of trust and a commitment

 This is a psalm of lament … a cry from pain. And it’s a type of prayer that God intends we learn and use

[slide 5] for the director of music ….

Why and when to Lament? You might think this is a very personal psalm. Something for someone to use as the cry to God in secret. While that is very useful, did you notice the very first line?

Title – for director of music. A Psalm of David.

We (i) often read right past that instruction, but its part of the text. And it tells us the psalm is meant for communal worship.

And in ancient Israel it would have been sung at regular points throughout the year

So we turn to the lament psalms not just when we are sad and in distress, but as a regular part of the way we worship. Why? Because practising lament does two things…

1) It trains us to practise asking the right questions and having the right responses to pain and disappointment with God. More on that in a moment…

2) It builds empathy for others. God’s heart towards those in pain. Even if this is not how we feel right, praying psalm 13 helps us pray for and understand others who are in distress. It helps us to weep with those who weep and to journey with them. That is, practising lament psalms helps us become more like Christ in our care for others.

[slide 6[ The complaint

The complaint? Vs 1,2

Four Questions that increase in accusation. The first two are:

How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

 David feels like God has forgotten about him. I’m sure he knows God hears him, and he still calls him Lord, that is he longs to be submitted to him.

But the second question is the crux – how long will you hide your face from me. That God is not just ignoring David, That God is actively avoiding him. Hiding his face from him.

I don’t know if you’ve ever felt guilty towards someone so you avoid them, and in particular you avoid eye contact with them. That is you “hide your face” from them. That is what David is accusing God of.

[slide 7 ] Now last week we were in psalm 67. There we saw the request

Psa 67:1-2 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us— (2) so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.

Having God’s face shine on us is a picture of intimate friendship. And its that intimate friendship, with holy reverence of course, that David was used to that he feels has been lost. David longs to feel connected to God and his purposes in the world

 [slide 8 Psalm 13 - hide your face]

I want us to notice three things about these questions…

1) God can handle our questions – even when we strike out in pain and accuse him of things he hasn’t done.

2) He doesn’t answer then directly. There are answers, but before He can get to them, God has to help David have a change in perspective. And what helps here, is that David starts with questions about God, not with questions about his circumstances. David knows that his real issue is with God, and that what needs to be the focus.

3) What David really wants, more than rescue from his bad situation – is to encounter God. And suffering, ongoing trials can have this effect, if we learn to approach them aright.

[ James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, (3) because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (4) Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Second set of questions move to the specific circumstances:

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Again God can handle our questions. But notice what the question is. Its not “why is this happening?” which is where people in pain often go to. Rather it’s a question about David’s own heart. - its “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart” or in other words- Lord why does this hurt so much? How long will you keep me in this turmoil?

God is interested in our circumstances, but he is more interested in the condition of our hearts. And he uses ongoing difficult situations to speak into them.

That what vs 3, 4 bring into focus: - the request

[slide 10] vs 3,4 the request

Psa 13:3-4 Look on me and answer, LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, (4) and my enemy will say, "I have overcome him," and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

Again notice what David asks for. He doesn’t ask directly for the circumstances to go away. He asks for the strength, the energy to persevere… Give light to my eyes – Lord give me the energy and the strength to keep going… for however long you want to keep me in this situation.

What David shows here, is what He means by calling God “Lord” in vs 1. He is submitted to God’s agenda. He is not insisting on his own ideas of how and when things should be resolved. Because David is primarily seeking God, and God’s work in his life, he is not just primarily seeking comfort and ease or just an end to all his problems.

He asks for an answer to the 4 how long questions. What is God’s response? Well, there is no answer, at least not in the psalm itself. Just silence. And as David sits in the silence he is driven deeper into God. And as he does that he gets, maybe after sometime of struggle, to live in vs 5, 6

[slide 11 - vs 5,6 ]

And that leads to the final section, vs 5,6 The affirmation and commitment

Psa 13:5-6 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. (6) I will sing the LORD's praise, for he has been good to me.

David despite his disappointment affirms that he trusts God’s unfailing love.

The Hebrew word behind what the NIV calls “unfailing Love” is hesed . its one of the most important words or concepts in the Old testament, and no single English word or short phrase really captures what it means. So sometimes its translated love or here “unfailing love”, or “faithful love” other times “mercy,” (as in the arabic) or “compassion. or grace (as in the amharic)

Hesed is God’s relentless commitment to us even when we mess up. Its unfailing love in that even when we fall short, God remains faithful , or unfailing, in his loving commitment to us.

Its In Psalm 23 – where the David concludes –Surely your goodness and love [hesed] will follow me all the days of my life. That is tour hesed will pursue me, keep seeking me, keep initiating towards me, not give up on me, all the days of my life.

This is key in psalm 13 – David doesn’t say, because you help me Lord, I’ll try to do much better. Its rather, I know I can’t get through this. I’ve given up relying on my own efforts, and failing attempts, instead I rest, or trust in, your unfailing, never ceasing pursuit of me. That’s hesed.

When we get to the New Testament, the equivalent word for hesed in Greek is Agape. Not romantic love, not just brotherly love or duty, but once sided sacrifice, that would give up every thing, even death on a cross, for the person who is loved. That is what David relies on or trusts in. hesed points us to Christ, and his one sided, never ending sacrificial love for us.

Hence he can say “my heart rejoices in your salvation”

And then vs 6 – a commitment of his will – I will sing the LORD's praise, because He has been good to me.

 As David meditates on God’s hesed, he is more and more convinced that God has been, and has always been good to him… even in the midst of a life where nothing seems tobe going right. This is not just trying to make yourself believe something you should believe but do not really, it’s a changed perspective that comes from reflecting upon and not forgetting how God has been good to us in the past.

When we are feeling hard done by, take some time to call to mind how much God has already done for we. With that we can say it is well with my soul:

In fact the lawyer we started with was a man called Horatio Spafford. and out of the tragedy of losing both a fortune, a son and four daughters, he wrote a hymn - it is well with my soul:

When peace like a river attendeth my way

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say

It is well, it is well with my soul

It is well (it is well) with my soul (with my soul)

It is well, it is well with my soul

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come

Let this blest assurance control

That Christ (yes, He has) has regarded my helpless estate

And has shed His own blood for my soul

That is where Psalm 13 takes us.

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