Daily Family Worship

Psalm 13: “How Long?” and Howling

by | Apr 8, 2024

psalm 13

The 13th Psalm is a prayer full of the sightings and groanings of an afflicted heart in the hour of darkness. It is almost overwhelmed under that darkness with extreme grief and sorrow, and it is nearly driven out of its mind. Of this kind of sorrow, the devil is the author; he casts unsuspecting souls into these temptations and agitations in an instant when he finds them unarmed with the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. And he gets us into this unarmed and defenseless state by turning away our eyes from the promises of God. Instead, he encourages us to gaze upon the incredible ingratitude and iniquity of the world, the perplexing varieties of sins and depravities, and the greatness of the perils which must be undergone for the sake of God’s Word and of His holy name. Even a person of a sound and strong mind cannot help being thrown into tribulation when he considers the infernal arts, the stratagems of deceit, and the bitter and Cainish hatred with which Satan and wicked men oppose the Word of God. And then the consideration is made even more troublesome when one sees the great numbers of apostacies in the Church itself, as well as all the monstrous instances of ingratitude which are manifested by those who pretend to be the Lord’s people. All these offences, Satan raises up through the instrumentality of those who are unwilling to be seen as the hypocrites that they really are, and who pretend instead to be followers of Godliness.

But the prayer of the Church has great power; it breaks through and victoriously overcomes all hatred, perils, and snares – no matter how craftily they may be laid. Faith is more powerful than any violence or storm of temptation. “This,” says the Apostle John, “is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” And this Psalm gives us an example of that faith which enables us to stand firm in the midst of death, and to not doubt that God is on our side. This faith will deliver us from our terrible difficulties and comfort us after all our fears; it teaches us to believe that we shall struggle through all our distresses victoriously – even though they may appear to be endless – if we only turn away our eyes from all dark and dismal things, lay hold of that which is true and real, and bear up under the weight upon us by resting in the consolation of the Word of the Lord. James says, “Is any afflicted? let him pray.”

Despite the sorrowful words with which this Psalm opened, we see how different the Psalmist’s outlook is at the end: “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” (verses 5-6). Observe the change! Yes! When a soul is thus enabled to act in faith upon Jesus and His Divine promises, there will soon be reason to praise and sing aloud of the Lord’s faithfulness and bounty. But do not fail to notice here what the joy of the soul is. It is not that the Psalmist’s circumstances were altered, nor that his heart was enlarged, nor that more light was brought into his soul; all these things were precious, but they were the effects, and not the cause, of his joy. Read the verses again, and you will see that what his heart rejoiced in was the Lord’s salvation and mercy! And what is this salvation and mercy? It is our all-precious, all-satisfying, soul-comforting Jesus! I beseech you, brother or sister, to mark this down as a matter of great importance for every occasion of soul-afflictions: it is Jesus Who is the cause of all real joy, and not our circumstances or feelings. When we view the effects as being in the place of the cause, and when we magnify the fruit of faith instead of the glorious object of faith, we place our comfort in a place where it is not. And then, when our circumstances and feelings alter – as they most assuredly will – where shall our joy be then? But if we place our joy and comfort in Jesus alone, we shall always be able to find it and access it – even in every dark, rainy, or gloomy day that follows!

Lord Jesus, we join our voices in the same song as that which David has here recorded in the closing verses of this Psalm, and sing unto You; for You have dealt bountifully with us indeed, and You have not forgotten us in our soul-afflictions! We thank You that there is no sorrow, trial, distress, or anguish of spirit which any one of Your redeemed ones is called to, where Your own bright and blessed example does not hold forth precious views to console us, as well as gracious paths to follow. Amen.

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