The world and its religions have no rival to the Psalms. Buddha has no songbook and while the Allah of Islam calls us to remain prostrate and bow low the Psalms teach us to lift our heads, whether in sadness or joy and look to the Lord for help.
For the people of God, the Psalms set the rhythm of life. They affirm in our hearts that the Lord reigns, that He is loyal, that He saves, that He is good and that He is near. They teach us to face life and it’s realities, not through fantasy but as it really is.
Psalm 13 touches on three of those realities: God’s absence, our weakness and His loyalty.
How long will you hide Your face from me? (Psalm 13:1)
Here, David acknowledges what we have all experienced. Sometimes, God conceals His presence.
Words and promise are good, but what the godly man craves is God’s presence.
Rebellious Israel had felt the same way while being overrun by Gentiles.
You, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is Your Name… Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down….” (Isa 63:16, 64:1)
In other words, “If only you had been here, Dad, this never would have happened. If only You were here, everything would be okay.”
We are called to cherish the promises of God and meditate on His past faithfulness. This is good as far as it goes – and we must do it – but it does not go far enough.
Letters from Dad are good, but what we all want are his company, his companionship, His nearness.
Imagine the father who writes to his kids from a far away country. He may be a faithful dad, godly and kind. But he is absent. The letters are important, they give us hope, but they are not enough.
God knows this and has overcome the distance caused by our rebellion by becoming one of us. By becoming a man.
In Jesus Christ, God comes to dwell with His people. In His death, He learns what it is to experience an absent Father (Psalm 22:1) and then reconciles us with the Father, giving us His Holy Spirit as an assurance that He will never leave us or forsake us.
Do you have pain, do you have sorrow? The Son of God has been there and you can draw near to Him for comfort. Do you grieve lost loved ones, the betrayal of friends, the cruelty of an enemy? Through the lips of David, the Son of David sings as one who has been there.
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? (Psalm 13:2)
Jesus, the Son of God entered into the darkness of an absent dad, and, going into the darkness, He defeated it once and for all.
This is the way of the cross. We enter the darkness. David did, and every one of us will too. But we are following a Saviour who knows His way out of the grave and will bring you out also.
For David, and for Israel, the apparent distance of our Heavenly Father exposed the mental, emotional and physical weakness we all face. And, in that weakness, like David, we have learned to cry out for God to draw near and save.
Consider and answer me O Lord my God. Light up my eyes lest I sleep the sleep of death (Psalm 13:3)
Perhaps you have known times and seasons like this. Seasons when God seemed so far away. Seasons where prayer felt like shouting underwater, where worship felt like singing into a cement bucket. Where joy and strength and hope grew dim.
In crying out to God, David has taken his first steps toward deliverance.
For David, it was times like this that He was learning to cling more tightly to, and long more fully for, the presence of his Heavenly Father.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation (Psalm 13:5)
While the apparent absence of our Father in Heaven is painful, it serves an important purpose in the life of every Christian. It leads us to value God’s loyalty, salvation and goodness more deeply.
It brings us into communion with Jesus; to share in His suffering, set our hope on His deliverance, and hold more tightly to Him who walks beside us.
Lament, sorrow, anxiety and despair, are the circumstances in life that lead the man of faith to greater nearness and greater praise to God. But that nearness is enjoyed as a result of going through dark days, not by pretending happy ones.
David couldn’t see. Things were dark. He didn’t have answers. He only knew that God was distant and he needed his Father. His cry for help was not grounded on anything in David but on the loyalty and goodness he believed he would find in God.
For David, and so for the Son of David whom his life foreshadowed, the presence of God was so real, so necessary, so saturated with joy and thanksgiving, that anger had no point, pain had no lasting hold and death had no lasting sting.
There is nothing like a good lament when directed at God (Luke 22:44). We ought not to be ashamed of our lament, our sorrow or the weakness of our flesh. To do this is to look in, instead of up.
It is right and good that we should long for the presence of our Heavenly Father. And it is for our joy that through Jesus we can rest assured that He has come, that He is with us, and that we can walk with Him, day by day.