The psalm is only six verses long. Including the introduction, but eight sentences in my ESV bible. Just one-hundred-sixteen words from the beginning to the end. But, from where the psalmist starts to where he ends is miles apart.
How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?
. . . How long will You hide Your face from me?
. . .
I will sing to the LORD,
. . . because He has dealt bountifully with me.
(Psalm 13:1, 6 ESV)
David’s psalm captured my attention this morning. A phrase in William MacDonald’s commentary helped articulate why. It’s because we sometimes find ourselves living between the sigh and the song.
David’s despair in the opening lines of his song is almost palpable. Four times he cries out, “How long?” How long will You forget me, God? How long will You hide Your face? How long am I left to talk only to myself amidst heart-crushing sorrow? How long will this enemy prevail?
We’re not told exactly what enemy David’s facing. Not sure if he’s on the run from Saul, or Absalom, or engaged in some other fight where he’s on the ropes. But we do know it’s been going on for awhile and that it’s taking its toll. And we know David is desperate for some sort of breakthrough, some sort of response from God. Otherwise, he fears, death is certain and his enemies will prevail.
How long? How long? How long? How long?
Yet David concludes the psalm with singing. No longer lamenting God’s apparent absence, he instead lauds God’s abundant provision. There’s a noticeable shift from depression to delight. The heavy sigh has given way to a heavenly song. How come?
But I have trusted in Your steadfast love;
. . . my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
(Psalm 13:5 ESV)
David was confident of God’s unfailing love. Rejoicing displaced sorrow in his heart as He meditated again on God’s promised salvation. Though in the midst of trial and testing, he believed God’s promised presence was true and God’s promised provision would triumph.
He had trusted in the Father’s steadfast love and He would continue to trust. And faith would become the catalyst for praise. The sigh would give way to the song.
Sometimes we find ourselves living between the sigh and the song. The burden of the day seeming almost overwhelming. The unknown enemy relentlessly pursuing. Anxiety increasing. Despair often prevailing.
But it’s then we need to recall His steadfast love and His unfailing promises. Then, that we need to remind ourselves of the salvation that is ours and it’s unchanging and unfailing power to rescue sourced in the finished work of the cross, the victory of an empty tomb, and the reality of a living, risen, interceding Savior. Then, we need to acknowledge afresh that, though we might feel alone, His Spirit indwells us, and He really will never leave us nor forsake us.
And when we do, and that too by His enabling, what began with a sigh can end with a song.
By His grace. For His glory.
Again, very timely, at least for my study in Psalms, Pete, thanks! After finishing the book this morning (5 verses x 30 days), I watched the Bible Project video for Psalms (https://thebibleproject.com/explore/psalms/) which points out the idea you recognized in the Sigh and the Song, or in the video, Lament and Praise. Only 9 minutes if you have not yet seen the video. Thanks again, Pete for contributing to continued growth in my walk, and others in the Lord. – Brent