This Psalm contains the sentiments of an afflicted soul that earnestly desires succour from the Lord. The psalmist complains of delay, 1-3; prays for light and comfort, because he finds himself on the brink of death, 3; dreads the revilings of his enemies, 4; anticipates a favourable answer, and promises thanksgiving, 5,6.
NOTES ON PSALM XIII
There is nothing particular in the inscription. The Psalm is supposed to have been written during the captivity, and to contain the prayers and supplications of the distressed Israelites, worn out with their long and oppressive bondage.
How long wilt thou forget me
The words ad anah, to what length, to what time, translated here how long? are four times repeated in the two first verses, and point out at once great dejection and extreme earnestness of soul.
Hide thy face from me?
How long shall I be destitute of a clear sense of thy approbation?
Take counsel in my soul
I am continually framing ways and means of deliverance; but they all come to naught, because thou comest not to my deliverance. When a soul feels the burden and guilt of sin, it tries innumerable schemes of self-recovery; but they are all useless. None but God can speak peace to a guilty conscience.
Mine enemy be exalted
Satan appears to triumph while the soul lies under the curse of a broken law.
Consider and hear me
Rather, answer me. I have prayed; I am seeking thy face I am lost without thee; I am in darkness; my life draws nigh to destruction; if I die unforgiven, I die eternally. O Lord my God, consider this; hear and answer, for thy name's sake.
Let mine enemy say
Satan's ordinary method in temptation is to excite strongly to sin, to blind the understanding and inflame the passions; and when he succeeds, he triumphs by insults and reproaches. None so ready then to tell the poor soul how deeply, disgracefully, and ungratefully it has sinned! Reader, take heed.
When I am moved.
When moved from my steadfastness and overcome by sin. O what desolation is made by the fall of a righteous soul! Itself covered with darkness and desolation, infidels filled with scoffing, the Church clad in mourning, the Spirit of God grieved, and Jesus crucified afresh, and put to an open shame! O God, save the pious reader from such wreck and ruin!
But I have trusted in thy mercy
Thou wilt not suffer me to fall; or if I have fallen, wilt thou not, for his sake who died for sinners, once more lift up the light of thy countenance upon me? Wilt thou not cover my sin?
My heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.
There is no true joy but of the heart; and the heart cannot rejoice till all guilt is taken away from the conscience.
I will sing unto the Lord
That heart is turned to God's praise which has a clear sense of God's favour.
Because he hath dealt bountifully with me.
ki gamel alai, because he hath recompensed me. My sorrows were deep, long continued, and oppressive, but in thy favour is life. A moment of this spiritual joy is worth a year of sorrow! O, to what blessedness has this godly sorrow led! He has given me the oil of joy for the spirit of heaviness, and the garments of praise for mourning.
The old MS. Psalter, which I have so frequently mentioned and quoted, was written at least four hundred years ago, and written probably in Scotland, as it is in the Scottish dialect. That the writer was not merely a commentator, but a truly religious man, who was well acquainted with the travail of the soul, and that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ which brings peace to the troubled heart, is manifested from various portions of his comment. To prove this I shall, I think I may say, favour the reader with another extract from this Psalm on the words, "How long wilt thou forget me," Psalms 13:1. I have only to observe that with this commentator a true penitent, one who is deeply in earnest for his salvation, is called a perfyte man; i.e., one wholly given up to God.
How lang lord for getes thu me in the endyng? How lang o way turnes thou thi face fro me? The voice of haly men that covaytes and yernes the comyng of Iehu Crist, that thai might lyf with hym in ioy; and pleynaund tham of delaying. And sais, Lord how lang for getes thu me in the endyng? That I covayte to haf and hald. That es how lang delayes thu me fra the syght of Iehu Crist, that es ryght endyng of myn entent. And how lang turnes thu thi face fra me? that es, qwen wil thu gif me perfyte Knawing of the? This wordes may nane say sothly, bot a perfyte man or woman, that has gedyrd to gydir al the desyres of thair Saule, and with the nayle of luf fested tham in Iehu Crist. Sa tham thynk one hour of the day war our lang to dwel fra hym; for tham langes ay til hym; bot tha that lufs noght so, has no langyng that he come: for thair conscience sais thaim, that thai haf noght lufed hym als that suld have done.
The language of true Christian experience has been the same in all times and nations. "But he that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love;" and to such this is strange language.
ANALYSIS OF THE THIRTEENTH PSALM
"This Psalm," says Bishop Nicolson, "is a fit prayer for a soul that is sensible of God's desertion."
It has three parts:-
I. A heavy and bitter complaint of God's absence, Psalms 13:1,2.
II. An earnest petition for God's return, Psalms 13:3. The reason, Psalms 13:4.
III. A profession of faith and confidence, with joy in God, accompanied with thanksgiving, Psalms 13:5,6.
I. He bitterly complains, and aggravates it.
1. That God had forgotten him: "Wilt thou forget me?"
2. That he hid his face from him: "Wilt thou hide thy face?"
3. That he was distracted with many cares, what way to take, and what counsel to follow, to recover God's favour: "I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart."
4. In the meantime, his enemy was exalted, triumphed and insulted over him.
5. And, lastly, he complains of the delay, which is quickened by the erotesis, (interrogation,) and anaphora, (beginning several sentences with the same words,) How long? How long? How long? What! for ever?
II. His petition, Psalms 13:3. Of which there are three degrees opposed to the parts of his complaint, Psalms 13:1,2.
1. Look upon me, or consider me. Thou hast hitherto seemed to turn away thy face; but once behold me, and give me a proof of thy love.
2. Hear me. Thou hast seemed to have forgotten; but now, I pray thee, remember me; and show that thou dost not neglect my prayer.
3. Lighten my eyes. I have been vexed in my soul, and agitated various counsels to recover thy favour; but do thou instruct me, and illuminate me, as to what course I shall take.
That his petition might be the sooner heard, he urges many arguments:-
1. From that relation that was between him and God: "O Lord my God, hear me!"
2. From a bitter event that was likely to follow, if God heard him not: "Lest I sleep the sleep of death."
3. From another afflictive consequence-the boasting and insult of his adversaries: "Lest my enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved."
But although the answer was delayed, yet he does not despair-for,
III. In the conclusion, he professes faith, joy, and thankfulness:-
1. His faith: "I have trusted in thy mercy."
2. His joy: "My heart shall rejoice in thy salvation."
3. His thankfulness: "I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me."
According to this scale, this Psalm can neither be read nor paraphrased without profit.