|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
13:1-6 The psalmist complains that God had long withdrawn. He earnestly prays for comfort. He assures himself of an answer of peace. - God sometimes hides his face, and leaves his own children in the dark concerning their interest in him: and this they lay to heart more than any outward trouble whatever. But anxious cares are heavy burdens with which believers often load themselves more than they need. The bread of sorrows is sometimes the saint's daily bread; our Master himself was a man of sorrows. It is a common temptation, when trouble lasts long, to think that it will last always. Those who have long been without joy, begin to be without hope. We should never allow ourselves to make any complaints but what drive us to our knees. Nothing is more killing to a soul than the want of God's favour; nothing more reviving than the return of it. The sudden, delightful changes in the book of Psalms, are often very remarkable. We pass from depth of despondency to the height of religious confidence and joy. It is thus, ver. 5. All is gloomy dejection in ver. 4; but here the mind of the despondent worshipper rises above all its distressing fears, and throws itself, without reserve, on the mercy and care of its Divine Redeemer. See the power of faith, and how good it is to draw near to God. If we bring our cares and griefs to the throne of grace, and leave them there, we may go away like Hannah, and our countenances will be no more said, 1Sa 1:18. God's mercy is the support of the psalmist's faith. Finding I have that to trust to, I am comforted, though I have no merit of my own. His faith in God's mercy filled his heart with joy in his salvation; for joy and peace come by believing. He has dealt bountifully with me. By faith he was as confident of salvation, as if it had been completed already. In this way believers pour out their prayers, renouncing all hopes but in the mercy of God through the Saviour's blood: and sometimes suddenly, at others gradually, they will find their burdens removed, and their comforts restored; they then allow that their fears and complaints were unnecessary, and acknowledge that the Lord hath dealt bountifully with them.
Verse 1. - How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? for ever? God cannot forget, but man often feels as if he were forgotten of him (comp. Psalm 42:9; Psalm 44:24; Lamentations 5:20). David seems to have feared that God had forgotten him "for ever." How long wilt then hide thy face from me! (comp. Psalm 30:7; Isaiah 1:15; Ezekiel 39:29). The "light of God's countenance" shining on us is the greatest blessing that we know (see Psalm 4:6; Psalm 31:18; Psalm 44:4; Psalm 67:1; Psalm 80:3, 7. etc.). When it is withdrawn, and he "hides his face," we naturally sink into despair.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? for ever?.... When God does not immediately deliver his people from their enemies, or help them out of an affliction; when he does not discover his love, communicate his grace, apply the blessings and promises of his covenant as usual; and when he does not visit them in his usual manner, and so frequently as he has formerly done, they are ready to conclude he has forgotten them; and sometimes this continues long, and then they fear they are forgotten for ever; and this they cannot bear, and therefore expostulate with God in a querulous manner, as the psalmist does here; but this is to be understood not in reality, but in their own apprehension, and in the opinion of their enemies; God never does nor can forget his people; oblivion does not fall upon him with respect to common persons and things; and much less with respect to his own dear children, for whom a special book of remembrance is written; See Gill on Psalm 9:18;
how long wilt thou hide thy face from me? his love, and the manifestation of it, from his person; his gracious presence, the light of his smiling countenance, which sometimes God hides or withdraws from his people by way of resentment of their unbecoming carriage to him; and which is very distressing to them, for they are apt to imagine it is in wrath and hot displeasure, when he still loves them, and will with everlasting kindness have mercy on them; see Isaiah 8:17. The Targum renders it, "the glory of thy face".
The Treasury of David
1 How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?
"How long?" - This question is repeated no less than four times. It betokens very intense desire for deliverance, and great anguish of heart. And what if there be some impatience mingled therewith; is not this the more true a portrait of our own experience? It is not easy to prevent desire from degenerating into impatience. O for grace that, while we wait on God, we may be kept from indulging a murmuring spirit! "How long?" Does not the oft-repeated cry become a very howling? And what if grief should find no other means of utterance? Even then, God is not far from the voice of our roaring; for he does not regard the music of our prayers, but his own Spirit's work in them in exciting desire and inflaming the affections.
"How long?" Ah! how long do our days appear when our soul is cast down within us!
"How wearily the moments seem to glide
O'er sadness! How the time
Delights to linger in its flight!"
Time flies with full-fledged wing in our summer days, but in our winters he flutters painfully. A week within prison-walls is longer than a month at liberty. Long sorrow seems to argue abounding corruption; for the gold which is long in the fire must have had much dross to be consumed, hence the question "how long?" may suggest deep searching of heart. "How long wilt thou forget me?" Ah, David! how like a fool thou talkest! Can God forget? Can Omniscience fail in memory? Above all, can Jehovah's heart forget his own beloved child? Ah I brethren, let us drive away the thought, and hear the voice of our covenant God by the mouth of the prophet, "But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me." "For ever?" Oh, dark thought! It was surely bad enough to suspect a temporary forgetfulness, but shall we ask the ungracious question, and imagine that the Lord will for ever cast away his people? No, his anger may endure for a night, but his love shall abide eternally. "How long wilt thou hide thy face from me?" This is a far more rational question, for God may hide his face, and yet he may remember still. A hidden face is no sign of a forgetful heart. It is in love that his face is turned away; yet to a real child of God, this hiding of his Father's face is terrible, and he will never be at ease until once more he hath his Father's smile. "How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily?" There is in the original the idea of "laying up" counsels in his heart, as if his devices had become innumerable but unavailing. Herein we have often been like David, for we have considered and reconsidered day after day, but have not discovered the happy device by which to escape from our trouble. Such store is a sad sore. Ruminating upon trouble is bitter work. Children fill their mouths with bitterness when they rebelliously chew the pill which they ought obediently to have taken at once. "How long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?" This is like wormwood in the gall, to see the wicked enemy exulting while our soul is bowed down within us. The laughter of a foe grates horribly upon the ears of grief. For the devil to make mirth of our misery is the last ounce of our complaint, and quite breaks down our patience; therefore let us make it one chief argument in our plea with mercy.
Thus the careful reader will remark that the question "how long?" is put in four shapes. The writer's grief is viewed, as it seems to be, as it is, as it affects himself within, and his foes without. We are all prone to play most on the worst string. We set up monumental stones over the graves of our joys, but who thinks of erecting monuments of praise for mercies received? We write four books of Lamentations and only one of Canticles, and are far more at home in wailing out a Miserere than in chanting a Te Deum.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ps 13:1-6. On title, see Introduction. The Psalmist, mourning God's absence and the triumph of his enemies, prays for relief before he is totally destroyed, and is encouraged to hope his trust will not be in vain.
1. The forms of expression and figure here used are frequent (compare Ps 9:12, 18; 10:11, 12).
How long … for ever—Shall it be for ever?
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