1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 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?
3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
David begins in the clutches of despair, discouragement, and unbelief. Four times he questions how long he’ll have to endure God’s seeming unfaithfulness, his own sorrow, and the triumph of his foes. Can this be David, the man after God’s own heart, the sweet psalmist of Israel? Yes. Here he is feeling depressed and forsaken, with no end in sight. How kind of the Lord to include words like these that we can relate to so easily. And how kind of Him to show us what steps to take when we find ourselves in a similar situation.
David’s response is as exemplary as it is rare. Rather than curse God, turn to his own resources, or seek relief by indulging his flesh, he appeals to the only One who can deliver him – God Himself. His prayer is simple, undemanding, and honest: keep me alive. How often my list of what I want God to do reveals my self-centeredness rather than a humble faith. Do I really think God knows what is best; or do I suspect He could benefit from my counsel?
It almost seems as though a complier ripped the last two verses from another psalm and tacked them on to the end of this one. “I have trusted…I will rejoice…I will sing.” But sudden changes of perspective in the Psalms aren’t unusual. They occur when we stop listening to ourselves and start listening to our God. David’s opening words describe what he’s hearing from his heart. “God has forgotten you. You’re hopeless. Your enemies are too powerful for you.” But in verse 5 he remembers the God of covenant love – love that is eternally grounded in God’s promises and faithfulness.
His view is so clear that he already imagines himself responding hopefully. “My heart shall rejoice in your salvation.” David’s joy isn’t dependent on his circumstances changing, but in the unchanging salvation God has promised. If David could find such hope before the Messiah ever appeared on earth, how can we fail to rejoice in the Savior who has come, who has died, and who has risen as our substitute and gracious Redeemer?
Finally, in the midst of his trials, David says he’ll sing to the Lord. Why? Does he want to feel closer to God, or think that music will help him forget his troubles, or because music is emotionally uplifting? Music can produce all those effects, but that’s not why David sings. Perhaps he seeks to encourage himself through songs that speak of God’s goodness and greatness. That would certainly be appropriate, and is something that we can relate to. But that’s not why he sings either. “I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” David realizes that his present circumstances are overshadowed by the mercy and grace God has already shown him.
Why do WE sing? Are we looking for some new emotional experience, or are we already so affected by God’s power, wisdom, and loving kindness, that we can’t help but sing?
May God keep our minds and hearts focused on the love that He so lavishly demonstrated at the cross, where all our sins were nailed to the tree, all our enemies were overcome, and our eternal joy was forever secured.