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  • Writer's pictureScott Carr, Jr.

Psalm 13 in Translation and Discussion

For the music director:

A Psalm of David.

v. 1 How long, Lord? [despairing David speaks to God]

Will you forget me forever?

How long must I hide my face from you?

v. 2 How long will I set counsel in my being

with grief in my heart by day?

How long will my adversary rise over me?

v. 3 Pay attention to me.

Answer me,

Lord my God.

Give light to my eyes

lest I sleep in death.

v. 4 But my adversary says,

“I prevail!” [adversary to David]

They rejoice [David to God]

for I am overthrown.

v. 5 But I trust your loving-kindness. [faith-filled David to God]

May my heart rejoice

for your salvation.

v. 6 I will sing, Lord

for you deal bountifully with me.

David seems to be in the face of a literal foe, though the text is not clear whether the foe is a member of Saul’s court, an enemy of the kingdom, or a traitor within David's own court. As the Psalm begins, he feels defeated, as if the adversary has won and he wonders where the God who promised to be with him actually is. He begins with a lament in vv. 1-2. In v. 3-4, he makes a request for God to heed him or else the adversary will prevail. After expressing his feelings, he tells God what he would like done about the situation. In v. 5, he declares his trust in God, knowing He will fulfill the request. Finally, in v. 6, he declares that he will praise the Lord in response to the deliverance he trusts the Lord to bring.

God does not directly appear in the Psalm. He never speaks and He never acts. Nevertheless, David expects God to be faithful to His loving-kindness. God is so trustworthy, in fact, that David predicts what he will do when God comes through for him. He can count on God not to forget him but to remember his loving-kindness and rescue him. The main theme of this Psalm, then, is that God is sure to deliver His people because of His loving-kindness.

I have three remaining questions on this Psalm. Can we put this Psalm on the lips of Jesus, asking why God has forsaken Him, but declaring trust in God’s loving-kindness because in His forsaking of Jesus on the cross, He has accomplished His loving-kindness for the world? In applying this text, what are we allowed to include as enemies in our contemporary context? Is there a way of understanding God’s bountiful dealings with David not just in His deliverance, but also within the adversity David laments about in this Psalm?

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