# 27 Psalms of Lament (# 4) – Psalm 13 (# 1)

As you read the Psalms, you come across a number of them, just like Psalm 88 that Mark Buchanan mentioned. They are usually called prayer or lament psalms and Brueggemann refers to them as “psalms of disorientation”.

We will look briefly at one of them.

Psalm 13   A psalm of David.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him, ” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.

Just maybe, like Mark Buchanan, one of these Lament Psalms has been meaningful to you in a difficult time? Or just maybe one of these psalms could be helpful to you right now in what you are facing today or in the future.

Firstly though, let me share with you some things I have been learning from my studies of the lament psalms.

These particular psalms have a variety of authors, including David. They are basically poems and often follow the style of poems of the day with certain distinct elements. Things like an introduction, the lament or complaint, a confession of trust, a request or need, a vow of praise and an anticipation of thanksgiving. In fact, Psalm 13 has all these elements.

It’s very likely that these psalms were written in response to a particular time of difficulty, but mainly we are not told what it is. That enables these psalms to fit any need, at any time, for any person, including you and me. The psalms were also sung as a part of Israel’s formal worship as well as used in an individual’s private devotions.

The more I have studied them, the more I have discovered that these psalms are incredibly rich in so many ways. As we read them we not only discover important (although sometimes unsettling) things about life and God, but much about ourselves. It is suggested that the whole nature of human experience is expressed in the psalms somewhere. Tremper Longman says, “The psalms speak to all seasons of our lives. Our intellect is informed, our emotions are refined and our wills are directed…Reading the psalms touches the very core of our being.” (see references # 1)

A key thing to remember is that the psalms are addressed primarily to God. The psalms are an encounter with Almighty God, the Creator and Redeemer. As we read them we are witnesses to mere humans, in all their weaknesses and failings crying out to our Living, all-powerful, loving God in praise, thanksgiving, worship, prayer and complaint or lament.

So, let’s look again at the first section of Psalm 13.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.  Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him, ” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

Such incredibly honesty! No messing around here. Straight to the point! The psalmist is going through a difficult time and he cries out to God. We learn from this and other such psalms that we have permission to be just plain honest with God & speak to him from the depths of our despair.

Craig Broyles says, “The laments testify of the value of simply telling our story to God.” (see references # 4)

I don’t know what you are going through at the moment, what season of your life it is for you. But I do know that God is waiting for you to tell him your story. Your real story! No pretence! No pious sounding words. Just be honest. No matter how difficult or complex or even messy. Look at the Psalms. It seems to me that even with the wide range of human emotions that are found in the psalms, God does not appear to be offended or intimidated.

John Calvin wrote that “There is not an emotion of which anyone can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror…grief, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares … in short, all the perplexing emotions with which the minds of men [and women] are [often] agitated.” ( see reference # 23)

 Other emotions include, reverence for and awe of God, joy, peace, even shame and anger. This huge range of emotions can empower us to come in touch with our own deepest emotions and often can also enable us to be sensitive to the struggles of others.

Another characteristic of the psalms is that the psalmist’s feelings are usually connected with what is happening in his relationship with God. If God seems to be distant, then the psalmist will express negative emotions including sadness, fear, shame, doubt, or anger. On the other hand, if God seems to be near, the psalmist’s emotions are more positive, even expressing love for God.

Truly, these psalms, including Psalm 13, are an amazing section of this incredible book we call the Bible.

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Tehilim (Psalms) - "songs of praise"

My name is Rod and I became a follower of Jesus in 1970 at the age of 19 and have continued to follow Him for the last 47 years. I, with my wife and family have served in medical missions overseas. I love studying the Word of God and sharing it with others. Up until the end of 2015 my wife and I had been on staff of a college that trains people from many nations for cross cultural ministry. These days we are involved in member care of some of these people faithfully serving God overseas.

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