To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David
1How 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?
3 Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death:
4 Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him: and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
5 But I have trusted in Thy mercy: my heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation.
6 I will sing unto the LORD, because He hath dealt bountifully with me.
Despite the triumph of enemies and the sorrow of soul, we will rejoice in God’s salvation.
We feel an abandonment of God. We are almost overcome under the weight of sorrow and loss. Even our thoughts become a torturous cycle of endless, unanswerable questions. With what little strength we have left, we cry out to God for help. Towards the end of the psalm, our perspective changes towards rejoicing and thanksgiving for God’s mercy upon us.
Verses 1–2. The Christian life is never stagnant—it is filled with ups and downs. With this particular psalm, we cry out to God from the deep pit of anguish, for the enemy appears to have gained the upper hand. The condition described here is desperate. In both our personal and corporate battles in the body of the church, we are losing spiritual ground. But where is God in this predicament? One would think that God would take an interest in His people’s struggles, yet He seems to be so distant. The Christian can live through many difficulties, but he cannot live without God. He cannot live without the constant awareness that God is with him. As the battle intensifies, God’s absence becomes even more pronounced and painful, pressing David to cry out, “How long? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long will I be alone in my thoughts? How long will I be sad like this? How long will my enemies triumph over me?”
Verse 3. What is the worst possible thing that could happen to any one of us? It is hard enough to live for a while without the comfort of God’s presence. But to die without God is far worse, for then we are eternally separated from the light and life of God. This is eternal hopelessness.
For all of these reasons, this psalm is a deathly serious heart cry to God. David begs God to turn back to him and hear his request. He claims Yahweh as his God in the language of the old covenant promise made to all of Abraham’s children, “I will be their God, and they will be My people.” Then, he asks for light to his eyes—a light of truth, life, and joy. It is only the light of God’s truth shining upon his soul that would enable him to see clearly the way of salvation. It is also the light of spiritual life that will traverse trials and even cross over the river of death with strong, sturdy steps. One day, light may fade from our physical eyes as our earthly life passes, but may that true light never fade from our spiritual eyes!
Verse 4. David adds a persuasive argument in verse 4. Already the enemy has prevailed against the servant of the Creator of heaven and earth. Would not the proud boasts of the enemy stir up the Almighty to action? David is appealing on the basis of his own desire to see God’s cause vindicated and His glory magnified in all the earth.
If the arch-enemy of Yahweh could destroy one of the saints of the living God, would he not think himself to be more powerful than God? How is God glorified when His enemies rejoice in owning the upper hand in the battle while God’s people are drowning in sorrow and defeat?
Verses 5–6. David is forced to admit in the final verses of the psalm that the scenarios of his own spiritual death and the enemy’s victory are both unthinkable and impossible. He cannot but trust in God’s covenant mercy.
What a dramatic change in tone! While the psalms typically guide us through a series of emotions, here is one of the most dramatic shifts of any psalm. From contemplating the pain of eternal separation from God in hell, David is now committing himself to rejoicing in God’s salvation. This is the response of the heart of faith that comes to the crossroads of a decision. Either God is incapable of saving His people as He has promised and the Devil is supreme in power and glory, or just the opposite is true. Faith will throw its weight behind the truth of God’s revelation. God’s salvation is a sure thing. The Devil is as good as dead and Jesus is risen from the dead!
As David’s attention turns from his own trials back to God, he confesses that his heart rejoices in the marvelous salvation God has brought him. Taking note that the glass is 99% full, he forgets that it is 1% empty. God has given him so many good things, he cannot help but sing.
The struggle that David is going through as he writes this psalm is a breach of faith. In times like these, all we can do is to cry out to God for help. In the course of this crying out, our eyes begin to focus again on the God of our salvation. In the midst of trials, we should learn to center on God and rejoice in His salvation.
This psalm teaches us how a Christian worships God in the midst of a trial. Many walk into worship burdened down in the battle against the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Often they cannot immediately burst out in worship and thanksgiving. That is why this psalm provides a guide for our emotions as we walk through a process, moving from worry to worship. There are four steps taken in this psalm.
Step 1. We are honest with God, describing the condition of our trials and our own hearts.
Step 2. In our appeal to God, we use certain persuasive arguments. We lay out the alternatives.
Step 3. Then, we begin to center our thoughts back on God, who is true to His promises and is in absolute and ultimate control of all things.
Step 4. As we center on God, our faith is strengthened and our perspective turns to rejoicing and gratitude.
1. Name three Deliverance psalms.
2. Briefly describe the process we go through as we move from worry to worship.
3. This psalm appears to be in conflict over who is going to do the rejoicing in this psalm. Which two groups does David speak of as rejoicing?
4. How does David refer to the Abrahamic covenant in this psalm?
5. Which psalm says, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
1. What are the ups and downs that we have faced in our family’s journey of faith? In what sort of situations might we have used a psalm like this one?
2. Do we as a family rejoice in God’s salvation?