The title tells us both the author and the audience of the psalm: To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. Some believe that the Chief Musician is the Lord GOD Himself, and others suppose him to be a leader of choirs or musicians in David’s time, such as Heman the singer or Asaph (1 Chronicles 6:33, 16:5-7, and 25:6). This is a psalm of transition. Starting in discouragement and despair, David finishes in a place of trust, joy, and encouragement.
A. David’s despair.
1. (1) David’s despair with the LORD.
How long, O LORD?
Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
a. How long, O LORD? It seems that every child of God has asked this question at one time or another, and that every follower of God has felt neglected by God – or at least that he has waited a long time for God to do what needs to be done.
i. “If the reader has never yet found occasion to use the language of this brief ode, he will do so ere long, if he be a man after the Lord’s own heart.” (Spurgeon)
ii. How long? “This question is repeated no less than four times. It betokens very intense desire for deliverance, and great anguish of heart…. 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!” (Spurgeon)
iii. How long is the critical question. Often we faint under the simple length of our trials. We feel we could endure almost anything if we knew when it would come to an end; yet sometimes we are tried under problems that make us cry out, “How long?”
iv. “Whenever you look into David’s Psalms, you may somewhere or another see yourselves. You never get into a corner but you find David in that corner. I think that I was never so low that I could not find that David was lower; and I never climbed so high that I could not find that David was up above me, ready to sing his song upon his stringed instrument, even as I could sing mine.” (Spurgeon)
b. Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? The pain in David’s heart came from a sense that God had forgotten him and that God was distancing Himself from him. No doubt, David had faced worse circumstances but had faced them more bravely when he had sensed the presence of God with him. Yet now, feeling distant from God, it did not take much to send David into despair.
i. God will never forget us: But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.” Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands. (Isaiah 49:14-16)
ii. “The final absence of God is hell itself. ‘Depart from me, ye cursed,’ is worse than ‘into everlasting fire.’ To be punished from the presence of the Lord is the hell of hells, 2 Thessalonians 1:9.” (Trapp)
c. Forget…. Hide Your face: Of course, God did not forget David. God did not hide His face from David – but David felt like it. When we have such strong feelings, then the feelings create their own reality. David felt God had forgotten him, and felt God was hiding. So, in a sense, it was true for David – but true according to feelings, not according to fact.
i. There is a balance in life when it comes to feelings. Some people ignore feelings and think that feelings should have nothing to do with our relationship with God. This is an extreme viewpoint, because God has given us feelings as an expression of His image in us. We can feel anger, love, care, sorrow, and many other feelings, because God feels those feelings. Feelings are a gift from God and a sign that we are made in His image.
ii. On the other side, some live their lives ruled by feelings. They believe whatever reality their feelings present them. The problem with this is that though we have feelings because we are made in the image of God, our feelings are affected by our fallenness. We can’t trust our feelings because of this. It was all right for David to feel these feelings, and good to take them to God, but he should never accept the reality of feelings as “real” reality.
iii. “This is a lesson of profound value. If the heart be overburdened and Jehovah seems to hide His face, let the story of woe be told to Him. It is a holy exercise. Men may not understand it. They may even charge us with failing faith.” (Morgan)
2. (2) David’s despair with himself and others.
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
a. How long shall I take counsel in my soul: No wonder David was discouraged! Taking counsel in his own soul had led him to sorrow in his heart daily. When I am discouraged and depressed, the answer is not in looking inside myself, but in looking to the LORD.
i. Many times when I am confronted with problems, I find this to be true: The more I think about the problems, the more depressed I get. But when I pray about the problems, a glorious sense of release and peace comes.
ii. Thinking about our troubles is hard work. Trouble is often like a pill God wants us to just swallow, but we make it worse by keeping it in our mouths and chewing it.
iii. Spurgeon proposed a sermon on the phrase, “How long should I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily?” He suggested that the sermon would have these points: “Self-torture, its cause, curse, crime, and cure.”
b. How long will my enemy be exalted over me? This mentions the third way that David was depressed. David didn’t want to lose in any area he was attacked and see his enemy…exalted over him. David was depressed in three ways:
· First, in his relationship with God.
· Second, within himself.
· Third, in regard to his enemies.
i. This was not a purely selfish desire. David knew he was the LORD’s man, with a special calling to lead God’s people. In this sense, David’s enemies were the LORD’s enemies, and enemies against the people of God.
ii. David’s feeling that God had abandoned him was connected to his sense of depression. Boice helpfully lists several sources of spiritual depression:
· Temperament may incline one to depression.
· Illness can drain the physical strength and lead to depression.
· Exhaustion can also leave one quite open to depression and the feeling of abandonment.
· The let-down after some great effort, fueled by coming down off of an adrenaline high, can often lead to depression.
· Pressure from spiritual and natural enemies can push us toward depression.
B. David’s dependent prayer.
1. (3) David prays for his relationship with God.
Consider and hear me, O LORD my God;
Enlighten my eyes,
Lest I sleep the sleep of death;
a. Consider and hear me: We should not think that David meant two different things when he said, “Consider and hear me.” He used the Hebrew method of repetition to show emphasis. David desperately cried out to God, asking the LORD to hear him.
i. David felt God was not listening before (Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? Psalm 13:1). Yet he should continue to cry out because God is honored when we persistently and desperately cry out to Him.
ii. God often waits until our prayers are desperate before He answers us. The cause of the powerlessness of much of our prayer is lack of desperation; too often we almost pray with the attitude of wanting God to care about things we really don’t care too much about.
iii. Desperate prayer has power not because it in itself persuades a reluctant God. Instead, it demonstrates that our heart cares passionately about the things God cares about, fulfilling Jesus’ promise If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you (John 15:7).
b. Enlighten my eyes: David had the wisdom to know that though he felt powerful feelings, he wasn’t seeing reality. His vision was clouded and dark, so he cried out to God, “Enlighten my eyes.”
i. This was a great prayer. We need the light of God to shine upon us and to give us His wisdom and knowledge. No matter what problem we are in, we should cry out with all our heart, “Enlighten my eyes.”
ii. The Apostle Paul knew the importance of having our eyes enlightened by the Lord. This is what he prayed for Christians: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power (Ephesians 1:17-19).
c. Lest I sleep the sleep of death: If we are not enlightened by God, we will surely fall asleep. And often, spiritual sleep leads to spiritual death.
i. Paul may have had this verse in mind when he wrote of our need for the light of Jesus: Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light (Ephesians 5:14).
2. (4) David prays for victory over his enemies.
Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed against him”;
Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
a. Lest my enemy say: David knew one of the worst parts about losing to anyone is hearing him boast after he has defeated you. He did not want his enemy to rejoice when he was brought low.
b. Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved: Knowing how his enemies would gloat over his fall, David was even more determined to not be moved.
i. “Awareness of God and the enemy is virtually the hallmark of every psalm of David; the positive and negative charges which produced the driving force of his best years.” (Kidner)
C. David’s declaration.
1. (5a) David’s trust in God’s mercy.
But I have trusted in Your mercy;
a. I have trusted: David, after his prayer, came to a place of confidence and trust. I have trusted speaks in the past tense; it is as if David remembered that he really did trust God, and he cleared away the fog from his sleepy eyes as God enlightened his eyes.
b. In Your mercy: At this place of discouragement, David could not trust in God’s justice, or in God’s law, or in God’s holiness. Those things might condemn him because his feelings had made him not see clearly. But he could always trust in God’s mercy. When you can’t trust anything else, trust in God’s mercy.
i. “He begins his prayer as if he thought God would never give him a kind look more…. But by the time he had exercised himself a little in duty, his distemper wears off, the mists scatter, and his faith breaks out as the sun in its strength.” (William Gurnall, cited in Spurgeon)
2. (5b-6a) David’s joy in the LORD and His salvation.
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
a. My heart shall rejoice: Now, David was still in the realm of feelings (rejoice). But he directed his feelings instead of having his feelings direct him (shall rejoice). He told his heart to get busy rejoicing!
b. In Your salvation: This is what David rejoiced in. David, if he could rejoice in nothing else, could rejoice in the salvation God gave him. This is solid ground for any believer. If you are saved, you can rejoice, and tell your heart to start rejoicing.
c. I will sing to the LORD: David knew rejoicing is wonderfully expressed in singing. So, he would sing to the LORD. Singing to the LORD would both express his joy and increase his joy.
i. “There is not half enough singing in the world…I remember a servant who used to sing while she was at the wash-tub. Her mistress said to her, ‘Why, Jane, how is it that you are always singing?’ She said, ‘It keeps the bad thoughts away.’” (Spurgeon)
ii. David moved from being depressed and feeling abandoned by God, to singing joy. “The fact that we feel abandoned itself means that we really know God is there. To be abandoned you need somebody to be abandoned by. Because we are Christians and have been taught by God in the Scriptures, we know that God still loves us and will be faithful to us, regardless of our feelings.” (Boice)
3. (6b) With enlightened eyes, David sees God’s goodness.
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
a. Because He has dealt bountifully with me: As David thought about it, he had good reason to rejoice and sing, because God had been good to him. If we will only think about it, every person on this earth has reason to rejoice, because in some way God has been good to everyone.
b. He has dealt bountifully with me: What a transition! In the beginning of the psalm, David was overwhelmed by his feelings and believed that God forgot him and was hiding from him. He had trouble with God, with himself, and with others. Yet now he sees how God had dealt bountifully with him. Because his eyes were enlightened, David could now see God’s goodness, and what a change in perspective that was!
i. Before God can enlighten our eyes, we must agree that we don’t see everything. We need to realize that our feelings are not giving us full and accurate information. But if we will do this, and cry out to the LORD, He will enlighten our eyes and bring us from a place of despair to a place of trust, joy, and confidence!
ii. “[In times of trouble, the Lord] would with one Scripture or another, strengthen me against all; insomuch that I have often said, Were it lawful, I could pray for greater trouble, for the greater comfort’s sake.” (John Bunyan, cited in Spurgeon)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org