This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on July 29th, 2007. To listen to the audio, just click on this link – Psalm 13.
Psalm 13 – THE GOD WHO HEARS SUFFERERS
The God Who Hears Sufferers
What are we supposed to do when it seems like God isn’t responding to our hard situations? Just grit our teeth, keep it to ourselves and get through? Give up on God? What? The psalm/prayer that we’ll look at today comes from a dark time in David’s life, and shows us something about how we can respond when God seems distant.
(I want us to look at this psalm because we need it, because many of us, of YOU, have experienced great suffering, but I need to say at the outset that I am NOT an expert on this. I’m not nearly as experienced in suffering as many of you. But I know that our God is intimately acquainted w/ suffering, and has done something about it, so through this psalm and its fulfillment in Jesus, I want to point you to Him.)
Cry Out Honestly To God, Because He Is Compassionate
David begins with passionate language. “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (verse 1). He feels like God is not coming to help him, like God is too far away or too uninterested in the situation. (The problems he faces are serious; the “how long” question and the mention of “every day” show that this wasn’t a passing issue but something that had been going on for a while.) David is tired of worrying about the situation and of running through possible solutions in his mind (verse 2).
We all go through times when we feel that God is far away or unresponsive. We can tell him exactly what we’re going through and even call on him to honor His promises. The fact that this emotion shows up often in the Bible shows that we are not alone. God inspired David and other people to write prayers, poems, and songs that asked hard questions of Him. Then he made sure that they ended up in the Bibles we have today! He wanted us to know that his children can come to him with our questions, fears, and doubts, no matter what they are.
In fact, God himself knows firsthand what this kind of pain feels like. God most fully revealed himself in Jesus, who is “the exact representation of God’s being” (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus came to earth and lived a life of rejection by friends and family, misunderstanding by his closest colleagues, betrayal by a friend, and unjust treatment from the government and the “pastors” of his time. At his death, he took on the sins of the world and experienced the Father’s fury against that sin. He quoted from a Psalm in his agony, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In Jesus, God took on himself the suffering we deserved, and he knows what life in a “godforsaken” world feels like. He can sympathize, and so you can come to him in confidence that he won’t misunderstand or dismiss your pain.
How do we respond when fellow Christians go through sadness, stress, grief, or worry? Do we react with compassion and sensitive encouragement, allowing them to be honest with God? Or do we demand that they “snap out of” their feeling? Instead of shutting them up, we should encourage them to tell God the honest truth about their struggles. If we find ourselves being unsympathetic with sufferers, we should ask God to forgive us our lack of compassion and to continueto make us as compassionate as He is.
Cry Out to God Because You Have Dangerous Enemies
Note the repeated mention of enemies (verse 2, twice in verse 4). This is not just a private problem for David. Whatever his other stresses, he is under attack by powerful foes.
Do we pray urgently, as if we had enemies? Sometimes we may forget this important fact, but we’re in the middle of a very serious struggle. We, like David, have enemies both human and supernatural. (I Peter 5:8: like a lion on the prowl, the devil looks for people whose lives he can destroy). As with David’s enemies, ours will defeat us unless we have someone stronger on our side.
And spiritual enemies will try to take our focus off of God. Note that the enemies in this psalm have a particular version of the truth that they want David to believe. “I/we have overcome him,” they say in verse 4. They see David stagger and claim that he’s about to go down for good. In a similar way, there is an Enemy who will lie to us and say that we have lost; that God is even farther away than we think, that he really has forgotten us forever, or that he is not good; that things will never change.
But at the cross, Christ defeated all his and our enemies. People taunted him, too, but he retained his faith in God. The Bible tells us that Christ by his death and resurrection has defeated our spiritual enemies and even the enemy Death. Our foes are still dangerous liars, but their days are numbered, and one day they will be finally annihilated. We must go for help to the only God who can defeat our enemies. If we don’t—if in his apparent absence we try to do it on our own—then we really will fall. When we are tormented by internal and external enemies who fill our minds with lies about ourselves and God, we need to cling to the truth we find in Scripture (through reading, prayer, sermons and songs and the Lord’s Supper in church, talking to other Christians). We need to be reminded again and again that God has and will continue to defeat our enemies.
So, he’s powerful enough, but that alone doesn’t solve the problem. It can still seem to David and to us like God’s back is turned. How do we know that he wants to help?
Cry out to God because has proven Himself faithful and generous.
In the last verses, David shifts to a thankful outburst of worship. Why? Because of God’s faithfulness, his “unfailing love,” and because of the benefits David has tasted, which he believes he will taste again (verse 6). His troubles are not yet gone, but he looks forward in hope.
God’s “unfailing love” (sometimes translated “faithful love” or “covenant love”) is the grounds for hope in many Psalms and other biblical texts. God has proven himself reliable in the past, and even when the present time is dark, his people can believe that he’ll keep his word. David also praises God for showering him with “benefits.” For David, these benefits were: a taste of God’s Spirit, a knowledge that God was with him and had defeated his enemies, a forgiveness of the guilt of his sins (through the Temple sacrifices.
But we have even more reason to trust God’s faithfulness. He has given us his ultimate pledge of love in the gift of his Son, who died for us when we were God’s enemies! If a person did this for us, we would find it very hard to then start distrusting him or her…Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Paul goes on to say in that passage that even hard times, even people’s sins against us, are taken and reshaped by God in order to bring about God’s intended result: our becoming more and more like what we were made to be. In Christ, we have all the benefits David experienced to a much greater degree! Much more of the Spirit, a confidence that God will never leave us and that our sins are irrevocably forgiven, that our enemies are fully defeated.
So in hard times, remind yourself of how loved and secure you are in Christ. If others are in pain, mourn with them. Cry out to God, honestly, asking him to keep the promises he has made. Look back on how he has proven his love for you and look forward eagerly to the day when he’ll put an end to tears forever.