Psalms 13


This Psalm contains the sentiments of an afflicted soul that

earnestly desires succour from the Lord. The psalmist complains

of delay, 1-3;

prays for light and comfort, because he finds himself on the

brink of death, 3;

dreads the revilings of his enemies, 4;

anticipates a favourable answer, and promises thanksgiving,

5, 6.


There is nothing particular in the inscription. The Psalm is

supposed to have been written during the captivity, and to contain

the prayers and supplications of the distressed Israelites, worn

out with their long and oppressive bondage.

Verse 1. How long wilt thou forget me] The words ad anah,

to what length, to what time, translated here how long? are four

times repeated in the two first verses, and point out at once

great dejection and extreme earnestness of soul.

Hide thy face from me?] How long shall I be destitute of a clear

sense of thy approbation?

Verse 2. Take counsel in my soul] I am continually framing ways

and means of deliverance; but they all come to naught, because

thou comest not to my deliverance. When a soul feels the burden

and guilt of sin, it tries innumerable schemes of self-recovery;

but they are all useless. None but God can speak peace to a guilty


Mine enemy be exalted] Satan appears to triumph while the soul

lies under the curse of a broken law.

Verse 3. Consider and hear me] Rather, answer me. I have

prayed; I am seeking thy face I am lost without thee; I am in

darkness; my life draws nigh to destruction; if I die unforgiven,

I die eternally. O Lord my God, consider this; hear and answer,

for thy name's sake.

Verse 4. Let mine enemy say] Satan's ordinary method in

temptation is to excite strongly to sin, to blind the

understanding and inflame the passions; and when he succeeds, he

triumphs by insults and reproaches. None so ready then to tell the

poor soul how deeply, disgracefully, and ungratefully it has

sinned! Reader, take heed.

When I am moved.] When moved from my steadfastness and overcome

by sin. O what desolation is made by the fall of a righteous soul!

Itself covered with darkness and desolation, infidels filled with

scoffing, the Church clad in mourning, the Spirit of God grieved,

and Jesus crucified afresh, and put to an open shame! O God, save

the pious reader from such wreck and ruin!

Verse 5. But I have trusted in thy mercy] Thou wilt not suffer

me to fall; or if I have fallen, wilt thou not, for his sake who

died for sinners, once more lift up the light of thy countenance

upon me? Wilt thou not cover my sin?

My heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.] There is no true joy

but of the heart; and the heart cannot rejoice till all guilt is

taken away from the conscience.

Verse 6. I will sing unto the Lord] That heart is turned to

God's praise which has a clear sense of God's favour.

Because he hath dealt bountifully with me.] ki gamel

alai, because he hath recompensed me. My sorrows were deep, long

continued, and oppressive, but in thy favour is life. A moment of

this spiritual joy is worth a year of sorrow! O, to what

blessedness has this godly sorrow led! He has given me the oil of

joy for the spirit of heaviness, and the garments of praise for


The old MS. Psalter, which I have so frequently mentioned and

quoted, was written at least four hundred years ago, and written

probably in Scotland, as it is in the Scottish dialect. That the

writer was not merely a commentator, but a truly religious man,

who was well acquainted with the travail of the soul, and that

faith in the Lord Jesus Christ which brings peace to the troubled

heart, is manifested from various portions of his comment. To

prove this I shall, I think I may say, favour the reader with

another extract from this Psalm on the words, "How long wilt thou

forget me," &c., Ps 13:1. I have only to observe that with this

commentator a true penitent, one who is deeply in earnest for his

salvation, is called a perfyte man; i.e., one wholly given up to


How lang lord for getes thu me in the endyng? How lang o way

turnes thou thi face fro me? The voice of haly men that covaytes

and yernes the comyng of Iehu Crist, that thai might lyf with hym

in ioy; and pleynaund tham of delaying. And sais, Lord how lang

for getes thu me in the endyng? That I covayte to haf and hald.

That es how lang delayes thu me fra the syght of Iehu Crist, that

es ryght endyng of myn entent. And how lang turnes thu thi face

fra me? that es, qwen wil thu gif me perfyte Knawing of the? This

wordes may nane say sothly, bot a perfyte man or woman, that has

gedyrd to gydir al the desyres of thair Saule, and with the nayle

of luf fested tham in Iehu Crist. Sa tham thynk one hour of the

day war our lang to dwel fra hym; for tham langes ay til hym; bot

tha that lufs noght so, has no langyng that he come: for thair

conscience sais thaim, that thai haf noght lufed hym als that suld

have done.

The language of true Christian experience has been the same in

all times and nations. "But he that loveth not knoweth not God;

for God is love;" and to such this is strange language.


"This Psalm," says Bishop Nicolson, "is a fit prayer for a soul

that is sensible of God's desertion."

It has three parts:-

I. A heavy and bitter complaint of God's absence, Ps 13:1, 2.

II. An earnest petition for God's return, Ps 13:3. The reason,

Ps 13:4.

III. A profession of faith and confidence, with joy in God,

accompanied with thanksgiving, Ps 13:5, 6.

I. He bitterly complains, and aggravates it.

1. That God had forgotten him: "Wilt thou forget me?"

2. That he hid his face from him: "Wilt thou hide thy face?"

3. That he was distracted with many cares, what way to take, and

what counsel to follow, to recover God's favour: "I take counsel

in my soul, having sorrow in my heart."

4. In the meantime, his enemy was exalted, triumphed and

insulted over him.

5. And, lastly, he complains of the delay, which is quickened by

the erotesis, (interrogation,) and anaphora, (beginning several

sentences with the same words,) How long? How long? How long?

What! for ever?

II. His petition, Ps 13:3. Of which there are three degrees

opposed to the parts of his complaint, Ps 13:1, 2.

1. Look upon me, or consider me. Thou hast hitherto seemed to

turn away thy face; but once behold me, and give me a proof of thy


2. Hear me. Thou hast seemed to have forgotten; but now, I pray

thee, remember me; and show that thou dost not neglect my prayer.

3. Lighten my eyes. I have been vexed in my soul, and agitated

various counsels to recover thy favour; but do thou instruct me,

and illuminate me, as to what course I shall take.

That his petition might be the sooner heard, he urges many


1. From that relation that was between him and God: "O Lord my

God, hear me!"

2. From a bitter event that was likely to follow, if God heard

him not: "Lest I sleep the sleep of death."

3. From another afflictive consequence-the boasting and insult

of his adversaries: "Lest my enemy say, I have prevailed against

him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved."

But although the answer was delayed, yet he does not


III. In the conclusion, he professes faith, joy, and


1. His faith: "I have trusted in thy mercy."

2. His joy: "My heart shall rejoice in thy salvation."

3. His thankfulness: "I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath

dealt bountifully with me."

According to this scale, this Psalm can neither be read nor

paraphrased without profit.

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