Psalm 13: From lament to praise

From Lament to praise – a sermon on Psalm 13 by Rev. Colin Pretorius.

Some say there’s a Chinese curse that goes something like “may you live in interesting times” … and the past couple of months have certainly been interesting, haven’t they! The country as a whole has been hit by the bombshell of the Covid pandemic. Many have lost their jobs. Many businesses have had to close. Up here in sunny Queensland we’ve been blessed with a very low infection rate but nevertheless we’ve also been affected. Next week will, God willing, be the first time since March we’ve met together in the church to worship God –but we’ve been apart for quite some time. Some of us have family in New South Wales, others in Victoria, both states which have been hit hard by the virus. Many of us haven’t seen our children or families for months. Holidays have had to be cancelled. Some of us have lost money we paid for airfares or accommodation. Relationships have been and are being affected by this – husbands and wives spend more time arguing as they become more irritable and relationships become more fractious. Some couples have split because they just found spending so much time together too much to bear with. And people have become more and more depressed as they spend more time in isolation or just away from friends and family. And sadly relationships with the Lord have suffered as well – to some, perhaps many, the Lord seems so far away at the moment. Why is He allowing all of this? Why is He letting my husband and I fight so much? Why doesn’t He just let this crisis disappear and heal people? Why is He allowing people to die? How long is He going to let this go on?

Yes, friends these have been difficult times. They’ve been times when we’ve felt let-down, depressed, angry, anxious and uncertain. But here’s the thing: When we as Christians get into this type of state, we sort-of feel guilty about it, don’t we? We might even feel those “Why”, or “How long” questions are not quite “Christian-ny”. But we have the wonderful privilege of being able to turn to God with such questions – after all, it’s not as if God doesn’t already know exactly what we’re thinking about! Psalms like the one we’re looking at today are there to teach us how to approach God in such difficult circumstances. They remind us also of where we find our help and in whom we can and must put our trust.

Psalm 13 has three stanzas: Verses 1-2 paint a picture of the time of desperation in which the psalmist finds himself, with David asking “how long” not only once or twice but four times. In verses 3-4 this desperation reaches a climax and he cries out to God, petitioning Him to “look”, to “answer” and to “give light” so that his enemies would not defeat him. And in the final 2 verses David affirms his trust in the Lord, praising God for His goodness. The psalm begins with a cry of distress but soars to a song of praise to God.[1].

[1] Robert G. Bratcher and William David Reyburn, A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Psalms (UBS Handbook Series; New York: United Bible Societies, 1991), 122