(Psalm 13 was sung earlier)
I would like to reflect with you today on this Psalm, which is from King David.
I also compared some translations and at the beginning it says in the Luther Bible of 2017: "A Psalm of David, to be sung aloud" and that's what I did. According to Wikipedia, the Greek word "psalm" comes from the verb "psallein", which means "to strike the strings". It refers to a song with string accompaniment, and can literally be translated as "plucked song".
Then I have presented it exactly right.
I don't remember exactly when I composed the melody to this psalm, but it was one of my first tunes ever. It must have been around 1989 or so, when I was 23.
Why did such a psalm occupy my mind at that age? Unfortunately, I can't remember what life situation I was in at the time: maybe a crisis, heartbreak, I don't know.
When looking at a psalm, one must always be aware that many of these psalms were personal prayers poured into a song. The melodies have unfortunately been lost, which I think is a great pity.
Some songs were sung in the temple in large groups, similar to our church and worship songs today, others may have just been recited and those who felt addressed carried the song with them in their hearts.
With such sung prayers, the doctrine, the true and false, plays less of a role, but more the personal feeling, the subjective perception.
This is also the case in our Psalm. It would hardly occur to anyone here to respond to the words "Will you forget me forever?": "This statement is false. God is not far from any of us, it says so in the Bible!"
David does not want to establish the doctrine here that God forgets people, but he feels this way about his situation when he wrote the Psalm and expresses this.
And I would now like to reflect further with you on this Psalm.
Forgotten by God
In verses 2 to 3, David complains about his present situation, and in a certain sense he even complains to God.
These statements sound like reproaches.
In interpersonal relationships, this choice of words would not be so favourable. Reproaches are more likely to poison the climate than to find solutions or heal relationships. It is better to work with "I" messages, such as:
- I feel forgotten by you.
- I have the impression that you are turning your face away from me.
But God can cope with that. With Him, we are not dealing with an imperfect human being who could take words the wrong way.
We find some such lamentations and psalms in the Bible, where people virtually throw up.
And since God sees through our formulations anyway, our pious sophisticated choice of words, it always becomes clear to Him what we honestly mean, how we really feel, and that is the decisive thing.
But when do we feel forgotten by God? "Hiding my face from me" is somewhere the same. I look for God and don't find him. Prayers get stuck in the ceiling or are like being spoken into the wind. When does one feel like that?
It would certainly be interesting to hear from everyone here when they have felt like this in their lives, but we won't do that now.
I think David's problem at that time becomes clearer if we look at verse 3: "Worry is in my soul, sorrow in my heart by day". He cannot rest. The worries are so great that he is always afraid that they will overwhelm him, that he will not manage his life. And he can't cope with his sorrow either, whatever the reason for it may be. It weighs on him every day. At night he probably can't sleep well because of his worries, and during the day he can't even leave worries and grief behind him for a while.
I'm sure all of you have experienced how exhausting worry can be. Will I have enough money, find a job, manage my job, what will become of my children, will I ever get well again, etc.?
And sorrow is somehow the increase of worry. With worries there is still hope, with sorrow it is already over. For example, how do I deal with the fact that a loved one has left me? How do I deal with opportunities that have been lost for good, etc.?
In David's case, it seems that the source of worry and sorrow was an enemy who made life difficult for him.
We know from the Bible that David was on the run several times and did not always have it easy.
Nowadays, we probably have fewer human enemies; some also see enemies where there are none, or feel they are being treated with hostility, even though the other person does not intend it. However, when you are specifically bullied at work or school, it feels really hostile. And you often don't have a chance to defend yourself or sort things out.
And when everything comes together like that, you already live with the question "Until when?". I can't stand it any more. How much longer? When will the worries, the sorrow be over, when will it finally be over, when will I see land again?
What is the way out?
Make my eyes bright
One could pray now: Lord grant that the enemies disappear and that the sources of sorrow dry up and that I no longer feel sorrow.
The psalmist does not do that. Of course, I don't know how much David has thought through his psalm here, but in my opinion he prays exactly the right thing (v.4.5):
"Make bright mine eyes" means, according to the footnote in the Bible: to make someone alive, to quicken. And other translations, such as the NGÜ, translate this petition as, "Give me new courage and make my eyes shine again." In some other translations, too, this request is interpreted as a request for new courage.
It is unrealistic that we will have no more worries, no more sorrow and no more enemies in this world. Already at the beginning of the Bible in Genesis 3:19 it is predicted that we will have to eat our bread by the sweat of our brow. Effort, toil, opposition and sorrow will always accompany us here on earth. And the world itself, while beautiful and a gift, can also be quite hostile and will never be our real, eternal home. That is waiting for us with Jesus Christ.
The psalmist asks for new life, for new courage, for new hope. He does not wallow in his sorrows and grief.
Worrying is of course something deeply human and it is also dealt with several times in the New Testament (Matthew 6:25-27):
This is primarily about worrying for oneself. It is, of course, something else to worry about others, to provide for them or to care for them. Of course, "worrying" can also come into play there if the people entrusted to one's care seem to be on the wrong path.
But here, too, "worrying" does nothing.
Of course it is not always easy, but the biblical way to do it is (Philippians 4:6,7; NGÜ):
Casting your cares on Jesus is ultimately what David describes here in his Psalm. "Make bright my eyes", "Turn my gaze from my cares, my sorrows to You God and give me new courage." Looking at worries does not help at all.
And now the enemy will not win either, even though my life may be shaken.
I have trusted
And then the lament finally turns into joy.
This praise already expresses the certainty that the psalmist will rejoice in his salvation. He is now so sure that one day he will tell of God's salvation.
Otherwise, the tense would be a little strange. In the present tense of the psalm, the worries are great and he asks for bright eyes and looks from now into the future, imagining how he will look back from there.
Do we have this certainty that in the future we will rejoice and exult over God's salvation? Depending on our personal situation, this sometimes seems difficult to imagine.
An important point here is the word "grace". Some other translations say "goodness" or "love" instead of "grace", but in this context "grace" seems to me to be the best translation.
We have no right to a life without worries and sorrow, no right to a little happiness. Personally, I don't begrudge everyone that, but there is no such right.
We can ask for it, we can ask for enlightened eyes, for courage and trust that God means well with us.
Maybe the enlightened eyes also mean that you see a little clearer, that you see what is really good for you and for others, that you see your life with more perspective and can better classify your worries and your sorrow.
Because God means well with you and me, and we can rely on him to have shown us good in retrospect.
- Many psalms are personal prayers poured into a song.
- David laments in this psalm, even accuses God a little. He feels forgotten and overwhelmed by worries, sorrows and enemies.
- He does not ask for the problems to be removed, but he asks for bright, enlightened eyes, for new courage, for a new look.
- He trusts in God's grace. There is no right to happiness and freedom from worry, but God means well for you and me and we can trust in that, so much so that we can praise him for it sometime in retrospect.