Protest — Psalm 13

Psalms of David

Psalms in Book 1 (Psalms 1 to 41) are mostly personal songs, so I will be looking at how they apply to us personally. Social and communal aspects of life and work do not come in until the later books of psalms.

October 1st 2022 was protest day in the UK. There was a two-day train strike over the weekend for both more pay and better conditions. I support the strikers for selfish reasons because one of the conditions is that safety checks on the lines are being reduced. I use trains and do not like my safety being compromised. That same weekend there were protests around the country in the “Enough is Enough” protest in many towns and cities, organised by multiple community organisations and trade unions to maximise their impact. According to The Guardian, in London alone, there were six major protests on that day including an environmental protest on Westminster Bridge.

When the ruling political party hold their conference you are sure to see protests, it’s how the British do politics.

Protesters holding banners with captions including, "We will rise enough is enough," "Support the strikes." and "No to Rwanda deportations,Stop the Flights."
A small selection from the London Enough is enough protest. Source The Guardian

The books of Psalms are roughly themed like this:

Book 1: Psalms 1 – 41: God is beside us.
Book 2: Psalms 42 – 72: God goes before us
Book 3: Psalms 73 – 89: God is all around us.
Book 4: Psalms 90 – 106: God is above us.
Book 5: Psalms 107 – 150: God is among us.

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

13 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
    light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him”,
    lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
    because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Psalm 13 ESVUK

It is hard to get anything new or specific out of Psalm 13. It is a typical lament and typical of the first book of psalms in that it is deeply personal.

So many psalms are laments, and there is also a book of Lamentations of Jeremiah in the Bible, five additional psalms lamenting the exile of Judah in Babylon. Lamentation is the Jewish Biblical protest, directed at God, not at employers or governments, though it often laments about what governments and employers are doing. Despite being written by Jeremiah, a prophet, or David, a King, laments reflect the experiences of ordinary people. Just like today, the Jews needed their protests. Protest is vital, something we cannot do without. Protest can escalate, commonly due to concerns not being listened to. When protests occasionally get violent, thankfully there was little of this on October 1st, we should not condemn it, but ask why people are so frustrated and listen to their concerns. Please do not tone police legitimate protest.

David was frustrated. “How long, O Lord?” he asks four times. David has every reason to be not only frustrated but in despair, his life is in danger. The how long questions are asked out of sheer desperation, “Light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,” he says in verse 3.

Even though he has prayed to God before, David still cries out to the God who is silent. Verse 3 shows a movement from desperation to prayer, not the nice civilised prayer of liturgical worship, but the frustration of punk rock, I find Anglican chant totally unsuitable for expressing frustration like found here. It is prayer, but the desperation is still there. But David is crying out to God. He calls on God by name in verse one, the beginning of the psalm and in verse 3 the beginning of the prayer. Using God’s name is such a holy thing that its use is discouraged in modern Jewish circles. There is power in using God’s name which is why we are commanded not to use it in vain. The command does not say do not use it, just do not use it in vain. The name of God has power.

So two verses of despair followed by two verses of prayer. The last two verses are about trust. There is no hint that David’s problems have gone away, the people who want him dead still want him dead. God has not spoken in this psalm either, in Psalm 12 God spoke in the psalm, but there is no prophesy in Psalm 13. Davis complained that God was silent, and God is still silent. The reason that David trusts God here is not that he feels God’s presence. David trusts God because he has trusted God in the past. “I have trusted in your steadfast love;” (v. 5). David remembers God helping him when he has trusted, so now he is happy to make the claim that God will help him, even though all his troubles are still here and God is silent. All on the evidence of past help.

Has God ever helped you? remember it, write it down, remembering God’s faithfulness could be important when things are not going so well, remembering can help in times of trouble. Even better, if God has helped you, tell someone, you never know who will be needing to rely on God right now.

< Psalm 12 | Psalm 13 | Psalm 14 >
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