How Long Shall We Wait For God?
Some people see religion as a means of obtaining good things, but God sees it as a means of making us good people.
By Don Ruhl
David was a man who seemed to have his life in order. He killed lions, bears, and giants, he defeated all of Israel’s enemies, he made Israel great, and God used him as a type of the Christ. Why? David confessed freely his total and exclusive dependence on God, but David also showed himself to be a mere man with struggles just like us.
Sometimes as we wait for God it seems like an eternity. Charles Spurgeon, a Baptist preacher in the 19th century, wrote, “Time flies with full-fledged wing in our summer days, but in our winters he flutters painfully. A week within prison-walls is longer than a month at liberty” (Treasury of David, Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, Volume I, p. 151). There were times when David thought that God had forsaken him, but when David contemplated God’s work in the past, David took courage and rejoiced in the anticipated victory. Psalm 13 shows him on one such journey.
Feeling forgotten by God
David had a question of longsuffering. “How long, O LORD?” (Psa 13.1a). Sometimes we ask how long, because being in fellowship with the Almighty God of heaven we expect instant gratification. Some people even see religion as a means of obtaining good things, but God sees it as a means of making us good people.
David’s wait convinced him that God had forgotten, “Will You forget me forever?” (13.1b). His wait seemed like a million years! It seemed long enough that he knew he was forgotten by the omniscient God.
David was persuaded that God was ignoring him, “How long will You hide Your face from me?” (13.1c). We cannot see God, but we see His actions, so if He is not answering with actions, we conclude that the omnibenevolent God is not watching. But God was there; David’s vision was blurred by the storms of persecution.
David began relying on his own counsel, “How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily?” (13.2a). Like King Saul, who grew impatient for Samuel’s arrival, David decided himself what to do.
David could not understand the exaltation of his enemies, “How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” (13.2b). They were wicked unbelievers who did not care for the things of the Spirit, so how could God let them be exalted? David wondered.
Notice the climactic parallelism (heightening of effect) of these two verses, which shows the desperation David was feeling: How long ➞ forget ➞ hide face ➞ personal counsel ➞ perpetual sorrow ➞ enemy exalted.
A plea for help before defeat comes
David had a request for understanding God’s apparent delay, “Consider and hear me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes” (13.3a). Notice David really believed that God was hearing, seeing, and working. Having confidence of these things, David only wanted to understand God’s will.
David needed understanding before death overtook him, “Lest I sleep the sleep of death” (13.3b). If only he could know before he left this life. How unpleasant it would be for David to die, believing the enemy had won and God had forsaken him!
David needed understanding before his enemy claimed victory, “Lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed against him’” (13.4a). Sometimes there is a purpose for our enemy’s supposed victory, which might simply be to draw us closer to God.
David needed understanding before his adversaries rejoiced at his being moved, “Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved” (13.4b). The mockery of a victorious adversary is almost more painful than anything else, worse than death, making death sorrowful.
Again observe the climactic parallelism: death ➞ enemy prevails ➞ enemy rejoices.
Confidence in God’s help
David was confident that God would help, “But I have trusted in Your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation” (13.5). God had helped David before against lions, bears and giants (1Sa 17.34–37). So he thought God delayed, but He has an appointed time (Hab 2.1–4). David, a man after God’s own heart, did not lead a trouble-free life, but God was with David, developing his character, taking him from despair to confidence through prayer. Through believing-prayer God gave David joy, and he will do the same for us (Rom 15.13). The intensity of joy that comes from belief surpasses the anxiety of suffering (1Pe 1.8).
David was ready to sing to God, knowing of God’s graciousness, “I will sing to the LORD, Because He has dealt bountifully with me” (13.6). Even while still waiting, even while the enemy was contemplating victory and celebration, David had inside information that things would turn out differently. That was faith. God promised victory—and David believed it before it was obvious. There are questions borne from anxiety, that lead to crying in prayer, which concludes in a singing faith.
Now see the climactic parallelism of the whole Psalm: protest ➞ prayer ➞ praise. This is the action of faith. A protest is presented to God, not to idols, nor any other competition of God’s. Then it turns into an actual prayer for help. Knowing to whom David prayed, calmed his fears and gave him confidence of deliverance.