Summary: 19 times we find this phrase in the Psalms, and that same sentiment has been echoed by countless millions of others. We examine the depth and types of suffering summed up in that expression and close with encouraging thoughts.
How Long O Lord
This morning I want to bring a message from a question we find repeated over and over again in the Psalms.
I want to show you that it is one of the major themes of the book of Psalms and most of you have probably never even noticed it, (as a recurring theme) because we are too busy looking at the trees to notice the forest. There is a benefit in taking a big picture view and then refocusing on the little picture, not chapter context but whole book context.
The biggest theme in the book of Psalms is praise. The second biggest theme in the book of Psalms (paraphrasing) is, get me out of this mess I am in.
In line with that second theme, get me out of the mess I am in, there is a phrase that is repeated
19 times in the psalms, 15 it is a very sorrowful prayer that is spoken to God, and 4 times it is a rebuke directed at man. Does anyone have an idea what that phrase might be?
When I tell you it, you are going to get vexed just hearing it. I can already hear some of you saying, then don't tell me I don't need any more vexation. I am going to tell you it anyway, because there is a very good reason for doing so, and that is to remind you of this simple truth that we find articulated in the New Testament:
1Pe 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
1Pe 4:13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
What is happening to you, has happened to a lot of God's really special people. Let me put it another way, God's best have seen the worst. But those who see the worst will also see the very best. In life you will find that trials come in the areas you don't want them to. We would rather face issues that play to our strengths than attack us in our weaknesses. If it is not in an area of your weakness, it is not a trial, trials come in your areas of personal weakness, that is why we call them trials.
Here is the vexing little phrase from the book of Psalms
Ps 13:1 (For the choir director. A Psalm of David.) How long, O LORD? Wilt Thou forget me forever? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me?
Ps 13:2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, [Having] sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
I am going to look at a couple of other, "how long," scriptures but I want to break this one down a little more because a quick reading and you will miss the depth of all that David is saying.
First of all, I remind you that David was the man after God's own heart. In scripture he is held forth as one of God's favorite people, and yet here we see him coming unglued with feelings that God has abandoned him. Ever felt like that? Are you feeling like that now?, then this message is for you.
First, there is a great comfort in finding out that some of God's favorite people have also struggled with feelings of abandonment. In fact Peter in the New Testament points out very clearly that seeing what other believer have endured and how they overcame can be a light for you in a dark time.
1Pe 5:9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (NIV)
Not only are they suffering they are asking the same kind of questions you are asking, "how long O Lord?"
There is a verse in the Psalms that is very hard to nail down exactly what it means though many have tried, here it is:
Ps 42:7 Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.
Most commentators explain it that the pain the psalmist is expressing is similar to the roar and thunder of a very large waterfall he was near. In other words that very loud roar of the waterfall is an echo of the pain he was feeling in his heart. That may be the true explanation, but I have always spiritualized the text. To me water is used as a euphemism of the Holy Spirit in scripture, so I have taken comfort from this verse believing it to say that God's answer and response will go as deep and loud as the problems I am facing. The deep resources of grace reach to the deep hurt in the human heart.