THE BRIDGE CALLED BUT
An Exposition on Psalm 13
Danny Ninal, Assistant Pastor, City Cross Link
Message delivered on 01 October 2019
Today I will do an expository preaching on Psalm 13, one of the short Psalms of David. Please open your Bibles to Psalm 13, and let us all read it together. I am reading it from the New International Version.
Psa 13:1 How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
Psa 13:2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Psa 13:3 Look on me and answer, LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
Psa 13:4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
Psa 13:5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
Psa 13:6 I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me
Let us all bow down in prayer. Let us Pray.
Father in heaven, many times we worry about so many things. Our world is a mess. Forgive us for not focusing on you, but looking instead into our problems. Thank you for Your Word that reminds us always that you are our Hope. Today, we declare that you are our only God and that you are in total control of our lives. Enlighten us today, Father, that we may know more about you. This we pray in the sweet name of Jesus Christ.
I entitled the message today, A BRIDGE CALLED BUT.
Does anyone know what the word ‘but’ does in a sentence? I will give you a clue. The word ‘but’ is a conjunction.
Yes, the word ‘but’ is a conjunction which is used to connect coordinate elements. Classical equivalent is the word, ‘notwithstanding’ or ‘on the contrary,’ or the more common one ‘on the other hand.’
Psalm 13 is basically made of three major parts, I call the three P’s,
a. Plea (vs.1-2)
b. Prayer (vs. 3-4)
c. Promise (vs. 5-6)
Figuratively, a and b are connected to the c by the word ‘but’ and today I will explain to you Its significance.
Let me start first with the first two verses, which all started with the question How long? There is so much anguish in these verses. You can feel the pain that David felt. You can almost touch his tortured mind. It speaks so much about all of us. We all have problems. If somebody says he has no problem, he is in deep trouble. Because everybody has his own share of the problems of this world. And Psalm 13 explains the perspective of problems.
There is a time in our life when we are at our lowest. Jia and I called our first four years in New Zealand as the darkest years of our life. We lost the music in our hearts. My daughter, Danielle asked me, “Dad, why did we move to New Zealand?” And I quickly replied, “To have a better life, baby. To have a better life.” To which she said with confusion in her eyes, “Dad, I think we had a better life in the Philippines.”
Now, to give context to that statement, let me share with you a little of my past. I was a Vice President of a large conglomerate back in the Philippines. I was the CIO, or Chief Information Officer of Loyola Consolidated Plans, and I reported directly to the President of the company, and sit as the Secretary of the Board of Directors. I had my moments, you know. I travelled a lot, all over the Philippines, Asia, and even Europe. I was spoiled with amenities, like playing golf at least twice a week, or given a membership at exclusive clubs, or hotel time shares, and other non-monetary benefits.
I was in the clouds, practically, enjoying the corporate life. What I did not know was that I had to spend almost all my waking hours with work. I neglected my family, and Danielle, my only daughter, practically grew up without me. One time, on a very early Saturday morning, my 5 yr-old daughter was crying as she sat on the stairs just across my little office at home. I was about to castigate her for disturbing me while at work. I went to her and before I could say anything, she asked “Dad, why don’t you play with me anymore?”
To a father, that was the most disturbing question I have ever been asked. Because it was not a question, but a declaration that I had ignored her all throughout. That I was so busy with my work and career, that everything else was second choice, including her. I embraced her and cried. My tears were not for her, but for myself… for being so stupid.
Jia, on her own little world, as the ever-submissive wife, never complained. But she had all our documents prepared. I did not know she was ready with all the papers, all she needed was my decision to move to New Zealand. I guess, she was also like a volcano ready to erupt, that if I will not wake up from my pride and selfishness, she and my daughter would have moved to New Zealand leaving me behind with my golf clubs and membership cards.
So, it was on that perspective that my daughter said, “Dad, I think we had a better life in the Philippines.” It was also on that perspective that I learned the most important lesson in my life. The year 2009 was the worst year of my life. Our Residence Visa application was declined three times. I had to study, spent $14,800 for one year, travelled by bus from Pakuranga to Britomart for almost an hour, then take the 20-minute train ride to New Lynn. After classes, I have to retrace that bus and train ride back home. Everyday I had to do that, and in the first week I cried silently at the back of the bus.
Then I started asking the Lord, “How long, Lord, should I do this? How long should I suffer?” I can relate very much with David when he wrote Psalm 13.
“How long, Oh Lord, will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in
How long will my enemy triumph over me?”
Take a closer look at these four sentences, which start with ‘How Long.’ Other commentators called Psalm 13 the How Long Psalm, because of this. But it actually shows us how we see our problems.
We view our grief
a. As it seems to be
b. As it is,
c. As it affects us from within,
d. As it affects our enemies from without
We view our grief as it seems to be. We don’t see what it really is. We ask the question “How long, oh Lord, will you forget me?” Does God really forget? NO, He doesn’t. It just seems to us like he does. But we are always in His heart. He will never forget us, now or ever.
We view our grief as it is. We ask the real question, “How long will you hide your face from me.” That is more like it. In biblical terminology, the hiding of God’s face refers to the withdrawal of His conscious presence.
In Psalm 44:24 David says, “Why do you hide you face and forget our misery and our oppression?”
In Psalm 10:1, he said, “Why, Lord, do you stand afar off? Why do you hide yourself from me?”
Here in our verse today, he asked, “How long will you hide your face from me.”
That to me is real grief. When we are cut off from his presence. It is terrible. We want always to be in his presence. That is why we sing, “Your presence is heaven to me.”
We view grief as it affects us from within. Listen to the question again, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? When we dwell in our problems we are tortured from within. We call it today as stress or depression or panic attacks. When we wrestle with your thoughts, we will never win. Especially when we are not in God’s presence, therefore our mind is filled with other things.
Then finally, we view our grief as it affects our enemies from without. Imagine asking, “How long will my enemy triumph over me?” The worst thing to experience is to see the enemy rejoicing while our soul is tormented within. It is like rubbing salt on the wound. It hurts even more than the wound itself.
So, here is David asking the How Long questions, so much like us, especially when grief transforms into impatience. We ask, “When does it end, Lord? I can’t do it anymore. Can you stop it now, please?” The PLEA is very evident in the first two verses.
Now, look at how David moves from his PLEAS, to his PRAYERS.
“Look on me and answer, O Lord, my God. Give light to my eyes…”
Note the cry of faith, ‘O Lord, my God,” Is it not comforting to know that our faith in our God is not destroyed by all our trials and sorrows?
“Give light to my eyes,” or in other versions it says, “Lighten my eyes,” as if saying, “Let the eye of my faith be clear, so that I can see my God in the dark.”
The rest of the prayer indicates fear or perceived threat. “or I will sleep in death, my enemy will say ‘I have overcome him, and my foes will rejoice when I fall.’ In other words, the reason for the prayer was the perceive threat or threats. Meaning, there was still no clarity of the mind.
You see, the attitude of our prayer can also determine its answer. For the attitude describes what is in our hearts.
Let me tell you a story. Please note, this is fiction and I don’t mean any offense in the story. This is just used as an illustration.
This little guy wanted to have a bicycle for his birthday and he didn’t know how to pray. So, he started to watch Christian programming and watched a very high-end tele-evangelist program. He got on his knees one night and said,
“Mighty and Eternal God, if is it in your perfect and eternal plan for me to have a bicycle, I will be most grateful to you, if you will provide it in your time and your will, but I would like it at 6:30 tomorrow morning. World without end, Amen.”
And he got up at about 6:30am. There was no bicycle. He was dismayed, so he switched channels and watch another program. That night he went to bed and said,
“Jesus, I declare my need for a bicycle and claim that it shall be blue and silver. And that it will be outside my door at 6:30 in the morning. Forever and ever, Amen.”
He woke up. There was no bicycle. He was really disappointed. He walked around the house looking for some help and he saw a statue of Mary in one of the side tables. He looked around and he took it under his jacket, and disappeared out of the house. He came back about ten minutes later without the statue, and he got on his knees and he said,
“Dear Jesus, if you want to see your mother again...”
My apologies. I mean no offense. This story is just an illustration, but it tells us something about our prayer life. I am sure David’s attitude in prayer was not like that, but sometimes we do pray that way, perhaps in not so different words. How often do we pray, “Lord, if you grant my prayers, I will serve you,” or “Lord, I am going to the city, if I get a taxi immediately, that is a sign that you want me to go to church today.”
When did we ever pray, “Lord, even if you will not grant my prayer, I will still serve you. Even if there is no taxi, I will find a way to go to church to worship you. Even if you will say no, I will still tell the world how you love me.” These my friends are the buts, of our life.
No matter how difficult our lives are, (pointing at verses 1-4), no matter how miserable our situation is, no matter how dark the future seems to us, we still say, BUT, I TRUST IN YOUR UNFAILING LOVE.
This word, but, changes the picture altogether. Notice how different is the disposition of the author in verses 5 and 6. It even seems like another person wrote it.
It was not long ago when he pleaded, “How long O Lord, will you forget me…” Now he is saying
“But I trust in your unfailing love,
Just a few verses away he cried, “How long will you hide your face from me?” Now he happily says,
My heart rejoices in your salvation,
Only 3 verses before, David was in anguish, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts? Now he is singing.
I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.”
The whole thing is turned upside down. From Plea to Promise, from Foe to Faith, from Torture to Trust, and in between is the word, BUT.
I see this word as an indicator of our attitude in life. Just as a conjunction, the word ‘but’ connects coordinate elements in a sentence or paragraph, our attitude acts like a bridge between a situation and the actions we take.
If we have the right attitude of faith, then whatever actions we take will lead us to the right path.
“I will trust in your unfailing love, my heart rejoices in your salvation, I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.”
Let me bring up another matter here, and it is something I almost missed. Take note that in verse 5 David uses the present tense, and using the second person. Meaning, he was talking to God, in the present tense.
Then in verse 6, David shifted to future tense, and using the third person. Why? Was he not talking to God anymore?
I see this as an invitation to all. He is telling everybody else, including us, that he will sing to the Lord, “for he has been good to David.” Meaning, the Lord has already done something, and David invites us to sing to the Lord with him because of what the Lord has already done in our lives.
Let me illustrate. (talk to one as if you are talking to God, v.5. then go to another person and invite him to sing, pointing to the first person v.6)
So, it is important to have the right attitude in prayer, and that we remember always that God has done good things for us already.
Going back to my story. I told you how difficult it was for us, but Jia and I made a pact, that no matter how hard it would be for us, we would never quarrel. In other words, we will not turn against each other when we have difficulties. That really helped me overcome my trials. I was the one tested most. Not her. It was due to her prayers that I was able to survive, and now stand in front of you, fully committed to serve him, with all that I am, with all that I have.
And believe me, my brothers and sisters, WE LEARN THE BEST LESSONS IN THE MOST DIFFICULT TIMES OF OUR LIVES.
During that year, in 2009, I spent those trips in the bus and in the train, talking with God, as I have never talked to Him before. I became closer to him more than all the past years combined. I went back to my first love, which was writing, and I wrote many quotations and sayings, and compiled them under the book called THE RAMBLINGS OF THE MIND. There is only one copy of this book, which I dedicated to my wife, Jia.
Allow me to end with one of the quotes in the book,
“Rainbows are not made without the millions of droplets of rain,
Just as happiness is never attained without going through lots of pain.”