Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?Reasons for Praise
There is a reason for singing. The singing that has no reason is really not singing. Why do we sing? what moves the tongue to utterance? Is it because it is time to sing? then the song will be poor and formal. Is it because we are expected to sing? then will the very pith of the song go out of it. Do we sing because we cannot help it? then there may be strong, tender, heaven-seeking music.
'I will sing unto the Lord, because....' What a wonderful misconception there often is about singing! I must hear the words, or the song is lost upon me; I do not know enough about the seven notes and all their interminglings to be able to dispense with distinct articulation on the part of the singer. So to this singing man who comes today, who says, 'I will sing unto the Lord,' I say, Why? what are the words? we shall be delighted to hear your song if we understand your sentiment; what are the words? He gives us the words; we can follow this wondrous, sweet-singing man because he pronounces every word without slurring a single syllable. Now let us hear these words and say whether this is an old song, or a new one, or both.
I. 'How long wilt Thou forget me, O Lord?' This is a line of experience worth tracing; this song is true to experience; therefore we wrote it and sang it and own it. We own what we absorb, we own what we appreciate; be it landscape or evening star or the first day of spring, which according to the calendar we have already reached, the bitter east wind notwithstanding: it is still spring, and spring will conquer. Here is a sense of being forgotten. It is a very homely word, but full of tears; it is a black jewel.
Here is a man who has sorrow daily. 'How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily?' It is that perpetual getting up to sorrow, coming out of sleep to cry still deeper and bitterer rivers of tears. The morning is at hand, the bright vernal morning; rise, O slumberer! And out of the dream-sleep there comes a cry—O how sad!—'To awaken once more only to be reminded that I am God-forgotten and God-forsaken!' That takes the sunlight out of the sky, withers the flowers, and chokes what would have been a song. Yet all the while this man is turning his eyes in the direction of the hills where the great sanctuary is—and still looks up and still hopes.
We contrast the enemy with our weakness and not with God's strength. There are times when I have nothing to do with myself, but look away; remove the hills that I may see further; roll these intercepting mountains into dust and sand, and throw them into the sea, lest they interrupt my view of God. What can a man be or do when he is forgotten of God or imagines so? What can a man do when God's face is hidden? We are the creatures of environment and of circumstance to a very large extent, and a mighty man is he, a giant among the sons of God, who, when the environment is dead against him, can lift up his song or smite his harp with fingers that have music in their very blood.
II. Now the song will alter. The Psalmist says, 'But I have trusted...; my heart shall rejoice'. 'Trust'—who can define that term? That is the life of faith; that is the life I want to live. I cannot explain the mysteries, I cannot understand the miracles, I am lost amid gathering clouds of difficulties and inexplicable problems; but one thing I know, that I love the Saviour, and I am waiting for Him; and the moment He comes He will lead and I will tremblingly follow.
III. Now these are the words—what is the ending? 'I will sing unto the Lord, because He hath dealt bountifully with me.' He has turned the darkness into light, mourning into joy, and He has opened the prison doors to my soul when it was bound. Thus we must come back again and again, back to the old grand line of experience. If you can say that all things are shaping themselves into a great temple built for God, you are not far from the Lord's kingdom.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. v. p. 118.
How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;
Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.
I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.