Psalms 13 was written by David during his time of tribulation. Like the psalms before and after it, it is filled with images of persecution and oppression. Whereas Psalms 12 is impersonal and reflects David’s observations of oppression in general, Psalms 13 is very personal. David laments about his own specific oppressions. He wonders where God is in all of his trouble and calls to God for redemption.
Psa 13:1 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?
King David, when things were not going well, equated this with God leaving him or abandoning him. God was said to hide His face from David. This is to be contrasted with David’s language during the good times. In Psalms 139, God is said to follow David everywhere from Hades to Heaven (Psa 139:8). It might almost be said that King David had a flare for the dramatic. David held extreme emotions and showed them without hesitation. This is one of the reasons God loved him so.
Psa 13:2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?
Here David explains the results of God’s abandonment. David’s enemies triumph over him. David has slumped into deep depression, not feeling as if salvation was soon to come.
Psa 13:3 Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;
Psa 13:4 Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
In these verses, David presents reasons why God should save him. He is worried that he will soon die unless God intervenes. In short, David does not want to give his enemies satisfaction of winning. He assumes his goals are the same as God’s goals. David assumes God will hold the same values as him. David assumes God values him enough to save him from death.
Psa 13:5 But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.
Psa 13:6 I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.
David ends this psalm with praises. To David, God was to be praised in spite of his oppression, abandonment, and in spite of his near death. God was precious to David, and one of his only friends. God had saved David in the past, and David shows his gratitude. The praises hold a dual purpose of giving God more motivation to save David. After all, if David praises God, then God might be compelled to save his loyal subject so he is not lost to death. David compels God to save him through a cry for justice, a warning of death, and praises to God.