5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 13:5–6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Expression of Hope and Trust: Let Me Sing! (13:5–6)
5–6 Though he has experienced deep despair, the psalmist does not give up. His feet did not slip. He held on to the promise of God’s covenantal love—“your unfailing love [ḥesed]”. He is not overwhelmed by his troubles, but in his depression he says, “But I trust.” The emphatic “But I” (v. 5) is a surprising response from the heart of a depressed person. Because life may be so bitter for some, it is only by God’s grace that the heart of faith may groan, “But I.” Both vv. 5 and 6 react to this confidence in the Lord’s faithfulness to his promises by jussive and cohortative forms of the verbs: “Let my heart rejoice.… Let me sing” (see Dahood, 1:76: “Let my heart rejoice.… Then shall I sing”). The modal usage of the verbs appears to indicate the continuation of his prayer (vv. 3–4). Thus I suggest that vv. 5–6 be rendered as follows: “But since I trust in your unfailing love, may my heart rejoice in your salvation, may I sing to the Lord, ‘He has been good to me.’ ” Craigie, 143, writes, “The actual song of praise would burst forth once deliverance had been accomplished, but the knowledge that deliverance was coming created an anticipatory calm and sense of confidence.”
The effect of God’s love for which the psalmist longs is the experience of salvation (v. 5). “Salvation” (yešûʿâ, GK 3802; see 3:2) signifies the whole well-being of God’s children. They need the assurance that God cares (v. 1), as well as the experience of victory over enemies and adverse circumstances (vv. 2, 4). They also need healing in their thoughts of anguish and self-pity (v. 2). God’s “salvation” takes care of all of their needs. They will rejoice in the Lord when God shows his fatherly care: “For he has been good [gāmal] to me” (v. 6). The verb gāmal (GK 1694, “deal bountifully with,” “reward”; NIV, “has been good”) is fraught with meaning. Yahweh bestows his benefits not in small measure but in fullness, so as to give his children the experience of complete and free deliverance (116:7; 119:17). As Calvin, 1:187, states, “The word … signifies nothing else here than to bestow a benefit from pure grace.” In contrast to the enemies, who rejoice in God’s seeming absence and lack of care, the psalmist expects that the godly will ultimately rejoice in God’s salvation.
5–6 In the closing stanza of the psalm, the psalmist leaves both the enemies and the situation of crisis behind. In some sense, a corner is turned at the start of v. 5. As the Hebrew grammar indicates with the wāw at the start of v. 5, and as most English translations show by rendering the wāw as “but,” a transition occurs. The psalmist moves now to trust in God’s fidelity and praise for God’s mercy. The precise reason of this transition from lament to praise is debated. Some scholars imagine that after some supplicant had prayed vv. 1–4, a priest would have arisen to announce that the psalmist’s prayer had been heard or to pronounce an actual oracle from the Lord. In this view, the closing stanza of the psalm is a word of praise in response to the priest’s message. (See, for example, in 1 Samuel 1 how Hannah first prays for help, then receives a favorable oracle from the priest, and then sings forth in praise.) Another view holds that the praise of vv. 5–6 was a later addition, added only after the psalmist’s crisis had passed: “It is a long wait after verse 4, a wait in the darkness of death.… Then—we do not know how long the wait was—things are changed.” Still another view holds that neither deliverance nor priestly oracle occurs between vv. 4 and 5. Rather, the situation of crisis still remains, but in his heart, the psalmist has come to believe that his prayer has been heard by God. And the simple conviction that God has heard the prayer leads the psalmist to change his lament to a song of praise. “It should be noted that the grief over which the suppliant is lamenting … still remains. During the praying of these Psalms no miracle has occurred, but something else has occurred. God has heard and inclined himself to the one praying; God has had mercy on him.” It is neither possible nor desirable to still the voices of this debate by imposing one of the above views at the expense of silencing the other views. It is unlikely that we will ever be able to know for sure which, if any, of these interpretations is most faithful to how the psalm was originally written or used. However, one thing is abundantly clear: the psalm, in its current and final form, ends on this note of trust and praise. The closing of the psalm has a sense of looking backward at yesterday, of living with eyes wide open in the now of today, and of gazing ahead hopefully to tomorrow. Looking backwards, the psalmist acknowledges, in your hesed I have trusted. Of today, she confesses, my heart rejoices in your salvation. And of tomorrow, she adds her vow that she will sing to the Lord. It is that sort of three-dimensional theological perspective that Psalm 13 engenders in those who pray it still.
A Certain Confidence (vv. 5–6)
A marked difference exists between the psalmist’s foes and himself, and the opening of verse 5 sets them over against each other. But I, he says, trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me (vv. 5–6). His confidence is in the covenantal love of the Lord that expresses itself in his deliverance. This is one of the passages in the Old Testament in which ‘unfailing love’ (chésed) is parallel with ‘salvation’ (yeshûʿâh). If a distinction is to be made between them, then ‘unfailing love’ is displayed in God’s acts of ‘salvation’. Hence the psalmist can overflow with loving praise and he asks God to let his heart rejoice when that salvation appears. This understanding of verse 5 (that his deliverance is yet in the future) is confirmed by the Hebrew idiom in the final verse, which means that he will sing praise ‘as soon as he has dealt bountifully with me’. Deliverance, though yet to come, is acknowledged and praised in believing trust. Believers can always look forward in anticipation of God’s deliverances, and they can be filled with ‘an inexpressible and glorious joy’ as they await on the return of Christ the ultimate salvation of their souls (1 Pet. 1:8–9).
13:5–6 / Verse 5 is a confession of trust, but it also argues that God should intervene on the worshiper’s behalf. The opening but connects it to the preceding motif by way of contrast. In other words, “unlike those who would rejoice over the downfall of one who trusts in your love, I am of the sort who would rejoice in your salvation.” This confession of trust thus also exemplifies the contrasting character of the worshiper. While the Hebrew text indicates the trust is a present reality (“I have trusted,” Hb. perfect), the rejoicing is probably future. Verse 5b could be rendered either as a simple future, “my heart will rejoice,” or more likely as a wish, “May my heart rejoice” (Hb. yāgēl libbî; note this is a variation on the preceding, “my foes will rejoice,” Hb. ṣāray yāgîlû).
The closing vow of praise spells out what will be the content of that rejoicing. It should probably be translated: “I will sing to Yahweh, ‘He has been good to me.’ ” (The Hb. kî, translated in niv as for, probably has a recitative function. See R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax: An Outline [Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1976], p. 73.) This is praise in anticipation of the deliverance.
Some interpreters who try to pinpoint the distress that occasioned the psalm (i.e., is it a psalm of sickness?) are frustrated by its general language. Does “Give light to my eyes” point to a physical or psychological weakness? But this open-ended language helps explain the long-standing popularity of psalms, which can be used for a variety of personal needs. This image may, in fact, derive not from the speaker’s circumstances but from the poetic imagery of a face-to-face relationship evident elsewhere in the psalm. It may be an echo of the Aaronic Benediction, “May Yahweh cause his face to give light to you” (Num. 6:25, lit.).
The change of mood reflected in this psalm is remarkable. One may be tempted to think its composer was manic-depressive or perhaps a nervous pietist who thought he should tack on some positive praise to soften his harsh complaint. Some commentators seem to suggest that the speaker abandons his feelings of lament by the time he reaches the praise a few verses later (see, e.g., A. Weiser, The Psalms [OTL; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1962], p. 163). But as argued in the Introduction, a psalm is not an autobiographical poem reflecting on a poet’s recent personal experience. It is written for other worshipers to guide their responses to their own experiences. As we have just seen, this psalm reveals an intricate, tightly knit structure that moves logically from one verse to the next. When we try to pick out one poetic line, we find it attached to every other line in the psalm. It guides us to express heartfelt emotions, to seek a release from our pitiful state, and to express praise in a way distinct from our opponents. In so doing, the psalm allows believers to voice the mixed emotions often felt toward God while in the midst of hardship, namely complaint (v. 1) and trust (v. 5). We must also note that the praise mentioned in the closing verses is promised, not necessarily actual. The psalm may thus also reflect worshipers’ emotional turmoil and their determination to praise God nonetheless. For the faith reflected in the Psalms, complaint need not indicate a lack of trust, nor does trust make complaint unnecessary. In fact, it is this trust in God that allows for the expression of such protests in the relationship.
13:5 But I trust … in your salvation. The conjunction “but” (Heb. adversative waw) is the fulcrum on which David’s faith turns: “But I trust …” The “I” is emphatic and is a casus pendens: “but as for me, I trust in your unfailing love.” The backdrop of this verse is most likely political conflict, and thus “salvation” is deliverance from the political danger. This word in time and changing circumstances takes on a spiritual meaning and here very well may have such a nuance, that is, deliverance from the oppressive sense of God’s having forgotten the psalmist.
13:6 for he has been good to me. The verb expresses the idea of “completeness,” or “to deal bountifully.”
Express Confidence in God’s Deliverance (13:5–6)
13:5–6. In this final section, as characteristically in his psalms, David concluded on a note of trust, gratitude, and praise of God: But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness. Despite God’s not yet having answered David’s appeal, indeed He is more than deserving of David’s praise and gratitude for (1) who He is (i.e., a God characterized by lovingkindness; cf. 5:7 comments), (2) what He has promised ultimately to do (i.e., bring full and final salvation, as in Ps 12:5), and (3) what He has already done (dealt bountifully with David [lit., brought David redemption]; for this word, see the comment on Ps 116:7).
5–6. See how the note is changed. Yes! when a soul is thus enabled to act faith upon Jesus, and the divine promises in him, there will be soon cause to praise and sing aloud of God’s faithfulness and bounty. But do not fail, Reader, to observe with me what the joy of the soul here is. Not that his frames were altered; not that his heart was enlarged; not that more light was brought into his soul: these things he had, and these were all precious; but these were the effects and not the cause of his joy. No! read the verse again, and you will see that what his heart rejoiced in was God’s salvation, and God’s mercy. And what is this but Jesus, all-precious, all-satisfying, soul-comforting Jesus? I pray you, Reader, mark it down as a matter of great importance for every occasion of soul exercises, that it is Jesus, and not our frames or feelings, that is the cause of all real joy. When we put the effects for the cause, and magnify the fruit of faith instead of the glorious object of faith, we place our comfort where it is not. So that when our frames alter, as alter they soon will, where is our joy then? But if we place it in Jesus, and have it in Jesus; here we may always find it, in every rainy, dark, or gloomy day that follows.
13:5, 6. Certainty
The I of verse 5 is emphatic (as in neb, etc.: ‘But for my part I …’), and so, to a lesser degree, is thy steadfast love. However great the pressure, the choice is still his to make, not the enemy’s; and God’s covenant remains. So the psalmist entrusts himself to this pledged love, and turns his attention not to the quality of his faith but to its object and its outcome, which he has every intention of enjoying. The basic idea of the word translated dealt bountifully is completeness, which neb interprets attractively as ‘granted all my desire’. But rsv can hardly be bettered, since it leaves room for God’s giving to exceed man’s asking. As for the past tense in which it is put, this springs evidently from David’s certainty that he will have such a song to offer, when he looks back at the whole way he has been led.
13:5–6. Confidence and praise
Most laments end with confidence or praise; this one finishes with both. The psalmist’s praise emanates from his trust that God will hear his prayer and will respond. After all, God has unfailing love (ḥesed), the kind of love that is connected to the covenant relationship between God and Israel and which produces loyalty. God will save or rescue the psalmist. He can be sure of that, because God is good.
This psalm provides a model prayer for someone who has felt God’s judgment, but now wants to urge him towards restoration. The basis of this prayer is God’s justice. He will not punish more than is deserved. The basis of the prayer too is that God does not want the enemy of his people to overwhelm them. The ending of the book of Lamentations asks similar questions on behalf of the whole nation.
The psalmist’s sense of divine abandonment is felt by Jesus on the cross, although he asks the ‘why’ question, not the ‘how long’ question (Mark 15:34, citing Ps. 22:1). In any case, the Christian reader of the psalm may find confidence in the fact that Jesus himself experienced abandonment, and hope in the resurrection.
Ver. 5. But I have trusted in Thy mercy.—On the mercy of God:—
- What is meant by the mercy of God? Mercy differs from goodness in that it supposes guilt. Without the fall of man there could have been no occasion for his redemption; and without the plan of redemption it does not appear that we could have formed any opinion of the Divine mercy.
- How does it remedy man’s misery? The two evils to which man is exposed are sin and death. Yet they differ only as cause and effect. Sin is the distemper, and death the issue of it. Against sin God hath provided by giving us the light of Scripture; against death by the new principle of life infused into the Christian from the time of his baptismal regeneration.
III. What is it to trust in this mercy? We cannot do so till we know what we have to fear. But men are insensible of this, because self-satisfied and resting in a mistaken confidence. To trust in God is to renounce all self-confidence, and to rely on the mercy of God. Do not mistake presumption for trust. They who do, think that God’s mercy is only to deliver from punishment. It is to deliver from sin.
- The joy and comfort following. “My heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation.” (A. Jones, M.A.)
Mercy and joy:—
The minister of the Gospel is to proclaim free grace everywhere. But the heart must be awakened ere it can receive the truth of God’s grace.
- The experimental statement of David. “I have trusted in Thy mercy.” He was a sinner, but here was all his hope. This the test of true discipleship, whether we have come to trust as David did, and to hope in the mercy of God through Jesus Christ. And he knew this experimentally. Dry doctrines will not suffice alone. They would starve a soul. There must be experience. David here tells out his sorrow. He mourns God’s delays. But he trusts in God.
- His experience. “My heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation.” He had trusted, and he anticipates rejoicing. Here was the shelter, the anchor of his soul. The Church and the Christian can never be ship-wrecked, for the anchor holds. He speaks of a heart joy. No one can know anything about heart-rejoicing but those who have been heart-achers. “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” How blessed it is to experience the stillness and the quietness of the peace of God. Compared with this, what is the world worth? (J. J. West, M.A.)
My heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation.—A renovation of heart essential to a state of salvation:—
- Without the renovation of the heart there can be no distinct knowledge of the Gospel. The natural mind cannot receive the things of God; they are spiritually discerned. The mind must be renewed, that the man may become spiritual.
- Nor can there be a new nature. This is essential to the enjoyment of salvation. For how can we enjoy that which is opposed to our feelings, desires, habits? We have no enjoyment in the society of those who are the objects of our aversion. The “enmity” of the mind must be “slain” by the constraining power of the love of Christ; but this involves renovation.
- Unless the heart is renewed by the Spirit of God there is no possibility of accounting for the discovery and preparation of a plan of redemption at all. Was it worthy of the Divinity to do all that He has done in redemption for the sake of saving those He never intended to change and purify?
- This renovation of heart is essential to the enjoyment of heaven. Take an individual from the lowest ranks of society, and place him in the midst of the high-born, the educated, the refined; where will be his enjoyment? The unrenewed man, set in the midst of those who have their “conversation in heaven,” has no relish for the company, and gladly turns from it. The reason for finding no interest in heaven is—unrenewedness of heart. (J. Burnet.)
Verse 5.—“I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.” Faith rejoiceth in tribulations, and triumpheth before the victory. The patient is glad when he feels his physic to work, though it make him sick for the time because he hopes it will procure health. We rejoice in afflictions, not that they are joyous for the present, but because they shall work for our good. As faith rejoiceth, so it triumpheth in assurance of good success; for it seeth not according to outward appearance, but when all means fail, it keepeth God in sight, and beholdeth him present for our succour.—John Ball.
Verse 5.—“I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.” Though passion possess our bodies, let “patience possess our souls.” The law of our profession binds us to a warfare; patiendo vincimus, our troubles shall end, our victory is eternal. Here David’s triumph (Psalm 18:38–40), “I have wounded them, that they were not able to rise; they are fallen under my feet. Thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me. Thou hast also given me the neck of mine enemies,” etc. They have wounds for their wounds; and the treaders down of the poor are trodden down by the poor. The Lord will subdue those to us that would have subdued us to themselves; and though for a short time they rode over our heads, yet now at last we shall everlastingly tread upon their necks. Lo, then, the reward of humble patience and confident hope. Speramus et superamus. Deut. 32:31. “Our God is not as their God, even our enemies being judges.” Psalm 20:7. “Some put their trust in chariots, and some in horses.” But no chariot hath strength to oppose, nor horse swiftness to escape, when God pursues. Verse 8. “They are brought down and fallen; we are risen and stand upright.” Their trust hath deceived them; down they fall, and never to rise. Our God hath helped us; we are risen, not for a breathing space, but to stand upright for ever.—Thomas Adams.
Verse 5.—None live so easily, so pleasantly, as those that live by faith.—Matthew Henry.
Verse 5.—Wherefore I say again, “Live by faith;” again I say, always live by it, rejoice through faith in the Lord. I dare boldly say it is thy fault and neglect of its exercise if thou suffer either thy own melancholy humour or Satan to interrupt thy mirth and spiritual alacrity, and to detain thee in dumps and pensiveness at any time. What if thou beest of a sad constitution? of a dark complexion? Is not faith able to rectify nature? Is it not stronger than any hellebore? Doth not an experienced divine and physician worthily prefer one dram of it before all the drugs in the apothecary’s shop for this effect? Hath it not sovereign virtue in it, to excerebrate all cares, expectorate all fears and griefs, evacuate the mind of all ill thoughts and passions, to exhilarate the whole man? But what good doth it to any to have a cordial by him if he use it not? To wear a sword, soldier-like, by his side, and not to draw it forth in an assault? When a dump overtakes thee, if thou wouldst say to thy soul in a word or two, “Soul, why art thou disquieted? know and consider in whom thou believest,” would it not presently return to its rest again? Would not the Master rebuke the winds and storms, and calm thy troubled mind presently? Hath not every man something or other he useth to put away dumps, to drive away the evil spirit, as David with his harp? Some with merry company, some with a cup of sack, most with a pipe of tobacco, without which they cannot ride or go. If they miss it a day together they are troubled with rheums, dulness of spirits. They that live in fens and ill airs dare not stir out without a morning draught of some strong liquor. Poor, silly, smoky helps, in comparison with the least taste (but for dishonouring faith I would say whiff) or draught of faith.—Samuel Ward, 1577–1653.
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