David, being afflicted, not only with the deepest distress, but also feeling himself, as it were, overwhelmed by a long succession of calamities and multiplied afflictions, implores the aid and succor of God, the only remedy which remained for him; and, in the close, taking courage, he entertains the assured hope of life from the promise of God, even amidst the terrors of death.
Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol. 8: Psalms, Part I
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
I fear that our problem in the United States isn’t that God has hidden His face from us, but rather that we have taken His blessings for granted. Even worse, we no longer even acknowledge that our blessings come from Him.
We foolishly assume that regardless of how we behave and what we believe there will be an endless blessing of peace and prosperity. We in our churches are free to worship, but too often we consider Christianity to be just politics by other means.
God has every reason to hide His face from us. He has every reason to turn His back and leave us to the terror and judgement that we have stored up for ourselves. The tragic truth is that it is often only by a terrible judgement that a decadent and corrupt people rediscovers their need for God.
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?
But the Psalmist lives in assurance that God will indeed demonstrate His justice in the end. Thus, the issue isn’t if, but rather when.
3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
The Psalmist sees his own fate as entangled with God’s reputation. The argument appears to be that if God allows the Psalmist’s enemies to win they will interpret it as God’s failure and thus His weakness. We can cynically say that this is a selfish attitude. However, if our heart’s desire is for others to trust in the True God then our fondest hope is that others will find Him.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
Even within this time of fear and suffering there is trust in God’s love and salvation. The fact that God appears to tarry has no impact on the ultimate issue of faith.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
Note that this song of praise occurs before salvation from these current trials. The Psalmist has made his case and now waits in trust, sure in the hope of God’s ultimate goodness.