Psalms - Chapter 13
(The following material is compiled predominantly from an anthology of Orthodox Jewish commentary, written and arranged by Rabbi Avroham Chaim Feuer from the Artscroll Tanach Series Tehillim Volume 1. Additional insights from a Nazarene Israelite perspective have been added by Jason Jordan. Additional Tehillim translation by Rabbi Hillel Danziger)
The most standout form of suffering that Israel has had to endure throughout its history is the state of exile. Whilst in exile, Israel is prey to dominant evil forces, which subject them to an infinite array of torments.
Though the variety of torments may appear to have no end, if a man retains his tenacity and endurance and continues to pray for assistance, his power to overcome any type of adversity has no end.
In the moment, the depressing gloom of exile appears like a long endless tunnel that has no end. At this time a man may feel that YHWH has abandoned him for all time, as if forsaken forever.
As the nation and even the individual feels that last vestige of energy get sapped, that nation and that individual struggles with an inner exile and cries out again and again, “How long!? How long!?”
Such fervent pleading does not go unheeded. Thus Psalms 12 concludes on a confident note, showing that YHWH responds to those who truly seek Him, even in exile, causing the Psalmist to exclaim, “My heart will exult in Your salvation, I will sing to YHWH for He dealt kindly with me” (Psalms 12:6).
Psalms 13 – The Heart that Pleads
Verse 1; “For the Conductor. A song of David.”
Both Sages Rashi and Radak maintain that this Psalm is dedicated to the exile, both past, present and future of all Israel. The misery experienced in exile is also represented in the internal exile of the body when an individual Israelite commits a sin. T’shuvah (return) is literally a return to holiness, which enables YHWH to apply the glorified forms we will take in the World to Come, just like the return of Israel as a nation to the Promised Land.
Verse 2; “How long will You forget me, forever; how long will You hide Your countenance from Me?”
“How long…” is repeated four times to signify the four major sufferings of Israel. Each lament is justly ordained measure for measure. Said YHWH, blessed be He, ‘I called out to you, Israel, four times with the cry “How long” and you did not respond.’ “How long do you refuse to observe My commandments and my instructions” (Exodus 16:28). “How long will this nation blaspheme Me and how long will they not believe Me?” (Numbers 14:11). “How long will this evil assembly continue to exist?” (Numbers 14:16). “Therefore you (Israel) will be condemned to call out to me four times, ‘How long,’ in the exile of Babylon, the exile of Media, the exile of Greece, and the exile of Rome (Edom)” (Midrash Shocher Tov).
You leave me in exile so long that people will say that You have forgotten me (Radak).
Even if You did not forget me and are aware of my plight, You hide Your face from me as if You don’t wish to see me (Rashi).
Verse 3; “How long must I set schemes in my spirit; melancholy in my heart even by day? How long will my enemy triumph over me?”
How long will I have to seek ways to escape from despair which lurks in my heart and spirit all day (Metzudat David). That heart is the source of many evils.
The Reality of the “G-d looks at the heart” Statement
The human heart is the toughest muscle in the human body. When a human body is burned in a crematorium, the heart is the most difficult to consume, even more so than the skeleton. The heart is a powerful engine that drives a stiff neck and a lustful will.
If a man refuses to address the Messiah by his sacred salvation name it is sometimes met with the defensive response, “But, G-d sees what’s in his heart.” This is interesting in light of what the Scriptures say about a man’s heart. Jeremiah 17:9; “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Furthermore, the utterances of the mouth are firmly connected with the intentions of the heart and unless one is trying to deceive another, the words of the mouth always align with the heart’s intentions. Matthew 15:19; “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”
Understandably there is no verse within any of the Scriptures that encourages inviting the Messiah into the foul depths of the human heart despite the popular slogan to the contrary. The catch-cry to “invite Jesus into the heart” is espoused from Revelations 3:20. This verse (in context) is not a salvation directive but was aimed at existing believers to encourage greater intimacy with Messiah. The human heart has to have the thick layer of its foreskin removed. Deuteronomy 10:16; “Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.” Once this happens the blood of Yahshua is applied to it and a new heart is given with the Torah inscribed on it. Not an almost there Torah, or a halfway there Torah or another replacement Torah and certainly not a Torah that is done away with. Added to this, we must also bear in mind that the Torah prescribes offerings for unintentional sins. So by definition a short fall through ignorance is no means of refuge, because why would the Torah also cite unintentional mistakes as sin? Think about it!
An unintentional sin is libel, because it is a sign that YHWH is not constantly in one’s forethoughts. To merely say, “I forgot to….” is admitting in a sense that I forgot YHWH. But thanks to YHWH’s mercy, as long as we constantly seek it, we can dust ourselves off and live the abundant life.
Why was Abraham, who didn’t keep all the Torah we have now, called “righteous” and why were his actions considered as righteous?
Because not all the Torah that is around today was formally known or being taught or observed by anyone else at that time! What Torah Abraham did know, he was faithful with and it was counted to him as righteousness.
We shouldn’t ask YHWH to peer into our hearts, but instead look upon the blood of Yahshua applied to the door post of our hearts. Ezekiel 36:26; “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
Ezekiel 11:19; "And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.”
Ezekiel 36:26; “make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why should you die, O house of Israel?”
Psalms 51:10; “Create in me a clean heart, O Elohim, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
We should strive for a new heart not repairing the one we already have. This is like seeking to repair Babylon. "'We would have healed Babylon, but she cannot be healed; let us leave her and each go to his own land, for her judgment reaches to the skies, it rises as high as the clouds.' (Jeremiah 51:9)
Verse 4; “Look! Answer me YHWH, my Elohim; enlighten my eyes, lest I slumber into death.”
After uttering four expressions of despair, the Psalmist now makes three requests which dispel his loneliness and estrangement from Elohim. ‘Look, answer and enlighten me!’
The request to have enlightened eyes is a desire to view the events of life in a purely spiritual perspective; as part of a complex divine plan designed for maximum human welfare. The limited flesh and blood perspective fails to recognise this.
One who sleeps all the time beckons death to claim him early. An individual who becomes so enraptured in sleep, which is a state that constitutes one sixtieth of death, demonstrates his disinterest in participating in life. Jeremiah 51:57; “They shall sleep a perpetual sleep and not awake.” Before sleep, Orthodox Jews recite the full three paragraphs of the Shema, which consist of 245 Hebrew words. They conclude with the phrase, “YHWH is true,” which makes a total of 248 words. These words correspond to the 248 organs in the human body and if recited, clothe each organ in a garment of spiritual protection.
There are great Chasidic stories of sages who only slept several hours per night and when they did sleep, their mouths uttered soft words of Torah the whole time.
Verse 5; “Lest my enemy boast: ‘I have overcome him!’ Lest my tormentors rejoice when I falter.”
A tormentor is different to a foe. A foe is one who harbours evil in his heart for his adversary and has not yet had an opportunity to harm him. But a tormentor is an enemy who has already done damage (Malbim). Here, David laments that even the foe has already done him damage.
Verse 6; “As for me, I trust in Your loving kindness; my heart will exult in Your salvation. I will sing to YHWH, for He dealt kindly with me.”
My enemies think that I have no saviour; however I trust in Your loving kindness to save me, even though I do not deserve it (Radak). [When I am endowed with the enlightened spiritual perspective (described in v. 4), then I will have the ability to perceive the presence of Your loving-kindness even in the darkest gloom and I will certainly place my complete trust in (You).]