Psalm 30 is an individual psalm of thanksgiving. It begins with praise for the Lord for His salvation, it contrasts God’s favor with His anger, and ends with a transformation from mourning to dancing. The title of psalm 30 tells us it is a psalm of David written for the dedication of the temple. If you have been reading along with us you know that David did not build the temple, Solomon did. So perhaps David wrote this in advance, making his own experience representative of the nation’s. David’s praise to the Lord here is because the Lord has rescued him from a dangerous and challenging situation. The Lord has rescued him from being sick and near death, God’s own anger, weeping, and emotional turmoil. This triumph over adversity is like being saved from the grave in David’s eyes. Whatever the trial, it also involved the nation. And it may have been caused by David’s disobedience…like the last census he ordered taken. See 2 Samuel 24. This challenge came when the country was at peace and David was pleased with where he was and how the nation was running. And, David was proud of himself and what he had done.
Some translations say the psalm was written for the dedication of the house. This can be translated as temple but it could also refer here to palace. So, this could be the dedication of David’s house or, the Lord’s house. If this is for David’s house it may be a psalm written for the time David defeated and captured Jerusalem and Mount Zion and made Jerusalem his capital city. People rejoiced and celebrated David and his accomplishments and David knew his kingdom was established and exalted by the Lord. This could have made David proud, thus the chastening by the Lord. If this is for the dedication of the temple then we need to look back at the census David ordered that angered the Lord. The plague that ensued killed 70,000 people. Because of his disobedience, David found himself in great distress and he put on sackcloth and covered himself with ashes and begged God for mercy for the people. It was at this time that David purchased the threshing floor from Ornan, the place also known as Mount Moriah. This is the place where the temple was to be built. Whatever the event, it is clear that the Lord not only forgave David but gave him a new beginning.
The psalm begins with David declaring he will praise or extol the Lord. This is a call to lift up the Lord’s name in thanksgiving. It seems that David experienced three problems. He was sinking down into the depths or mire that would take him down to the pit. The pit here is a reference to death. David is not speaking of resurrection here but instead deliverance from a near fatal illness. God has rescued him from enemies who have sought his death and would celebrate if that should happen. His distress was like a painful sickness. The Lord delivered him from all three. David had been disobedient and saw himself down in the depths. The Lord lifted him up and out of the darkness of the unknown. Once again the Lord had rescued David from enemies who wanted him dead. This silenced his enemies and their taunts. The Hebrew word for healing used here in verse two can also mean forgiveness or spiritual restoration. It can be deliverance from not only physical sickness but mental and emotional distress. Using these definitions it seems likely this points to the census David took that angered the Lord. His pride in what God had enabled him to do got the best of him and it brought trouble and a plague to the land. David felt so bad he was sure his broken heart and convicted conscience would be the end of him. God heard David’s plea and brought him from death to life.
This psalm wasn’t just for David’s personal use. This psalm was used in the congregations worship. Everyone had reason to give thanks and praise to the Lord. He invited the people to join him in praise. Verse five tells us the reason to praise. David moved from God’s anger to His favor. The chastening lasted only for a brief moment but God’s blessings will last a lifetime. David moved from a night of weeping to a morning of joy. For a person who is sick or grieving, or in pain, the darkness of night seems to go on forever and the first rays of light in the morning bring the joy of knowing they have survived the night. The Book of Lamentations reminds us that God’s mercies are new every day. We can look to the events surrounding Jesus death. There was darkness for three hours as He hung on the cross. The disciples and other followers left Golgotha shrouded in the darkness of grief and despair. But on the morning of the third day they’re was light, bright heavenly light. There was joy and hope. God’s mercies are new each day. Jesus reminded his disciples that God does not replace sorrow with joy, He transforms sorrow into joy.
Verses 6-10 tell the story of where David’s troubles began. He was prosperous, successful, perhaps a bit full of himself. It was almost as if David said ‘Nothing can stop me now!’ The New King James translates verse six like this, “Now in my prosperity I said, I will never be moved. Lord by your favor you have made my mountain stand strong.” David was way too comfortable and one of the reasons God permits troubles is so that we do not get too comfortable. Having a strong mountain is an image of stability and God being in control. David’s mountain (kingdom) seemed strong to David but the Lord showed him just how weak he really was.
When God’s face is shining on us (Numbers 6:23-27) we enjoy His rich blessings, but when we rebel He may hide His face. This often causes trouble. Remember we are like sheep who need constant guidance and tending. The Hebrew word for trouble here can also describe being troubled, intense agony, terror or anguish. Now David knew he had sinned and he cried out to the Lord for mercy. David even tried to debate with the Lord. Seven times in this psalm David used the phrase ‘You have’, bearing witness to the strong and gracious hand of the Lord working on his behalf. The writer of the Book of Hebrews tells us that even the Lord chastening of David…and of us…was/is an expression of God’s love. Once David knew he was forgiven there was great relief. Now he could move from the funeral he felt was imminent to the feast God prepared for him. He took off the sackcloth of mourning and grieving and put on the garments of gladness. In scripture the changing of clothing often marked a dramatic change in someone’s life. We read in Isaiah 61:1-3 of this very thing. Isaiah writes of the change from mourning to joy and his they would receive the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. You may even hear music here because Robin Mark turned these words into the song we sing known as ‘Garments of praise’.
David was singing and praising the Lord from the very depths of his soul, the same place his grief had come from. The Lord had transformed his sorrow into joy. Think about this. Every time we face trials, challenges, difficulties, it is a chance to have our own pity party. We can sink into the pit of despair and stay there wallowing around and sinking deeper and deeper. Or we can turn to the Lord, recognizing our errors and missteps, ask for forgiveness and watch as the Lord transforms us. The choice is ours. Only God’s favor can permanently and powerfully overcome human failure and the depths of despair.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W