Psalm 30 – Remembering the Greatness of God at a Great Event
This psalm has a unique title: A Psalm. A Song at the dedication of the house of David. Though the title of the psalm (as it is in the English translation) indicates it was written for the dedication of David’s palace, Charles Spurgeon (and Adam Clarke) thought that it was actually written prophetically for the dedication of the temple – which David prepared for, but Solomon built. Nevertheless, we take this psalm as being written for the dedication of David’s palace. It says nothing about the house itself; rather the focus is on God and the greatness of His deliverance. At the dedication of David’s house, David wanted God to be praised, not himself.
Matthew Poole on A Song: “This Hebrew word schir may be here taken not simply for a song, but for a joyful song, as it is in Genesis 31:27; Exodus 15:1; Psalm 33:3.”
A. David gives thanks to the LORD.
1. (1) Thanks for victory over enemies.
I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up,
And have not let my foes rejoice over me.
a. I will extol You, O LORD: At the dedication of his own house, David did not extol himself – rather, the LORD. What might have been understood as the achievement of a man was instead the occasion for praising God.
i. 2 Samuel 5:11-12 (and 1 Chronicles 14:1-2) describe the completion of King David’s palace: Then Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, and carpenters and masons. And they built David a house. So David knew that the LORD had established him as king over Israel, and that He had exalted His kingdom for the sake of His people Israel.
ii. In this, we see that King David knew three things that made his reign great. Every godly leader should know these three things well.
· David knew that the LORD had established him as king over Israel: David knew that God called him and established him over Israel.
· He had exalted His kingdom: David knew that the kingdom belonged to God – it was His kingdom.
· For the sake of His people Israel: David knew God wanted to use him as a channel to bless His people. It was not for David’s sake that he was lifted up, but for the sake of His people Israel.
b. For You have lifted me up: This explains the core reason for David’s praise. He knew that his security and status were the work of God. It wasn’t as if God did it all as David sat passively; he was a man of energy and action. Nevertheless, it was God’s work far more than his own.
i. “The verbal phrase ‘you lifted me’ is a metaphorical usage of a verb meaning ‘to draw up out of the water’ (cf. Exodus 2:16, 19). Like a bucket that was lowered down in a well and then raised to draw water up, so the Lord pulled the psalmist out of the grips of Sheol.” (VanGemeren)
ii. “Grace has uplifted us from the pit of hell, from the ditch of sin, from the Slough of Despond, from the bed of sickness, from the bondage of doubts and fears: have we no song to offer for all this?” (Spurgeon)
c. And have not let my foes rejoice over me: For David, this was a significant part of God’s victory on his behalf. He was constantly confronted by foes, and God protected him and made him the winner in regard to them.
2. (2) Thanks for healing.
O LORD my God, I cried out to You,
And You healed me.
a. I cried out to You: David lived a prayerful dependence upon God. God helped, but David cried out and prayed unto Him.
b. And You healed me: No doubt there were many times when David received healing from God from both illness and injury. Yet the idea of healing is also broad enough to include the sense of God’s help and rescue from any great need.
i. Many commentators believe that David remembered when God saved his life from a life-threatening illness. “It has similarities to Hezekiah’s psalm of praise after his sickness (Isaiah 38:10-20).” (VanGemeren)
3. (3) Thanks for preservation of life.
O LORD, You brought my soul up from the grave;
You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.
a. You have brought my soul up from the grave: We don’t know if David here described what we might call a near-death experience or if it would be more like a narrow escape from death. Either way, in his life as a soldier and leader, he had more than one time when death was near, and God rescued his soul from death.
b. You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit: David wasn’t immortal: one day his body would die and he would pass from this life to the next. Yet there were many occasions when God delayed his eventual death, not allowing him to go down to the pit.
i. “To the pit, i.e. into the grave, which is oft called the pit, as in Psalm 28:1; Psalm 69:15; Psalm 88:4; Isaiah 38:17.” (Poole)
ii. As we think of this psalm as being sung at a dedication ceremony for David’s palace, it was instructive for David to say to all, “You see the strength of my kingdom and the splendor of this palace. All seems good and secure on a day like today. Yet no one should forget that there were many times my life was in great danger and I was close to death. Praise the God who delivered me.”
B. The testimony of a tested man.
1. (4) The exhortation to praise.
Sing praise to the LORD, you saints of His,
And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.
a. Sing praise to the LORD, you saints of His: Remembering the great works of God did not only cause David to praise, but also caused him to compel others to praise Him. It was fitting, because they also were saints of His, His special people.
i. “He felt that he could not praise God enough himself, and therefore he would enlist the hearts of others.” (Spurgeon)
b. Give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name: Giving thanks is another way to praise God for His goodness, and is also good manners.
2. (5) The reason for praise.
For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for life;
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.
a. His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life: After calling God’s people to praise, King David then gave them more reasons for it. Here he rejoiced that the anger of God may be real but momentary, while His favor (acceptance, pleasure) is lasting, even for life.
i. This is a contrast between the momentary nature of God’s anger with His people and the lasting favor He holds them in. In New Testament vocabulary we might say that the correction or discipline of God is for a moment, but His grace abides forever.
ii. “This description of God’s slowness to anger, and readiness to save, is given by a man long and deeply acquainted with God as his Judge and as his Father.” (Clarke)
b. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning: Almost certainly, David said this as a testimony from his own life. There were many tearful nights, followed by joyful mornings – perhaps with the recognition that the mercies of God to His people are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).
i. Weeping may endure for a night: “…(literally, ‘will spend the night’) is a poetic expression of how weeping personified may spend the night with him, only to be gone by morning.” (VanGemeren)
ii. “By itself, this passage could mean, merely, ‘into each life a little rain must fall’ or ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ or ‘you’ve got to take the bad with the good’ or ‘cheer up, things will get better’…. But what David is talking about is God’s disfavor versus his favor, expressed in the experiences of life. His conviction is that the favor always outweighs the disfavor for God’s people.” (Boice)
iii. “Night and morning are contrasted, as are weeping and joy; and the latter contrast is more striking, if it be observed that ‘joy’ is literally ‘a joyful shout,’ raised by the voice that had been breaking into audible weeping.” (Maclaren)
iv. This is an emphasis on the certainty of God’s comfort and joy to His people. Morning always follows night, and the weeping believer may be confident that as he keeps his focus on God, He will bring him once again to joy. “‘Weeping may endure for a night’: but nights are not for ever.” (Spurgeon)
v. “This is a most beautiful and affecting image of the sufferings and exaltation of Christ…of the night of death, and the morning of the resurrection.” (Horne)
3. (6-7) David’s troubled testimony.
Now in my prosperity I said,
“I shall never be moved.”
LORD, by Your favor You have made my mountain stand strong;
You hid Your face, and I was troubled.
a. In my prosperity I said, “I shall never be moved”: One may wonder if David said (or sung) this to an assembly at the dedication of his palace and smiled at this line. It seems to communicate an overconfident assurance born of a season of prosperity.
i. “We are never in greater danger than in the sunshine of prosperity. To be always indulged of God, and never to taste of trouble, is rather a token of God’s neglect than of his tender love.” (Struther, cited in Spurgeon)
ii. “Self-satisfaction cannot praise Jehovah. Therefore it must be corrected by discipline. The final note of praise shows that through affliction and by deliverance the lesson has been learned.” (Morgan)
b. LORD, by Your favor You have made my mountain stand strong: King David confessed that the strength of his life and kingdom was not due to his prosperity, but to the favor of God.
i. The palace of King David in Jerusalem (discovered by archaeologists) is situated in the great hills of Jerusalem. We almost see King David making a gesture toward these mountains and telling everyone that it was God’s favor that made my mountain stand strong.
c. You hid Your face, and I was troubled: Without the constant sustaining work of God, David was deeply troubled. This isn’t to imply that God played a hiding game with David, constantly hiding and then revealing Himself to him. The idea is that David was completely dependent upon the presence of God, fellowship with Him, and His favor.
i. “The Hebrew word bahal signifies to be greatly troubled, to be sorely terrified, as you may see in 1 Samuel 28:21, ‘And the woman came unto Saul, and saw that he was sore troubled.’ Here is the same Hebrew word bahal.” (Brooks, cited in Spurgeon)
C. A prayer and its answer.
1. (8-10) The prayer from a time of trouble.
I cried out to You, O LORD;
And to the LORD I made supplication:
“What profit is there in my blood,
When I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise You?
Will it declare Your truth?
Hear, O LORD, and have mercy on me;
LORD, be my helper!”
a. I cried out to You, O LORD: In Psalm 30:2 King David first said that he cried out to God. This is perhaps the content of his prayer on one of those occasions.
b. What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise You? This was David’s prayer in a life-threatening situation. He made rational arguments to God, knowing that he would certainly praise God if he escaped death, but he was uncertain if he could praise God from the pit or the dust of the grave.
i. These words of King David sound strange to someone familiar with the New Testament. It seems very different from the triumphant confidence of Paul who said, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). David seemed to see no gain in death, and therefore he pleaded that God would preserve his life.
ii. Only a shadowy understanding of the afterlife is present in the Old Testament. There are certainly moments of triumphant faith, such as when Job said, For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God (Job 19:25-26). Yet there are also moments of uncertainty, such as here in Psalm 30:8-9.
iii. It wasn’t until the New Testament that God revealed more clearly the fate of those who trust God from this life to the next. In 2 Timothy 1:10, Paul says these things have now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
iv. Therefore David logically – and rightly, according to the revelation he had – only knew with certainty that he could praise God on this side of death. It was a valid question to bring before God in prayer. “It was an argument with God, an urging of reasons, a pleading of his cause. It was not a statement of doctrinal opinions, nor a narration of experience.” (Spurgeon)
c. Hear, O LORD, and have mercy on me: Even though David prayed with rational reason, in an even greater sense he simply relied on the mercy of God. It was as if he said, “LORD, here are many good reasons for You to answer my prayer. Yet beyond all these, I simply ask for Your mercy, and ask You to be my helper.”
i. LORD, be my helper: “Another compact, expressive, ever fitting prayer. It is suitable to hundreds of the cases of the Lord’s people; it is well becoming in the minister when he is going to preach, to the sufferer upon the bed of pain, to the toiler in the field of service, to the believer under temptation, to the man of God under adversity; when God helps, difficulties vanish.” (Spurgeon)
2. (11) The joyful answer to prayer.
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
a. You have turned for me my mourning into dancing: The dedication of David’s palace was a happy event. Without specifically mentioning the dedication of the house, David used it as a reason to remember all the times God brought him from sadness to joy, from mourning to dancing.
b. You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness: Using the Hebrew literary tool of repetition for the sake of emphasis, David repeats the idea of the transition from sadness to gladness. It was a happy day, but God had also been faithful to David in more difficult times.
i. “This might be true of David, delivered from his calamity; it was true of Christ, arising from the tomb, to die no more; it is true of the penitent, exchanging his sackcloth for the garments of salvation; and it will be verified in us all, at the last day, when we shall put off the dishonours of the grave, to shine in glory everlasting.” (Horne)
ii. “My ‘sackcloth’ was but a loose garment about me, which might easily be put off at pleasure, but my ‘gladness’ is girt about me, to be fast and sure, and cannot leave me though it would; at least none shall be able to take it from me.” (Baker, cited in Spurgeon)
3. (12) God glorified and thanked for answered prayer.
To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
a. To the end that my glory may sing praise to You: King David revealed the primary reason for God’s transforming work in his life. It wasn’t primarily to give him palaces; it was so that David could praise the LORD and not be silent.
i. God worked in David’s life so that He would bring Himself glory and appropriate praise. Though it clearly benefited David, it was primarily for God’s own glory that He did this. This principle means that God has a special reason to bring His transforming work to lives that will give Him praise.
ii. As it says, that my glory may sing praise, indicating that King David sang those praises with passion and exuberance, welling forth from whatever glory was associated with him as a man, a soldier, and a king.
iii. Sing praise indicates that David knew that in some special way, God regards and receives praise that is presented to Him in song. We sense that to David, it would be a sin to be silent.
b. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever: King David closed this song for the dedication of his house with a determination to thank God forever. Palaces seem to be permanent things, but they eventually crumble. Yet God will rightly be thanked and praised forever.
i. “He concludeth as he began, engaging his heart to everlasting thankfulness; and therein becoming a worthy pattern to all posterity.” (Trapp)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org