Joy comes with the morning—Psalm 30

Psalms of David

Psalms in Book 1 (Psalms 1 to 41) are primarily personal songs, so I will look at how they apply to us personally. Social and communal aspects of life and work do not come in until the later books of Psalms.

I love it when a psalm has a title, it gives purpose to what is otherwise a random song, but there’s something odd about Psalm 30, it is a personal song in a section of personal songs. Why is this song rather than the previous psalm, a general song of praise for God, the one that says “A Song at the Dedication of the Temple?”

The images below are not from the Temple of Jerusalem but from St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast.

The books of Psalms are roughly themed like this:

Book 1: Psalms 1 – 41: God is beside us.
Book 2: Psalms 42 – 72: God goes before us
Book 3: Psalms 73 – 89: God is all around us.
Book 4: Psalms 90 – 106: God is above us.
Book 5: Psalms 107 – 150: God is among us.

A Psalm of David. A song at the dedication of the temple.

30 I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up
    and have not let my foes rejoice over me.

O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
    and you have healed me.
O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
    you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
    and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
    and his favour is for a lifetime.

Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.

As for me, I said in my prosperity,
    “I shall never be moved.”
By your favour, O Lord,
    you made my mountain stand strong;

you hid your face;
    I was dismayed.
To you, O Lord, I cry,
    and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
“What profit is there in my death,
    if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
    Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
    O Lord, be my helper!”

11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
    you have loosed my sackcloth
    and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you for ever!

Psalm 30 ESVUK Paragraphs, italics and bold have been added by me to reveal the Psalm’s structure.

Last weekend the coronation of King Charles III was televised. The songs there were not of personal testimony but of the great God who is the King above all earthly kings.

These sorts of songs are in the Bible too. Some of the songs in Westminster Abbey were based on psalms, but personal songs, are they not also fit for great occasions? (The song sung by Bryn Terfel in Welsh may have been personal. I have no knowledge of the Welsh language.) Psalm 30 is personal and is written by David for the temple’s dedication. It contrasts with but also partners with Psalm 29 a song about God’s greatness and what you would expect from a song written for a great occasion.

The voice of the Lord is powerful says Psalm 29. Psalm 30 compliments this by giving David’s personal testimony (as evangelicals call it) or story of how God has helped him on a personal level. Telling your story is powerful. Tell people theology and they can respond that you are mistaken. Saying, “This happened to me,” cannot be contradicted. Your own story is important.

Psalm 30 is in three parts. Before these parts repeat there is a central section saying that weeping is not permanent, it will pass. Joy will come.

The first section, developed at the end, is praise to God for everything, pure and simple, there is no attempt by David to say he contributed in any way to his change of fortune, none of ‘me and God working together’ nonsense, everything is done by God and God is praised.

The second section and its repeat, verses 2-3 and 7b-10 are linked by a phrase about going down to the pit, to sheol, the place of the dead. The first part is positive but the second, which is also the longest section of the psalm is a reaction because God hid his face. There is a hint here that this is something to do with sin on David’s part and God hid his face. David is working through a dark time, but God hides his face. David cannot get through to a hidden God, but still, he persists in praying to God. One thing I have found to do is to look for God in the hard times, in the dark times of my life. Jesus is waiting for you in your dark places to walk with you through your darkness. It can be a long walk, but the light comes with the morning.

The last section is about God’s favour. The sin I spoke about was David, presumably a rich king at this point as he is preparing for his successor, Solomon, to build the Temple. David was trusting in his prosperity, saying, “I shall not be moved.” (verse 6) temporarily forgetting that he was there and strong because of God’s favour. So God hid his face, as if to say, “You want to try it without me, then go ahead, let’s see how you manage.”

God judges us this way, by saying to us, “OK, have it your own way.” That is God judging us. But just because we cannot see God hidden does not mean we have done something wrong, God could also be testing us to see if we will continue to trust in him when we lose any feeling that God is there. You could be depressed: Being depressed is not a sin, depression is depression. When I had no motivation Jesus was all I had to cling onto. Christians did not help, if I was not as happy-clappy as them then I must have a spiritual weakness. WRONG! It was a mental condition which I got no help for because the spiritual advice I was getting was wrong. We need better discernment and knowledge of mental health.

It can take a long time for the morning to come. With me it was years. But you can let Jesus navigate the way out of your darkness. And given the right advice you can also get psychological help.

It can take a long, long time, but joy comes with the morning.

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