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The psalm is a song of thanksgiving after deliverance from great distress, possibly an illness, similar to the illness of Hezekiah (Isa 38:1-6). It is a picture of the inner restoration of the people in the future, followed by songs of praise.
Song of Thanksgiving
Now that the LORD has answered the prayer of the remnant (Psalm 28) and has appeared (Psalm 29), the enemies are defeated (Psalm 30) and David can dedicate his house, which means he can move into his palace (Psa 30:1a). At the same time, the dedication is portrayed as the healing of an illness.
For “[a Psalm] of David” see at Psalm 3:1.
David extols the LORD because He has “lifted” him “up” from an illness that has brought him close to the pit (Psa 30:1b; cf. Psa 30:3). “Lifted up” is also used for ‘lifted up out of the water’ (cf. Jer 38:7-13) and thereby saved from drowning. His enemies hoped and rejoiced that he would die of his disease. Through his healing, the LORD deprived them of the opportunity to rejoice over that.
He cried out to the LORD his God in great distress and his healing was the answer to his prayer (Psa 30:2). The exalted God has come down and brought up his “soul from Sheol” (Psa 30:3). God has kept him alive and thereby set him apart from those who go down to the pit, that is into the grave. He praises God for the contrast that he has been “brought up” and not gone “down to the pit”.
David not only thanks God himself, but calls on all God’s “godly ones” to do so together with him (Psa 30:4). The solo song is to become a choral song. And what is the subject of the praise here? God’s holiness, which here is the holiness of His Name in connection with His faithfulness to the covenant. “Godly ones” are those who are faithful to the covenant – Hebrew chasidim, a term also used today for orthodox Jews.
David calls for giving thanks to “His holy name”. Because God is holy, He wants His own to be holy as well. If that lacks, He brings discipline into their lives, causing them to remove what is wrong so that He can have fellowship with them again and make them happy again (Heb 12:9-11; 1Pet 1:14-19).
The anger of God lasts “but for a moment” (Psa 30:5; cf. Isa 54:7-8). After that, when the anger has accomplished His purpose, there is enjoying His “favor … for a lifetime”. In the night of trial there is “the weeping” over sins. But after the night of weeping, in the morning there is “a shout of joy” over deliverance.
With the days of creation we see the same order: “Then it was evening and it was morning”, and then comes the next day. Each new morning is born out of the night. It is like the opening words of Psalm 22, the psalm of Christ’s suffering, which has in its heading “the hind of the dawn” (Psa 22:1). This indicates that after suffering, the dawn comes that announces a new day without end.
The Lord Jesus wept at night in Gethsemane, for a night of suffering came upon Him. But did He not then rejoice in the resurrection? He came into the midst of His disciples and rejoiced with them. The joy that began then will never end.
Call to the LORD
In this section we hear the story of distress and salvation. It begins with an emphatic “now as for me, I” (Psa 30:6). David tells of a period in his life that he describes as “I will never be moved”. During that period he said or thought that he would not waver forever. There is no notion in his mind of the possibility of a change in those circumstances. Is this naiveté that necessitated God’s discipline, bringing him close to death? Does he resemble Nebuchadnezzar here who also once experienced such a period of pride and was punished by God for his pride (Dan 4:4-5; 29-31)?
It is not easy to answer that question. There is a difference between David and Nebuchadnezzar. David says in Psa 30:7 that he owed his prosperity, his carefree rest, to God’s favor, for He had made his “mountain to stand strong”. By this David seems to mean his kingdom, which had the firmness of a mountain. With Nebuchadnezzar, it was clearly only pride.
Also God’s people are later addressed by God about their prosperity, but God adds that they don’t want to listen (cf. Jer 22:21). With David it is different. In him it is clear that he saw God’s hand in his prosperity. It is also possible that he had forgotten this and acknowledges it afterwards, here, as the real reason for his prosperity, after he had suffered God’s discipline.
Whatever way we are to interpret his prosperity, the lesson for us is that we should not put our trust in the prosperity we may have, but in God. If we have no worries, if we are healthy and have everything we need, if our children and grandchildren are doing well, then we are experiencing a period of ‘prosperity’, of ‘carefree rest’. The thought can then arise that we ‘will never be moved’.
This notion does not have to mean that we are completely apart from God, as it does not seem to be the case here with David either. We realize that we owe it to Him and say to Him: ‘Lord, through Your favor we have this unwavering rest. My mountain stands strong.’ ‘My mountain’ we can then apply to the ‘little kingdom’ we may have, an area we control and the management of which we are doing well. Our gaze has become more focused on our prosperity and peace as something that cannot be moved, than on the Lord.
The Lord, in His grace, makes David aware of this by hiding His face from him. The result is that David “was dismayed” (cf. 2Sam 12:1-13). This is also evidence that David is not really apart from the Lord. He cannot live without Him. However, his attention was focused more on his prosperity than on Him Who had given it to him. That is a dangerous situation that can be the beginning of a different course and therefore of a different end.
With David, hiding God’s face has the desired effect of God: he starts calling to Him (Psa 30:8). He realizes again that he is dependent on God. In the time of prosperity he will also have prayed, but possibly more thoughtlessly. For example, we can pray “give us this day our daily bread” because there is a real lack of daily bread. If we have everything, and even have a supply for several days, we can also pray this, but the danger becomes great that it has no meaning.
We can also apply this to health and sickness. David seems to have been felled by an illness, and by such a serious one that death was imminent. How then all prosperity becomes relative. He begins to pray, to call to God, to plead with God.
David points out to God in his prayer that he cannot praise Him if he will die (Psa 30:9). The dust to which he returns when he dies has no voice. Surely then that means no profit to God, does it? What God will profit from is being praised for His salvation. That will also result in a declaration of His faithfulness to the world.
At this point in his prayer, David makes an urgent appeal to God to listen to him and to be gracious to him (Psa 30:10). At the brink of death, everyone knows that he can do nothing himself. Then he needs grace from God and God as Helper. He feels the need for God to support and guide him from moment to moment.
Mourning Turns to Gladness
Only God can turn suffering into joy. Here we find the blessing of restorative grace from God. God “loosed” his “sackcloth”, the sign of mourning and penance. After salvation, there can be a time of joy. David sees the difference between his distancing from God and his healing as the difference between a mourning lamentation at a funeral and the gladness of a wedding (Psa 30:11; Isa 61:3; Jer 31:13; Isa 3:24; Lam 5:15).
He has every reason that his “soul”, literally his “glory”, that is the glory of his majesty, sings praise to God (Psa 30:12). For the continuance and restoration of His kingship He thanks God. He cannot be silent about that. His praise is not only temporary, not only at the time of restoration and answer to prayer, but he will praise the LORD his God “forever”. What God has done for us in His discipline over us will be reason to praise Him forever.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 30". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20