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THIS psalm is one of thanksgiving from first to last, and commemorates a deliverance from a great danger. It is divided into two unequal portions—one of five and the ether of seven verses. In the first part, the deliverance is mentioned, and thanks given for it, in the briefest possible way (Psalms 30:1-3), after which the people are called upon to join in praising God, and reminded what cause they have for doing so (Psalms 30:4, Psalms 30:5). In the second part, the circumstances of the deliverance are set out at greater length. First of all, the sin is confessed, which had drawn down God's anger (Psalms 30:6); then mention is made of the trouble which came (Psalms 30:7); next the psalmist tells us how the trouble was met (Psalms 30:8); he gives us his prayer and expostulation with God (Psalms 30:9, Psalms 30:10); then he relates how, on a sudden, there was relief—grief was turned into gladness—entreaty into thanksgiving (Psalms 30:11, Psalms 30:12). Finally, in a burst of joy, he promises to continue to praise and thank God for ever.
The title ascribes the psalm to David; and it is generally allowed to possess internal evidence of Davidic authorship. Ewald calls it "a model hymn of thanksgiving, composed in the best age of Hebrew poetry, for recitation in the temple." The particular occasion on which it was written is declared in the title to have been "the dedication of the house," by which (if David was the author) it is impossible to understand anything but the dedication of the altar (with its precinct) on the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite, after the great plague sent to punish David for numbering the people, as related in 2Sa 24:1-25; 1 Chronicles 21:1-28. With this occasion its contents are in perfect harmony. It was probably sung at the thanksgiving service with which David inaugurated his altar. The modern Jews still recite it at their Feast of the Dedication.
I will extol thee, O Lord; or, "I will exalt thee," as the word is rendered in Psalms 34:3; Psalms 99:5, Psalms 99:9; and elsewhere. For thou hast lifted me up; or, "drawn me up," as a bucket is drawn up out of a well, or a man out of a dungeon. And hast not made my foes to rejoice over me. David had still enemies at the time of his numbering the people, as appears from 2 Samuel 24:13. Indeed, it was doubtless with some reference to the number of his foes that he wished to know how many followers he could rally to his standard in case of need. If the plague had continued much longer, David's military strength would have been seriously crippled, and his foes would have rejoiced with reason.
O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me. "Heal" may be used metaphorically for the removal of mental sufferings (see Psalms 41:4; Psalms 147:3); but David's grief when he saw the sufferings of his people from the plague seems to have wholly prostrated him, both in mind and body. For the nature of the "cry" spoken of, comp. Psalms 30:8-10, which are an expansion of the present verse.
O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave; i.e. when I was on the verge of the grave, just ready to depart to the unseen world, thy interposition saved me, and brought me, as it were, back to life. Thou hast kept me alive. Lest the hyperbole of the preceding clause should be misunderstood, the writer appends a prosaic account of what had happened. God had "kept him alive" when he was in peril of death, and saved him, that he should not go down to the pit.
Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his. David continually calls upon the people to join him in his praises of God. Even when the mercy vouchsafed has been granted specially to himself, he regards the people as interested, since he is their ruler in peace and their leader in war (see Psalms 9:11; Psalms 34:3, etc.). On the present occasion, however, the people who had escaped the pestilence had almost exactly the same reason for praising and thanking God that David had, and were bound to join him in his thanksgiving service. And give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness; literally, give thanks to the memorial of his holiness, which is explained, by reference to Exodus 3:15, as meaning, "Give thanks to his holy Name" (comp. Psalms 103:1; Psalms 106:47; Psalms 145:21).
For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life; literally, for a moment (is passed) in his anger, a lifetime in his favour. God s anger is short-lived in the case of those who, having sinned, repent, and confess their sin, and pray for mercy (see Psalms 30:8-10). His favour, on the contrary, is enduring; it continues all their life. Weeping may endure for a night; rather, at eventide weeping comes to lodge, or to pass the night; but joy cometh in the morning; or, but at morn joy arriveth (comp. Job 33:26; Isaiah 26:20; Isaiah 54:7).
Now begins the expanded account of the deliverance in respect of which the thanksgiving is offered. And first, with regard to the offence that had drawn down the Divine chastisement; it was an offence of the lips, springing from an evil temper in the heart.
And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved; rather, as in the Revised Version, and as for me, in my prosperity I said, etc. There is a marked pause, and introduction of a new subject in a new strophe. Prosperity had worked an ill effect on the psalmist, had made him self-confident and proud. He "said in his heart," as the wicked man in Psalms 10:6, only in still stronger phrase, "I shall not be moved;" literally, I shall not be moved for ever. His heart was lifted up, and in the spirit of self-glorification he gave command for the numbering of the people. The result was the plague, and the death of seventy thousand of his subjects. Into these details he does not here enter. He is content to trace his sin to its bitter root of pride, and to glance at its punishment (Psalms 10:7) and his repentance (Psalms 10:8-10).
Lord, by thy favour thou hast (rather, hadst) made my mountain to stand strong. It was thy favour which had given me the "prosperity" whereby I was exalted, and which I thought rooted in myself—which had made Zion strong, and enabled me to triumph over my enemies. But, lo! suddenly all was changed—Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled. God turned his face away, declared himself angry with his servant (1 Chronicles 21:7-12), and sent the dreadful plague which in a single day destroyed seventy thousand lives. Then David, feeling that God's face was indeed turned from him, "was troubled."
1 cried to thee, O Lord; and unto thee I made supplication. The part of his prayer most honourable to David is not recorded by himself, but by the historians. He tells us of his secret wrestlings with God, his complaints and expostulations—his cries and pleadings as they remained in his memory; he passes over the desire to die for his people, which the historians put on record.
What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit! What advantage wilt thou derive from my death, if thou killest me, either by the plague, which may as well fasten upon me as upon any one else, or by the misery and mental strain of seeing my subjects, my innocent sheep, suffer? God has "no pleasure in the death of him that dieth" (Ezekiel 18:32), and certainly can obtain no profit from the destruction of any of his creatures. Shall the dust praise thee? (comp. Psalms 6:5; Psalms 88:10; Psalms 115:17; Isaiah 38:18). In death, so far as the power of death extends, there can be no action; the lips cease to move, and therefore cannot hymn God's praise—the "dust" is inanimate, and, while it remains dust, cannot speak. What the freed soul may do, the psalmist does not consider. Very little was known under the old dispensation concerning the intermediate state. Shall it declare thy truth? The dust certainly could not do this, unless revivified and formed into another living body.
Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me: Lord, be thou my Helper (comp. Psalms 54:4; Hebrews 13:6). Here the psalmist's prayer, uttered in his distress, ends, and he proceeds to declare the result.
Thou hast turned (rather, thou turnedst) for me my mourning into dancing. Suddenly, in a moment, all was changed. The angel ceased to slay. God bade him hold his hand. The Prophet Gad was sent with the joyful news to David, and commanded him at once to build an altar at Jehovah. Then the mourning ceased, and a joyful ceremonial was instituted, of which dancing, as so often, formed a part (see Exodus 15:20; 1Sa 18:6; 2 Samuel 6:14-16; Psalms 149:3; Jeremiah 31:4). Thou hast put off (rather, didst put off) my sackcloth. That the king had clothed himself in sackcloth on the occasion, is mentioned by the author of Chronicles (1 Chronicles 21:16). And girded (girdedst) me with gladness.
To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee. If we allow the ellipse of the personal pronoun supposed by our translators and Revisers, we must regard David as calling his soul "his glory," as in Psalms 16:9. But some commentators think that "glory" is here used as we use "royalty," and designates the royal person or the royal office (so Kay and Professor Alexander). And not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever. Great mercies deserve perpetual remembrance. David regarded the mercy at this time vouchsafed him as one which, like that vouchsafed Hezekiah, required to be commemorated "all the days of his life" (Isaiah 38:20).
Mercy and judgment.
"His anger … a moment," etc. This pathetic and beautiful psalm is a thanksgiving after dangerous, well-nigh fatal, sickness. Its title calls it "a song at the dedication of the house; by David" (see Revised Version); q.d. David's own palace, not the temple. But there is no reference to this in the psalm. This is of small account. The most profitable study of Scripture is not telescopic, peering into the past; nor microscopic, dissecting it like a corpse; but stethoscopic, laying your ear against its heart, and discerning the life that throbs there. The psalmist sings "of mercy and judgment."
I. GOD'S DISPLEASURE, AND ITS BRIEF DURATION. There is nothing of which we need to speak more carefully and reverently than of God's anger. With men, anger is rarely free from personal resentment, ill will, injustice, passion. None of these find place in God's anger. It is righteous displeasure against sin. At bottom, it is a manifestation of his love, which desires his children to be holy and happy. Its reality is shown, from the dawn of man's history, by the inseparable connection of suffering with sin (Romans 6:23). God loves sinners, though they are unworthy, but does not treat them as sinless. And "whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth.' The chastening may be brief, "for a moment," but it is the expression of his unchangeable opposition to sin. The lightning flash is the expression of eternal forces, unchangeable laws. Are, then, the troubles of Christians always of the nature of punishments for particular sins? Beware of hastily thinking so, for yourself or others. Trouble has another mission, discipline—the training and culture of Christian character. The Sinless One himself learned in the school of sorrow (Hebrews 5:8, Hebrews 5:9; Hebrews 4:15). Thus we learn to "weep with those who weep." But trouble may be the direct fruit of our sin; or sent to waken conscience—bring sin to mind. If so, remember there is no truer exercise of God's love (Psalms 119:67).
II. GOD'S FAVOR, AND ITS LIFE-GIVING POWER. The Hebrew seems hardly to bear the sense given in the margin of the Revised Version. "Lifetime" is rather an English than a Hebrew idea. God's favour—his loving-kindness and faithful care—is as truly exercised towards his children in adversity as in prosperity; but not so seen and felt. The clouds which hide the sun are really drawn up by the sun's rays, that they may "break in blessing;" but for the time they do hide it. The sense of God's favour—the assurance of forgiveness, answer to prayer, removal of trial, opening of the path, comfort of promises, bounty of providence, shedding abroad of love in the heart by his Spirit, is like the life-giving sunshine; "clear shining after rain."
III. THE LAW OF CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE CONCERNING TROUBLE. Sorrow is joy's forerunner. The Hebrew is very terse and vigorous, though it may sound harsh if Englished verbatim, "For there is a moment in his anger; life in his favour. At eventide weeping shall come to lodge; and at morn a shout of joy." Trouble is not for trouble's sake, but "for our profit." The end being gained, the process will cease (1 Peter 1:7; 2 Corinthians 4:17). Joy is for its own sake; therefore inexhaustible (Isaiah 35:10; Isaiah 54:8). How if the process fails; the end is not gained; grace and chastening both in vain? Then "his anger" against sin cannot be "for a moment," but must abide (John 3:36; Hebrews 6:8; Hebrews 10:26, Hebrews 10:27).
A noble view of life. "Shall the dust praise thee?" etc. We must not take this cry of bitter anguish as an utterance of unbelief or irreligion. On the contrary, it contains a noble and religions view of life. Life, in the psalmist's view, is a scene and season in which to glorify God. His quarrel with death is that it cuts short this opportunity; silences the tongue of testimony and the lips of praise; arrests the busy worker, and buries his vigorous energies in the dust. Here, then, is—
I. THE CHURCH'S COMPLAINT AGAINST DEATH. There is no piety in ignoring mysteries, though there may be impiety either in our presumptuous attempts to explain them, or more presumptuous denials that there can be an explanation perfectly consistent with God's wisdom, justice, and goodness. We must not rashly try to lilt the veil or rend it; but as we worship before it we feel that it is a veil (Isaiah 45:15). God is a Sovereign, but not a Tyrant. Absolute obedience and trust are his due; but he will not crush either our reason or our conscience (Jeremiah 12:1). Among the imperishable monuments which the Bible has placed over the graves of the good and wise and faithful, are not only those of such as were garnered like the ripe shock; but of others who came forth as a flower, and were cut down; not only Abraham, Israel, David, Daniel; but Abel, Josiah, Stephen, James. Such cases are not rare exceptions, but so frequent in every age of the Church's history as to suggest the thought that there must be some deep, permanent, prevailing reason why so many priceless lives are cut short in their prime, and the Church of Christ and the world made poor by the loss of such vast stores of unspent service.
II. THE ENIGMA OF LIFE. For those who reject the gospel—the insoluble enigma. Close your Bible. Suppose, in the history of our race, no Incarnation, no Atonement, no Resurrection; in our calendar, no Christmas, Good Friday, Easter. Then, what is human life? A vast funeral procession; not in ordered march, with the grey heads always in the van. A confused blind hurry, in which not one of the crowd can tell but the next step may be into darkness and dust. Now the babe is snatched, now the mother. The child in his play, the youth in his pride and hope, the bride with her wreath; the man of ripe power and rich experience, whose fall is like Samson's, bringing down the pillars on which the house rested, What does it mean? There are those who try to borrow the moral force and motive power of Christianity, while rejecting its facts, who are ready with an answer. "Man," they say," is immortal in his work. All that is best of us survives." No more, we reply, than what is worst. "The evil that men do lives after them." Noblest enterprises are rudely made abortive by death. The statesman, reformer, philanthropist (as dying Mirabeau said), cannot "bequeath his head "(Job 14:19, last clause).
III. THE GOSPEL SUPPLIES THE KEY TO THE ENIGMA, THE REPLY TO THE QUESTION. Yes. The dust shall praise God; the grave does declare his truth.
1. From the open, empty tomb of Jesus comes the message of comfort, hope, life. Death is abolished (2 Timothy 1:10; 1 Corinthians 15:20).
2. Every Christian grave praises God, bearing witness to the faith which conquered death and robbed the grave of terror (Psalms 23:4; 2 Corinthians 5:1, 2 Corinthians 5:6); in the recognition and comfort of Christian mourners (1 Thessalonians 5:13); in the promise of the Lord (John 6:39; Revelation 1:18). Patience! "Fear not, only believe." The promise shall be fulfilled. Death shall be destroyed (John 5:28, John 5:29; Philippians 3:20, Philippians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15:52, 1 Corinthians 15:53, 1 Corinthians 15:55).
Meantime, who can doubt that the work which seems to us often so roughly and untimely broken off, is but raised to a higher sphere? They who seem to enter into rest before their time do so because the Lord has made their place ready (John 14:2).
HOMILIES BY C. CLEMANCE
A public thanksgiving an recovery from sickness.
This psalm has a remarkable title, "A Psalm or Song at the dedication of the house of David." What house is referred to we have no means of knowing, nor is there any very manifest relation between the contents of the psalm and the dedication of any house whatsoever. £ We can scarcely read the psalm carefully without gathering therefrom that the writer had had a dangerous illness, from which he was not expecting to recover. But his life was mercifully spared; and we may venture to gather also (by comparing the title of the psalm with Psalms 30:3) that his recovery, and the dedication referred to nearly coincided in point of time; and that he piously resolved to avail himself of such dedication service to return thanks for his recovery. This supposition is in itself reasonable, and, so far as we can find, it is not inconsistent with any of the expressions in the psalm itself. We find herein an interesting blending of the psalmist's inner thoughts and of his pleadings with God. We see from both, how the Old Testament saints were wont to think and pray concerning sickness and death; both in thought and prayer we find here a decided reflection of the incompleteness of revelation under the Mosaic economy, and therefore, as Christians, privileged with fuller light and larger truth, we shall be greatly to blame if we look at either affliction or death as gloomily as the psalmist did. At the same time, the varied stages of experience indicated here are so very frequently passed through, even now, that we may service-ably utilize this psalm for the purposes of studying the dealings of God with his saints in the olden time, and in the present time likewise. There are six stages of experience rehearsed at this dedication service.
I. FIRST STAGE: TRANQUILITY. (Psalms 30:6.) "In men tranquillitate" (Buxtorf and Calvin). There had been a time, prior to the experience of trouble here recorded, in which the writer had enjoyed comparative rest for a while. Some such interval of quiet is named in 2 Samuel 7:1 (see also 2 Samuel 13:14, 2 Samuel 13:15). And while he was calm and prosperous, he began to reckon securely on the future. He said, "I shall never be moved." We have no reason to think this was a sinful self-security, as one expositor intimates; for in the text we are told that David attributed his ease to God's good grace and favour. But, not unnaturally, he took it for granted that such quiet would last. God had made his "mountain" of prosperity to stand so firmly that it did not then seem as if he would again be seriously disturbed. Note: There is not only a sinful self-security into which the saints may fall for a while, but there is also a thoughtless assumption which may fasten on us in times of ease, that things will remain calm and smooth. There is danger in this, however, if not sin. And it is more than likely that God will send us something to disturb our treacherous calm. Hence—
II. SECOND STAGE: TROUBLE. (2 Samuel 7:7, latter part.) The references in the psalm show us what this trouble was; we can scarcely question that it was some dangerous illness, in which his life was very seriously threatened (cf. 2 Samuel 7:2, 2Sa 7:3, 2 Samuel 7:8, 2 Samuel 7:9). And he attributed this illness to, or at least he associated it with, the "hiding of God's face." There is no necessary connection between these two. If, indeed, spiritual pride and a careless walk have sullied our life, there will be a time of mental darkness and serious spiritual depression afterwards. And not only so; but there are some diseases in which equanimity is so perturbed that spiritual distress may attend on bodily weakness through unhingement of the nervous system; and, subjectively, the effect may be as if God's face were hidden. The connection of bodily suffering with mental gloom was not understood in David's time, nor indeed till very recently. In the lives of Brainerd and other saints of their day, it is clear that a morbid introspection led them to associate the depression caused by fluctuating bodily health with corresponding spiritual ill. But we ought now to understand better both the laws of health and the love of God. So far from bodily affliction being a sign of "the hiding of God's face," God himself is never nearer, and his love is never more tender, than in our times of suffering and distress. A dear friend who was seriously ill said to the writer one day, "Oh! I'm so weak, I cannot think, I cannot even pray!" We replied, "Your little Ada was very ill some time ago, was she not?" "Very." "Was she not too ill to speak to you?" "Yes." "Did you love her less because she could not speak to you?" "No! I think I loved her more, if there was any difference." "Just so" was God's reply. "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him." We must never associate trouble and sickness per se with "the hiding of God's face." £ But David's trouble, and his views thereof, led to the—
III. THIRD STAGE: PRAYER. And the prayer was woeful indeed. He thought he was going down to the grave—to Sheol (Hebrew), to Hades (LXX.), i.e. to the dim and drear underworld of the departed. £ There are three views of the state immediately after death, which is intended by the terms above named, which carry with them no moral significance, unless such moral significance is conveyed by the connection in which they stand. "Sheol" denotes the realm of departed souls, looked at as the all-demanding world. "Hades" denotes the realm of departed souls, looked at as the unknown region. To the pagan world, Hades was all dark, and no light beyond. To the Hebrews it was a dim, shadowy realm, with light awaiting the righteous in the morning (cf. Psalms 17:15; Psalms 49:14). To the Christian it is neither dark nor dim, but something "very far better" it is being" with Christ" Hence it follows that such a moan as that in 2 Samuel 7:9 would be utterly out of place now; "dying" to a believer is not "going down to the pits" and ought not to be thought of as such. The tenth verse can never be inappropriate. But note:
1. Times of anxiety and trouble often bring out agonizing prayer.
2. We may pour forth all our agonies before God. We speak to One who will never misunderstand, and who will do for us "above all that we ask or think." Hence we are not surprised to see the psalmist at a—
IV. FOURTH STAGE: RECOVERY. £ (2 Samuel 7:11; also 2 Samuel 7:1, "Thou hast lifted me up;" £ 2 Samuel 7:2, "Thou hast healed me.") The psalmist was restored, and permitted again to sing of recovering mercy. Note: Whatever means may be used in sickness, it is only by the blessing of God thereon that they are efficacious. Therefore he should be praised for his goodness and loving-kindness therein.
V. FIFTH STAGE: THANKSGIVING AND PRAMS. (2 Samuel 7:5.) When the trouble is over, what seemed so prolonged a period before dwindles in the review to" a moment." There is a beautiful antithesis, moreover, in the fifth verse, which our Revisers have too cautiously put in the margin, "His anger is but for a moment; his favour is for a lifetime." Bishop Perowne says, "חַיִּים seems here to be used of duration of life, though it would be difficult to support the usage." £ But even if the word may not be used of the duration of life, surely it is used of life in reference to its continuousness, as in Psalms 21:5 and Psalms 63:5; and so is in complete antithesis to "a moment." We should render the text, "For a moment in his anger, life in his favour." (Even here, however, we must beware of always associating sickness with the anger of God.) How gloriously true it is, "He will not always chide, neither will he keep his anger for ever" (Psalms 103:9, Psalms 103:10; Isaiah 57:16-18)! We may not only praise God that our joys vastly outnumber our sorrows, but also that ofttimes our sorrows become the greatest mercies of all. Thus we are brought in thought to the—
VI. SIXTH STAGE: VOW. (Verse 12, £ "O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.") Many illustrations are to be found in the Word of God, of vows following on the reception of special mercies from him (Genesis 28:20-22; 1 Samuel 1:11; Psalms 116:1-19; Psalms 132:2). Note: At each instance of signal mercy in life, there should be as signal a repetition of our consecration vows.—C.
HOMILIES BY W. FORSYTH
God's chastening hand.
It is written, "No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby" (Hebrews 12:11). This psalm teaches how we may reap much good from the chastening of sickness.
I. The first thing is to ACKNOWLEDGE GOD'S HAND. The heathen may be in doubt; they may question whether it is "a chance' or the doing of God when great evil comes (1 Samuel 6:9); but it ought not to be so with us. Behind the things seen, and all the causes we can trace, we should see the hand of God. "Thou hast lifted me up." What a blessed change this thought effects! It is like light breaking in on the darkness, and the sense of a loving presence bringing hope to our hearts in trouble.
II. Again, we should CONFESS GOD'S MERCY. However bad our case may he, it might be worse. "Wherefore doth a living man complain—a man for the punishment of his sins?" (Lamentations 3:39; cf. Micah 7:9). Besides, there are alleviations. We meet with kindness and sympathy; we are cheered by the ministry of loving friends; we have the teaching and experiences of other sufferers open to us in books; above all, we have the consolations of our holy religion.
III. Again, it is meet that we should SEEK TO KNOW GOD'S WILL. He does not act from passion or caprice. He has a purpose, and his purpose must be worthy of himself, as well as benign and gracious toward us. We know as a general truth that "the will of God is our sanctification" (1 Thessalonians 4:3). But we should inquire, besides, as to what special end God may have in view in the particular trial that has come to us. It may be he wishes to teach us the brevity of life. "Work, therefore, while it is called to-day" (John 9:4). Or his object may be to humble our hearts and to quicken our sympathies with others. "Look not, therefore, on your own things, but look also on the things of others" (Philippians 2:4). Or his purpose may be to loosen us from earthly things, and to bind us more closely to himself as our Saviour and our God. "Little children, keep yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:21). In any case, like Job, let us say, "That which I see not teach thou me: if I have done iniquity, I will do no more" (Job 34:32; cf. Joshua 7:6).
IV. Again, we should pray that we may be able to SURRENDER OURSELVES WHOLLY TO GOD. "The hardest, the severest, the last lesson which man has to learn upon this earth is submission to the will of God. It is the hardest lesson, because to our blinded eyesight it often seems a cruel will. It is the severest, because it can be only taught by the blighting of much that has been most dear; it is the last lesson, because when a man has learned that, he is fit to be transplanted from a world of wilfulness to a world in which one will alone is loved and done. All that saintly experience ever had to teach resolves itself into this—the lesson how to say affectionately, "Not as I will, but as thou wilt" (F. W. Robertson). When we have learned this lesson, then we are able to see with thankfulness and joy that God's holiness and love are one (verse 4). Besides, we have reached a height which, looking before and after, we recognize the gracious dealings of God with us all through, and are able to say that it was good for us to have been afflicted (verses 6-12). Perhaps, like the psalmist, we may have been falling into carnal security. We have said to ourselves, "I shall never be moved." Our presumption has brought upon us chastisement. We presumed upon our health, and God sent sickness; we presumed upon our friends and lovers, and God has put them far from us; we presumed upon our reputation and worldly comforts, and God has brought us low; we presumed upon our religious faith and privileges, and God has hid his face from us, and taught us that we must rely only on himself. Our trials have moved us to prayer (verses 8-10); our prayer has brought us help and comfort from God (verse 11), and now with renewed hope and joy we can sing God's praise (verse 12).—W.F.
The holiness of Christ.
We may apply these words to Christ. We should "give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness" as—
I. GLORIOUSLY INDEPENDENT. The holiness of the creature is derived. It is not by will, or by effort, or by discipline as something that has been wrought out by himself; it is of God. But the holiness of Christ was his own; it was essential to his being; it was the outshining of the glory that he had from eternity (Isaiah 6:3; John 12:41).
II. ABSOLUTELY PERFECT. Thank God, there have been, and there are, good men upon earth; but none of them is perfect. None is good from the first; none is wholly and always good. The holiness of the best is not only derived, but imperfect. This is the confession of every one that is godly when coming before God. But the holiness of Christ was perfect. Nothing could be added to it—nothing higher could be conceived. In this respect be stands alone, the first, and the last, and the only one, in human likeness, who had kept the Law perfectly, and who could say, in the face of enemies and of friends, "Which of you convinceth me of sin?" (John 8:46).
III. INVIOLABLY PURE. Some may seem pure because they have not been tried. But Christ was subjected to the severest trials and temptations; yet his holy soul was never stained by sin. He was born without sin (Luke 1:35); he lived in an evil world without sin (1 John 3:5); he died without sin (Hebrews 9:14). "Such an High Priest became us:" (Hebrews 7:26).
IV. ETERNALLY BEAUTIFUL. We read of "the beauty of holiness," and it is the supreme and perfect beauty of character.
1. Challenges our admiration.
2. Inspires our confidence.
3. Commands our love.
Christ's holiness is not against us, but for us. It does not repel, but attract; it shows us what we ought to be, and thus humbles us under a sense of our sins; it shows us what we may become, and thus raises our hopes to heaven. It is because of his holiness he is fitted to be our Saviour. He not only perfectly represents God to man, but also man to God. Never was it more needful than in our day to remember Christ's holiness. Men are ready enough to speak of Christ's truth, Christ's goodness, Christ's self-sacrifice, and so forth; but few speak of his holiness. But in the Old Testament and the New holiness has a first place. Our Lord addressed God as "Holy Father" (John 17:11). He has taught us that without holiness no one shall see God; and he, and he alone, reveals to us the way whereby we who are sinners may cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, and perfect holiness in God's fear. It is as we become holy that we grow up into Christ, to the stature of the perfect man. It is as we are holy that we can best serve Christ here, and sing his praise for ever (1 Peter 1:15; 1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 4:8; Revelation 14:3).—W.F.
The changes and consolations of life.
I. THE CHANGES OF LIFE. Health may give place to sickness, prosperity to adversity, joy to sorrow. To-day we may be lifted up and rejoicing in God's favour, to-morrow we may be cast down and in trouble because God is hiding his face from us. There are two things to be guarded against. First, presumption (Psalms 30:6); next, despair. Come what will, we must cling to God (Psalms 30:9, Psalms 30:10).
II. THE CONSOLATIONS OF LIFE.
1. All changes are under the control of God.
2. That God's help is always available. Nothing can really prevent us from enjoying God's presence, but our own sin.
3. That the end of the Lord is merciful. The blessing will surely come to those who wait for it. "Anger" will give place to "favour;" the. pain. of the "moment" will be forgotten in the joy of renewed "life" and the ushering m of the glad eternal "day." The end is "praise."—W.F.
HOMILIES BY C. SHORT
The mercy of God.
This psalm composed after recovery from some chastisement for sin, which had very nearly proved fatal. He praises God for lifting him up out of it, and calls upon others of a similar experience to join him in his thanksgiving.
I. HE CELEBRATES WITH JOY THE MERCY OF GOD TO HIM.
1. His recovery had put an end to the malicious exultation of his foes. (Psalms 30:1.) Wicked men rejoice in the downfall and calamity of the good; they accept it as a sign of hypocrisy and of the approaching downfall of goodness and the good cause. And this was why the psalmist rejoiced that in his case they had been disappointed. We sympathize in the success of the cause that is dearest to our heart—the good with the good; the bad with the bad.
2. God had healed him of the sin which caused the chastisement. (Psalms 30:2.) What the instance of the sin was may be seen in the sixth verse—overweening presumption and pride, produced by prosperity. It was that which threatened his safety, his very life; and it imperils the safety of all who are guilty of it. "Pride goeth before destruction," etc. His faults nothing as compared to virtues. And in being healed of the sin he was restored and lifted back to life.
3. God had removed also the chastisement of his sin. (Psalms 30:3.) It would not have been good to remove the chastisement till it had wrought repentance and brought him humility and trust and watchfulness. God always removes the sin before he takes away the chastisement.
II. HE USES HIS OWN EXPERIENCE AS A LESSON OF TRUST TO OTHERS. (Psalms 30:4, Psalms 30:5.)
1. Sympathy with men and gratitude to God both teach us to do this. Others who were then suffering what he had suffered were encouraged to trust in the goodness of God. But the special ground for praise here insisted on is:
2. That the dark experiences of the righteous are transient, like the tears of a might; but their bright experiences as quickly return as the morning after the night. (Psalms 30:5.) Long-continued sorrow kills; joy is the life-giver which God sends when sorrow has brought us low The sorrow of the world worketh death, but godly sorrow life.—S.
"And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved," etc. Three stages here represented in the life of a good man.
I. WORLDLY PROSPERITY A SECURITY. "In my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved."
1. We say this in youth. All our castles in the air, we think, are built upon mountains. We think we can become anything and achieve anything we please.
2. We say this before we know our sinfulness. The ways of the world harden our hearts about our sins. Success in life and the means we employ to reach it will often harden the conscience. Money, luxury, praise, are dreadful things to blind men to their real character and state before God.
II. THE SENSE OF DANGER AND TROUBLE.
1. God hides his face. We, in our vain confidence, think it is God that has made our mountain to stand strong—till he hides his face, till a great black cloud (our sins) comes between us and God. This phrase, though often misapplied, expresses a very real fact. It is the blackness of darkness to many a terror-stricken sinner.
2. The terrors of death. Of death, natural and spiritual, get hold of us. The terror of death, natural and spiritual, is to be forsaken of God in it. This dreadful moment has come to nearly all good men. Some men never get beyond this second stage of life.
III. RESTORATION TO REAL PROSPERITY AND SECURITY.
1. The prosperity of the believer is real prosperity. It is the prosperity of the soul; it is prosperity from God, and not from man; it is lasting, secure prosperity.
2. God is the Author of the second and third stages of a good man's life. "Thou didst hide thy face;… thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing," etc.—S.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 30". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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