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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Psalms 30

 

 

Introduction

This Psalm would appear to be an expression of thanksgiving for healing from what had appeared to be a fatal disease. His illness has reminded the Psalmist of his mortality, and has warned him against complacency, but now it re-echoes in praise. Now he is filled with gratitude and thanksgiving. It is such an individual psalm that we must surely see it as originating out of personal circumstances, even if it came to be used in wider ways

Heading.

‘A Psalm; a Song at the Dedication of the House. Of David.’

The psalm is such an individual one that this heading pulls us up short. And it raises the question as to which ‘house’ is being spoken of. It is possible that we are intended to see it as referring to ‘the house of David’. It may be that this was written by a young descendant of David who had not as yet borne children, but had been very ill and had expected to die. Thus having been healed of what he had thought was a fatal illness, he may well by this psalm have been rededicating his ‘house’ to God.

Others have seen it as referring to the plague that swept Israel as a result of David’s sin ( 2 Samuel 24:15-17). It may then be seen as David’s lament on behalf of his people as he identifies them with himself, and his resulting thanksgiving as a result of God’s mercy.

Still others, however, see the dedication as indicating a purpose to which the Psalm was later put, possibly at the rededication of the second Temple (see Haggai and Zechariah). It may then be seen as having been taken over in order to reflect the deliverance of Israel from Babylon, a deliverance which had eventually resulted in the second Temple, for what happened to the king was regularly seen as reflecting what happened to the people. He was their very breath (Lamentations 4:20). We can also compare how Isaiah saw Israel and Judah as a desperately plagued person who needed restoring (Isaiah 1:4-6).

But in the end everyone who sang it saw it as referring to himself, as one among the people of God, and saw it in the light of his own blessings.

We may see the Psalm as dividing up as follows;

1) An Expression Of Gratitude To YHWH For His Deliverance From Death (Psalms 30:1-3).

2) He Calls For All The People To Join With Him In His Gratitude (Psalms 30:4-5).

3) He Reminisces On The Complacency That Had Been His When He Was Well And The Shock That His Illness Had Been To Him (Psalms 30:6-7).

4) He Expresses His Prayer For Deliverance (Psalms 30:8-10).

5) He Offers Up His Final Praise And Thanksgiving Because He Has Been Delivered (Psalms 30:11-12).


Verses 1-3

An Expression Of Gratitude To YHWH For His Deliverance From Death (Psalms 30:1-3).

Psalms 30:1-3

I will exalt you, O YHWH, for you have raised me up,

And have not made my foes to rejoice over me.

O YHWH my God, I cried to you, and you have healed me.

O YHWH, you have brought up my soul from Sheol,

You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.

The Psalmist praises God for having raised him up (Psalms 30:1) and healed him (Psalms 30:2). He had been very conscious of two things while he was ill, firstly that his opponents had been waiting, hoping that he would die so that they could then rejoice over his coffin and pursue their own ends, and secondly of the gaping jaws of the grave that had been waiting to receive him and had been seeking to drag him in. But he recognised that God in His goodness had thwarted both and had spoiled their hopes. God had triumphed on his behalf. His soul had not, of course, actually been in Sheol, it was just that it had seemed to be so as he lay there in his fever, for God had ‘kept him alive’, and had not allowed him to go down into the Pit. The ideas of Sheol (the grave world) and the Pit are parallel. They are the places where the dead go.

Note the parallel ‘I will exalt you’ because ‘you have raised me up’. He cannot raise up God, for it is God Who is the giver, but he can at least lift up His Name in order that it might be exalted. And that he will do with all his heart.


Verse 4-5

He Calls For All The People To Join With Him In His Gratitude (Psalms 30:4-5).

Psalms 30:4-5

Sing praise to YHWH, O you holy ones of his,

And give thanks to the memorial of his holiness.

For his anger is but for a moment,

His favour offers life.

Weeping may tarry for the night,

But joy comes in the morning.

He is so grateful to God for his deliverance that he calls on all the people who are true to God (His holy ones) to give thanks with him. The ‘memorial of His holiness’ may well be the Ark which was seen as the throne of YHWH and the place of reconciliation. But only because it was itself seen as drawing attention to the power and glory of YHWH. Or it may be the Most Holy Place itself, which could not be entered (except on the Day of Atonement) because the holiness of YHWH was represented there. In either case, however, he was looking beyond it to the heaven of heavens where God was enthroned in glory in His holiness (1 Kings 8:27; Isaiah 57:15).

Verse Psalms 30:5 a is literally, ‘For a moment in His anger, life in His favour,’ signifying that His true people may ‘experience His chastising anger for a moment when they have sinned, but that in the end those who are ‘in His favour’ will enjoy life’. Here was a first foundation for the future promise of eternal life. And while the night time may bring weeping, the morning will undoubtedly bring joy. That is the lot of all who are truly His. He is giving praise for God’s continuing faithfulness and care for His own (compare Hebrews 12:11).


Verse 6-7

He Reminisces On The Complacency That Had Been His When He Was Well And The Shock That His Illness Had Been To Him (Psalms 30:6-7).

Psalms 30:6-7

As for me, I said in my prosperity,

I will never be moved.

You, YHWH, of your favour,

Had made my mountain to stand strong.

You hid your face,

I was troubled.

In a few short words the Psalmist brings out his own, and man’s complacency. When all is going well men think that nothing can affect them, especially if they are prospering wealthwise. And yet he acknowledges that he had overlooked the fact that it was God Who in His favour and compassion had made his mountain stand strong. This may reflect the strength of Jerusalem, which was David’s city, and that he was secure because God had made him so. Or it may simply indicate that the mountain of his personal life had been made strong. But either way he had grown complacent, had forgotten what he owed to God, and had begun to see himself as invulnerable.

But then God had hidden His face from him, and all his troubles had begun. What a shock it had been to his system. Suddenly he had realised that he was mortal. What an important lesson that is for us all to learn.


Verses 8-10

His Prayer For Deliverance (Psalms 30:8-10).

Psalms 30:8-10

I cried to you, O YHWH,

And to YHWH 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 YHWH, and have mercy on me,

YHWH, be you my helper.

So the Psalmist’s cry reaches up to God. It is possible that we should see the initial verb as a historic present, making the picture vivid. ‘I am crying to you, O YHWH’. But the main point is that his plea is to YHWH.

In the depths of his illness his argument is simply that if he dies he will be able to praise YHWH no more. It is the prayer of someone very ill who has at this moment little time for theology. He is down to the basic practicalities. ‘In my blood’ simply means ‘in my death’. The point is that in the grave he will not be able to praise YHWH, nor will he be able to testify of Him.


Verse 11-12

His Final Praise And Thanksgiving Because He Had Been Delivered (Psalms 30:11-12).

Psalms 30:11

‘You have turned for me my mourning into dancing,

You have loosed my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness,

But then all had changed. The sickness had left him, and he was conscious of a new beginning. His mourning had been turned into dancing, which was certainly not the behaviour of a sickly man. He had been restored to strength. And God had removed his sackcloth, the sign of his mourning, and had instead girded him with gladness. Compare Isaiah 61:1-3 where the coming of the Anointed Prophet would also introduce such joy and gladness. The Good News of God always brings gladness.

Psalms 30:12

To the end that my glory may sing praise to you and not be silent.

O YHWH my God, I will give thanks to you for ever.

And the resulting end of his experience will be that in his own glory as the king, which was the result of God’s goodness to him, he will sing praises to YHWH, and will not be silent. As far as he is now concerned YHWH is his God, and he will give thanks to Him for ever.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 30:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/psalms-30.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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