"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 favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning." (Psalm 30:4–5)
God is pretty wild. He is in the business of flipping things over. God takes impossible situations and with the twist of his hand turns them around. Psalm 30 is such a great picture of this reality.
It seems to me that when we go through long periods of suffering, we can tend to think that all of life is that way. Depression settles in like an old, unwanted friend, and there can seem to be no way out of it. Maybe you just can’t see how God is going to work in the middle of your situation—a job loss, a friend who is suffering, the death of a loved one. These periods of midnight are scary and come to us in unexpected seasons. We all will affirm, in theory, that this life is a life of suffering, and yet we are still surprised when that suffering skulks into our lives.
David was a man after God’s own heart, and yet he was also a man who suffered. Suffered from the oppression of Saul and Absalom. Suffered the results of his sin with Bathsheba, the death of his son. Suffered from depression (Psalm 32). David suffered. But he was also a very proud man. And God is a very kind God. He was with David through the suffering. Even in David’s pride, God was there.
This psalm takes us through the warp and woof of David’s existence and tells a tale of hope—hope that comes through the reality that our God is living, active, and present. This psalm was written looking forward to the construction of the temple. It looks to a time when the visible sign of the presence of God in the midst of Israel will be constructed. But remember, the temple was not constructed until after David was dead, and yet we read the song he sang in anticipation of this momentous occasion.
He surveyed his life, and he came to the conclusion that we all should come to: without God we are in deep trouble, but when God shows up on the scene, there is deliverance and blessing. This is so encouraging to me. Many say that this psalm was written at the end of David’s life after he committed one of the most egregious sins in his life, a self-serving act of pride akin to Nebuchadnezzar’s sin. David numbered the people, and in doing this, he brought God’s judgment on Israel. God gave him a choice, and David chose three days of pestilence to come on the people of Israel (2 Samuel 24).
Now we read this song of praise for the dedication of the temple. God had come as judge, bringing pestilence on the land, David offered a sacrifice, and God forgave them. Now you may be wondering why this matters to you.
Look at the psalm. David’s weeping was over the reality that the sin he committed cost so many Israelites their lives and had brought great sickness on him. He says, “Oh man, I really messed things up this time. I have been brought to the doorstep of Sheol. But you, God, have restored me” (Joel unauthorized paraphrase). Have you been here? You are experiencing the temporal consequences of your sin, and you wonder if God’s discipline will ever stop. You wonder if your sadness will ever go away. Here are these words of hope and rejoicing. God’s anger is not yours forever. It will not be on you for the rest of time. Why? One commentator helps us to understand it by saying this,
The forgiving mercy of God towards his own people is expressly pointed out in verse 5 as the kernel of the Psalm. It is very remarkable that previous to the laying of the material foundation of the temple, this should have been pointed out by God Himself, as the spiritual basis on which the temple was to rest.(1)
This is what he is saying. The forgiveness of God is the foundation of the temple. It is the very thing on which all of what the temple stood for is based on. This blessing of forgiveness turns our midnight into morning and our sorrow into dancing. Because the forgiveness of God is given to us by the sacrifice of Christ. Are you weary because of your sin? Christ has forgiven you. Does it feel like God’s discipline will never leave you? Christ has forgiven you, and all of your worship, all of your prayers, all of your offerings are accepted because they are built on the foundation of Christ’s forgiveness.
The reality of the forgiveness of Christ in the face of your sin should fill your heart with joy. It should turn your heart from mourning to singing, your weeping to dancing. Let this reality fill your heart and your mind, let it calm your soul, let it move you to dance for joy with the God who forgives.
Eugene Petersen in his paraphrase of this psalm translates verses 11–12 this way,
"You did it: you changed wild lament
into whirling dance;
You ripped off my black mourning band
and decked me with wildflowers.
I’m about to burst with song;
I can’t keep quiet about you.
God, my God,
I can’t thank you enough."(2)