Psalm 30 Just Praise

Questions: Does God ever want our foes to win? Should He? Should we? What’s really most important? What’s the price of failing to seek it? Can we know? If we know, what must we do?

“Read More” to pursue answers in the Psalms.

Lord, speak to me through your Spirit and your Word, your Body and your Blood;
that I might know you as you are, and manifest the image of Christ in this world,
and the world to come. Amen.

Psalms 30:1-12

[A Psalm [and] Song [at] the dedication of the house of David.]]

I agree with the NIV that “house” is referring to the temple, and “of David” refers to the Psalm.

I will extol thee, O LORD; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.

I must say, this Psalm starts on what sounds like a weak note. Was David afraid God would make his enemies rejoice, and thankful He didn’t? I’m sure David feared the triumph of his enemies, but why is he [also] glad God is not responsible for their triumph?

O LORD my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me. O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.

Okay, this part is a little more traditional. Clearly David was in a bad way, and God delivered him. That’s certainly something to be happy about:

Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.

Yet, in that rejoicing, perhaps we find a clue about the nature of his trouble:

For his anger [endureth but] a moment; in his favour [is] life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy [cometh] in the morning.

Hold on. Why was God angry with David? Sure, it is nice that David has returned to God’s favor, but how did he lose it?

And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved.

Hmm. One lone sentence, but the only clue we have, so let’s go with it. According to this narrative, David’s troubles stemmed from complacency, born of prosperity. He started trusting in his wealth, and his self-security. Thus setting himself up for a hard lesson:

LORD, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong

I suppose the contrast is between “I can’t be moved” and “God makes me stand.” The outward appearance is similar, but the inward difference is as great as heaven and hell. Which God takes pains to point out:

thou didst hide thy face, [and] I was troubled.

Which has the desired effect:

I cried to thee, O LORD; and unto the LORD I made supplication

What intrigues me, though, is the nature of his supplication:

What profit [is there] in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth? Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be thou my helper.

Fascinating. The basis of David’s plea — at least here — is not his past goodness, or any claims of justice. It is simply that David wants to praise God; and that he can’t declare it to the world if he’s dead.

I suppose some might see this as David resorting to flattery, but I don’t think so. Rather, I think it says something profound about what truly motivates God.

If you believe — as I do — that God represents the fundamental divine principle behind the universe(s), then all human endeavor is contingent on how well we grasp God’s character. We moderns understand this (dimly) in that engineering is centrally focused on comprehending the physical and mathematical universe, but we revolt at the thought of a similar unifying principle behind the moral/relational universe.

David, though — holist that he is — has no such hang ups. Rather, he fundamentally believes that the various moral concepts he (and we) wrestle with — justice, mercy, favour, guilt — are all contingent on God’s character. God’s character is the ultimate reason why He must administer justice to David; otherwise, men would scorn that aspect of God’s character. In a sense, David is seeking to make restitution, by submitting to God’s deserved justice, and devoting himself to glorifying that which he once dismissed.

Sorry, this is probably getting pretty confusing for any readers out there, but it is helping me put the pieces together. The bottom line is that God chose not to enforce justice, but:

Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;

so David fulfills justice, by:

To the end that [my] glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever

Whether or not we — or even he — understand everything that lies behind it, it is still a sound strategy. One worth emulating.


God, from wrestling with intellectual curiosities I suddenly find myself standing on holy ground. Who am I to presume to know you? Yet, if you have revealed yourself, woe is me if I deny your revelation! Words fail me, and even logic has reached its limit.

Father, I worship you. I praise you, for you are good, and your mercy endures forever. You have rescued me, saved me, shown me favor, set my feet on solid ground, and made me a strong mountain. My chief happiness and greatest joy is to give you all the praise, for you alone are worthy.

Let me never trust in my own strength and wisdom, but humbly curl in your lap of love, like a weaned child with his mother. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.