When I read Psalm 30, I get the picture of someone singing a praise song to God for his deliverance, his compassion, his help, and his restoration. I get the sense that David knew deep down in his bones that he did not deserve to have God deliver him and restore him so compassionately or so helpfully. Nevertheless, this is what God does. God is in the business of taking really messy and really broken people and restoring their lives as he delivers them from their self-inflicted graves.
And what becomes the response of someone who experiences true deliverance? What does a person do when they experience the full restoration that God offers in the cross, the empty tomb and the promise of Heaven? I think the answer is just what we see in this Psalm. A person who has been delivered by God, who has been restored by God, who has been helped by God, who has come face-to-face with the compassion of God in the person and the work of the crucified, risen and returning Christ… this person has no other alternative than to praise God for who he is and for what he has done.
Look at Psalm 30 with me…
1I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. 2O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. 3O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. 4Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. 5For 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. 6As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.” 7By your favor, O Lord, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed. 8To you, O Lord, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy: 9“What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? 10Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O Lord, be my helper!” 11You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, 12that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
#1: WE PRAISE GOD FOR HIS DELIVERANCE (VV. 1 – 3)
The overwhelming testimony of the Scriptures is that God created us to be with him in perfect harmony forever but when sin entered into the world through Adam and Eve it is as though all of creation was infected with a sin-sickness that left every one of us rotting in the stench of our self-made graves.
But the beauty of the gospel is that God in his kindness reached down into those man-made graves and by the power of his Spirit he gave believers brand new beating hearts that could trust in him and grab ahold of him as he pulled them up out of the pit of death – the self-made grave.
This is what it means to be delivered. This is the reason why David praises God in the first 3 verses when he proclaims, “1I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. 2O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. 3O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
I do not know what God has delivered you from today and I do not know where you are desperately looking for God to deliver you. But this I do know; we serve a God who is the master deliverer. There is no sin bad enough, no suffering great enough and no circumstance scary enough that God cannot deliver you from. We praise God because of his deliverance. He is the God who delivers his people from the power of Satan, Sin and Death. The cross and the empty tomb of Christ is all the proof we need to praise God as our great deliverer.
#2: WE PRAISE GOD FOR HIS COMPASSION (VV. 4 – 5)
God is holy. God is slow to anger. God is eternally gracious. The fact that God is holy reminds me that no one who is imperfect can come into the presence of Him who is perfect because the imperfect would be swallowed up or burned up by the heat of God’s perfection.
But this is where God’s compassionate character tempers the flame of his holiness without diminishing his perfection. The cross of Christ provides a perfectly gracious protective covering so that you and I may come into God’s perfect and holy presence without being burned into an ash heap. Not only does God deliver his saints from their self-made graves but he also provides a way into his presence through his compassionate work at the cross through Christ Jesus, his one and only Son.
This is why believers can encourage and challenge one another to “4Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. 5For 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. Once again, we praise God because he is holy. We praise God because he is slow to anger. We praise God because he is eternally gracious. What more proof do we need of God’s compassion other than the perfect blend of his holiness, his patience, and his grace?
Is not the cross and the empty tomb of Christ enough for us? Where else must we look to see a powerful reminder of God’s compassionate disposition towards us in the perfect blend of his holiness, his patience and his grace? At the cross, Jesus stood in my place, and he bore the rightful punishment that belonged to me as God in his holiness satisfied his justice. Not only did God the Son bear my punishment but he also extended his perfection to me. Therefore, I (and you if you have trusted in Christ) can now praise God for his compassion.
#3: WE PRAISE GOD THROUGH OUR CONFESSION (VV. 6 – 7)
Praising God is not about singing feel-good, pump-you-up contemporary songs to some sky-fairy in some far-off land. Praising God is a regular practice of verbalizing a confession of sin and faith. A praise song without a balance of the confessions of sin and faith is not a praise song at all.
This is why David praises God through his confession of sin and faith when he says “6As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.” 7By your favor, O Lord, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed. In this confession, David verbalizes the fact that he had sinned against God when he placed his trust in his own prosperity (or his own ability) which resulted in God hiding his face from David. David’s sin then resulted in his separation from God.
But David doesn’t stop with a confession of sin; he also confesses his faith in God when he verbalizes the fact that it is God alone who establishes and strengthens a person’s life just like the image of a mountain that God not only created but also sustains. When we sing praises to God, we ought to be caught up in the heart transforming rhythm of confessing our sins out loud and then confessing our faith even louder!
#4: WE PRAISE GOD FOR HIS HELP (VV. 8 – 10)
It always boggles my mind when I think about the fact that God is the helper of his enemies; he helps those who rebel against him; he extends a helping hand to those who have made war against his very existence. Why would he do this? Why would he not choose to wipe every one of his enemies out of existence instead? Why would God send his one and only Son to help his enemies become family?
David seems to answer this question with some kind of prophetic foresight when he says, “8To you, O Lord, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy: 9“What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? 10Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O Lord, be my helper!” The truth here is that God has helped me through his faithful mercy. He has withheld the punishment that I rightly deserve for my sin and my rebellion against him.
But why didn’t he just wipe me out? Seems a lot easier and lot less costly. But in this realization, there’s a bit of an answer because if my deliverance didn’t cost God something then how would he receive the praise that is rightly due to him? Would he receive praise from dead things that were never brought back to life? Of course not! God receives praise because he is holy and just, yes!
But he also receives praise because he restores life from death and this is where the prophetic connection comes into play from verse 9 because verse 9 is better translated as “What will you gain from my blood if I go down to decay?”2 When I think of this translation I am reminded that Jesus spilled every ounce of his blood to ransom and redeem and deliver and restore my life from the self-made grave I had sinned my way into.
Nothing would be gained from the spilled blood of Christ if he went down to decay and furthermore, nothing would be gained from the spilled blood of Christ if you and I were left to rot in our sin infected graves. And the beauty of the gospel is that God has helped us up out of our graves through the person and work of our crucified, risen and returning Savior. This is why we praise him! We praise God because he has been our helper!
#5: WE PRAISE GOD FOR HIS RESTORATION (VV. 11 – 12)
The process of restoration is the process of taking something that is old and used and battered and torn and worn out and quite simply useless and transforming it into something new and shiny and bright and useful. This is what God loves to do! God loves to take messy and broken sinners and transform them into bright and shiny and useful new creations in Christ Jesus who proclaim the power of God to the ends of the earth.
This is why David ends this song of praise by proclaiming God’s power to restore when he says, “11You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, 12that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
When God turns mourning into dancing and when he removes the clothing of our sin-sickness that reeks of despair and depression, he simultaneously recovers or restores us with the clothing of the gladness of the resurrection; he literally turns a funeral into a wedding just like when he turned Good Friday into Easter morning!3
Ultimate healing in this life comes when God raises his loved ones from the dead, just like he raised Jesus from the dead!4This is the picture we have that motivates us to praise God for his restoration! God loves to restore messy and broken people into shiny new creations who exist for his praise to the ends of the earth!
In conclusion I want to leave us with the words of another preacher who said that, “When we read Psalm 30 in light of the New Testament, this song celebrates the dedication of Jesus’ own body on the cross. Jesus is the temple, the place where we meet God. When God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, God the Son sang for joy. Death was not the end for Jesus, and death is not the end for anyone who belongs to him. There is joy in the morning. The light of God’s presence meets us on the other side of the valley of the shadow of death. We have not been raised bodily with Christ yet, but by faith his joy is ours today… and because of this our hearts can fly with the hope of the resurrection!”5
We praise God as we find that space at the foot of the bloody cross in the doorway of the empty tomb as we hold fast to the hope of Heaven. We praise God for his deliverance, for his compassion, through our confession, for his help and his restoration.
We praise God because he is the God of deliverance. We praise God because he is the God of compassion. We praise God because he is the God who helps us. We praise God because he is the God who restores us. We praise God as we confess our sin and our faith in him. And all this praise is made possible by the person and the work of the crucified, risen and returning Christ.
In Christ alone can we all proclaim together that Satan, Sin and Death have been defeated at the cross and the empty tomb. Therefore, we can all praise God together when we proclaim along with the apostle Paul, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? (1 Cor. 15:55).
There are no self-made, sin infected graves deep enough to hold onto us against the power of the crucified, risen and returning Christ! Therefore, we praise the God who delivers, the God of compassion, the God who helps and the God who restores as we confess our sin and our faith in the one who has beaten Satan, Sin and Death! – Amen!
1 Unless otherwise specified, all Bible references in this paper are to the English Standard Version Bible, The New Classic Reference Edition (ESV) (Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, 2001).
2 James A. Johnston, The Psalms: Rejoice, the Lord is King (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2015), 314.
4 Ibid., 312.
5 Ibid., 308.