Last week a new film was released called Boyhood. It's about a boy, called Mason, growing up from age 6 to 18. The amazing thing about the film is that it took 12 years to make. 12 years ago the director of the film found a 6 year old boy to play the part of Mason, and as he grew up, they made a film…about a boy growing up. The film is an edited version of those 12 years. All the highs and lows, the moments, the conversations, the relationships, the achievements and the failures that happen in his life that make him, Mason.
Now I want you to think. If someone was to make a film about your life, if someone had followed you around with a camera all your life… What are the things that would make it into your film? What are the moments that would have to be in there, to explain who you are? Who are the people who would have to be introduced? What are the accidents that happened, or the decisions that were made, or the words that were said, or the triumphs that were enjoyed, or the failures that were suffered, that make you…you?
Now have another think. What if that film could only be 10 minutes? What are the very central things, the crucial, critical, defining moments of your life? And what if you had to edit it down even further? What if you had just 1 moment, one scene, to summarize your life, and to capture who you are? What would that moment be?
Now the title of Psalms are part of the Psalm. They're not like paragraph headings in the NT, we don't read those because they're not part of the original text. But titles of Psalms are, so they're important. It appears that David wrote this psalm, or this song, at a time when he had been physically sick and God had healed him. We're not told exactly when in David's life this happened, so it's not important. But it's clear from the language that the illness was serious. Look at v3, he says,
you brought me up from the grave.
David was at death's door. And for David's enemies, v.1, that would have been great news. They weren't able to beat him on the battlefield, but maybe now they wouldn't have to. David would be beaten for them. They just had to sit back and wait. But in his sickness, David cried out to God. He says v.2
I called to you for help,and you healed me.
God had lifted David out of the depths, lifted him as it were, out of the grave. And so David in turn wants to lift God up (that's what 'exalt' means)… He wants to praise God, and thank God and worship the God who saved him. That's what v.1-3 are all about.
Which is what makes v.4 seem strange. In v.1-3 David tells us about a time when God had healed him… and then in v.4 he commands all of God's saints, all those who follow the Lord and trust in him, to sing to him and to praise his holy name. Now why is that? Why should David being saved from illness, be a reason for all of God's followers to praise the LORD? The answer is that David's physical healing is a picture of a spiritual reality…
1)Physical healing and a spiritual reality, v.1-5
Can you remember a time when you've been really ill? A few years ago I was leading a team of American students on a short-term mission in Thailand. I met them at the airport in Bangkok, we left our bags in the hotel, and then we went out for dinner. And that night I was more sick than I think I've ever been. I won't go into detail, but let's just say I stopped counted after I'd thrown up for the 14th time, and the team found me in the morning passed out on the floor. It's horrible being sick like that isn't it?
But for most of us, most of the time, it doesn't last. That night I felt horrible, but the next day I started to feel better. Most of the time when we get ill…we get better. And when we think about it, actually most of the time we feel well. We get ill sometimes, but not often, and usually not for long. And that, David says, is a picture of God's love for us.
We sin every day, Christians and non-Christians. That's why we confess our sins at church every week. And sin is serious. Sin is rebellion against God, and its right for God to get angry at our sin, and its right for our sin to be punished. And so by rights our world should be an utterly miserable place all the time. It's entirely populated by sinners being sinful, every day. Our greed, our jealousy, our lust our lies, our anger, our rage, our pride, our selfishness… Our rejection of God and our desire to live not with him in charge but with ourselves in charge… All of those things deserve God's punishment, and by right should make this world a wretched place to live every day.
And sometimes we do live with painful consequences of sin. Sometimes God does let us experience his punishment. But most of the time he doesn't. Why? Because that's the kind of God he is. Exodus 34 v.6…
The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
God does get angry. He gets angry at sin, and injustice and evil and wrong doing. And sometimes, the Bible tells us, we experience God's anger. But much more often we experience his love. That's the kind of God he is. And that's why in v.4 David says that the saints should praise God's name. Back then a person's name told you what that person was like. Their name reflected their character. Praising God's name, means praising God for being the kind of God he is. So do we do that? Do we praise God's name? Do we praise him for being slow to anger and abounding in love? Do we not only ask God to heal us when we're ill, but praise him when we feel better in the morning? And do we praise him on all the days when we're not sick? Do we thank him for his love on all the days when we're not in pain, and not suffering? When life is good and we're blessed, despite our sin and what we deserve? We should.
David was sick and he got better. His physical healing pointed to a spiritual reality. But what about the times when we experience pain and suffering, and it doesn't go away in the morning? What about those people for whom an average day isn't easy and is full of pain? What does the Bible have to say then?Well that leads us onto the second half of this psalm, and to our second point, in v. 6-12 we see…
2)Blessings in disguise, v.6-12
There were times when God made David's life wonderful. He gave him incredible victories. He was blessed with extraordinary gifts. God took him from being a shepherd boy to being the King. And with David as their king, Israel grew and flourished like never before. Some people think David's words are proud and arrogant in vv 6-7 but I think he is simply telling us how it felt when he was enjoying the Lord's favour. It felt great! He felt secure. He was safe in the knowledge that God was with him, and God was blessing him.
But as we've seen those weren't his only experiences.
The Psalms can be incredibly frank can't they! One thing that reading the Psalms should teach us is that it's ok to cry out to God and pour out our hearts to him. And there were times in David's life when he felt utterly desperate and cried out, 'God, why are you letting me go through this?' 'What reason could you possibly have for letting me experience this?' 'Lord, what good am I to you dead?'
There are times in life when we simply cannot understand why a God who is in control and a God who loves us would let us experience such pain or let us go through such trials. When all we can cry out is, "Help me, Lord! Save me!" What answer does the Bible have in those situations? Well, there are no easy answers, but there are 2 things that I think it's helpful for us to notice here.
The first is in v.10, look again at v.10.
Hear, O LORD," he says, "and be merciful to me;
And look back at v.8, he says
to the LORD I cried for mercy:
Mercy is not being given what we do deserve. And that' the first thing to note. When David cries out for help, When he asks God to rescue him and save him from death, He asks God for mercy. In other words David recognises that he's asking for something he knows he doesn't deserve. He doesn't deserve to be saved, none of us do. And that's important to remember.
Sometimes when we're going through hard times we can start to think, 'this isn't fair, I don't deserve this.' But as Christians we should never fall into that trap. If we're Christians then we know that we're sinners, and that each of does more than enough each day to warrant God's punishment and his judgement. What you and I deserve is God's punishment and his anger. We don't deserve a good life, God doesn't owe us a good life and so God isn't being unfair when life is hard.
So when we cry out to God, we cry out for mercy, that's the first thing. The second thing that I think is helpful for us to see is in v.11-12. Because there we see the amazing way God answered David's prayer. One day the pain and suffering will stop. As we've seen back in v.5, for most people that will happen in this life. There are many times when life is hard, but we do feel better in the morning, and God does show us his mercy now, in this life. But even for those who live their whole lives in pain and suffering…
If they have put their faith in God and in his saviour, Jesus, then one day the suffering will end. If we've put our trust in him, then after we die we will live and go on living for eternity…in a world where there is no pain or crying or mourning or tears. Verses 5 and 11 and 12 will be true for all Christians in eternity. Therefore, as the apostle Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 4…
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
What then should we do when we suffer in this life? And what should we do while we wait for eternity to begin? He tells us in the very next verse…
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
One day we will wake up and pain will be no more. If not in this life, then in the next. But that's not all! Look again at v.6-7. When life was good for David, and God gave him great things, David felt good. He felt safe and secure.
But compare that with v. 11-12. When life was hard, and God in his wisdom had allowed David to suffer for a time, before saving him and healing him. Well then, how much more David wants to praise God! He wants to dance with joy! His heart wants to sing! He wants to thank God forever!
I don't know why some people suffer more than others in this life. None of us deserve good things and the Bible doesn't tell us why some people have an easier life than others. But one thing it does say is that in some way our joy will be even greater in eternity if this life has been hard.
Do you see? Eternal life will be amazing. One of the pictures we have of heaven in the Bible is of Christians singing God's praises with all our hearts. It will be incredible for everyone who is there. But won't it be just a bit more incredible for those who never spoke a word in this life, because of disability? Or for those who were deaf and never heard music before?
When we dance for joy in heaven, it will be wonderful for us all, but for those who lived their whole lives in wheelchairs, or for those whose legs were blown off by landmines in this life, and who put their faith in Jesus in this life, won't it be just a little bit sweeter?
Hear him ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb, Your loosened tongues employ. Ye blind behold your saviour come, And leap ye lame for joy.
We're out of time, but I want to finish with one final thought. Look again at v.1, in fact look just above it at the title. Do you remember at the beginning I said that the titles were part of the Psalms originally. They were put there to tell us who wrote the Psalm, or sometimes when it was to be sung. Look at the title here…
Now that seems strange doesn't it? A lot of people think this must be a mistake. After all what has Psalm 30 got to do with the dedication of the temple? The temple isn't even mentioned! It's a Psalm about being saved by God. About how physical healing reminds us of what a great God he is and how much greater our spiritual healing has been and will be. It's a Psalm that reminds us that our greatest gift as Christians is salvation and eternal life.
What's that got to do with the dedication of the temple? Well, I may be wrong, but do you see that there's a footnote in your Bible to tell us that the word for 'temple' here is also the Hebrew word for 'palace'. David never built the temple, his son Solomon did. But David did build himself a palace. And I wonder if this wasn't the Psalm David wrote for the dedication of his palace.
Just imagine the grand opening ceremony of the new Royal Palace. It took years to build, it was staggeringly beautiful. It was the ultimate symbol of what a great King David was. How powerful he must be, to be able to live at peace and build such a temple. How rich he must be, to make it from the finest materials. And as David stood up to give his speech dedicating the palace, just think of all the things he could have said. All the stories he could have told of all the battle he had one. As he stood up in all his royal splendor, with his crown and his robes, surrounded perhaps by all his nobles. With the vast, beautiful, magnificent palace behind him…
And what does David say? David is so in love with the Lord and he is so thankful for his salvation, that he doesn't even mention the palace behind him!
Do you see? If king David's life could be made into a film… And if that film had to be cut down to just one scene, and one moment, that defined his life. Well then David would have had no doubt what that moment would be. It was the moment he got on his knees and cried out to God to save him, and the moment that God answered his pray. THAT is something worth shouting about.