I don't know whether you're a morning person or an evening person, but it really doesn't matter for our Psalm this evening, despite the fact that my title is 'Joy In The Morning'. We're looking at Psalm 30. Please have that open in front of you.
How mature are you as a disciple of Christ? I suppose there are three main phases of maturity as a Christian believer. First there's not knowing. Then secondly there's knowing in theory. And thirdly there's knowing in practice.
So it may be that you don't know anything much about Christ or what it means to follow him. You're just here to find out some more. If that's the case, that's great, and we're delighted that you're here. Please keep coming along. But that, of course, does not add up to mature discipleship.
Or it may be that you are a believer, and you now have a clear grasp of what it's all about. But it's mainly head knowledge – more theoretical than practical.
Or perhaps you've been through a lot with Christ by your side, and now it's not just theory for you. It's practice. You are, relatively at least, mature.
Well this Psalm 30 is a mature Psalm. King David, who wrote it, had been around the block a few times. He's speaking from heartfelt personal experience. And the great thing is that by taking on board what he has to say, we can accelerate our maturing process. We can benefit from the mature wisdom that he passes on here in this moving and personal Psalm.
Look at the heading at the top. It says:
A Psalm of David. A song at the dedication of the temple.
It isn't clear exactly what the occasion was when this was written. That heading in fact refers to the dedication of 'the house'. And the house could indeed be the Temple – God's House. Alternatively it could in fact refer to David's house – his royal palace. So 2 Samuel 5.11-12 records this:
And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, also carpenters and masons who built David a house. And David knew that the LORD had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel. (2 Samuel 5.11-12)
After years of terrible danger, conflict and instability, God has established David on the throne, secure.
Or the occasion could be the entry of the ark of God into Jerusalem – the first step of the creation of the Jerusalem Temple. That's there in 2 Samuel 6.
Or the setting of the Psalm could be the great celebrations surrounding the provision of the resources needed for the building of the Temple – a task that David's son Solomon would complete. You can read about that in 1 Chronicles 29.
And in the end it doesn't really matter, because the lessons here are timeless. What is clear is that this comes out of a time of great joy and celebration in David's life. The praise is gushing out of him.
But that is also prompting him to look back. It's a time of reflection on what he's been through. And it's a time of reminiscing as David doesn't just keep his thoughts and memories to himself, but shares them with his fellow believers through the ages. That means we can learn from his experience. So here he is giving a powerful testimony. And he means both to teach us, and to call for praise to the glory of God.
The pattern of the Psalm is this. There is a shorter version of David's testimony in verses 1-4. Then the key lesson is there in verse 5. And then in verses 6-12 David expands his testimony with a filled-out version.
The key lesson at the heart of the Psalm is there in verse 5:
For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favour is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning. (v5)
That verse takes me right back some years to one of our annual JPC Music Group Weekends Away. It came during a pretty terrible time in the life of my own family. The musician and songwriter Geraldine Latty was with us on the weekend. And she taught us a short little song. I wrote the words down, and I've kept them to hand ever since. I won't spoil it by attempting to sing it, but they went like this:
Weeping may endure for the night,
But joy comes in the morning.
Hold on, hold on.
God will see you through.
Author Unknown CCL 2054
It's a direct reference to the heart of this Psalm, and it came to me as a word from God for our situation. So I don't need persuading of the spiritual power of King David's shared testimony here.
And this testimony of David's records six stages of experience that he recognises he's been through as he looks back from this time of joy. It all began with a God-given prosperity. Then there was a dangerous complacency. That was followed by a fall into sin and sickness. That called out of David a cry for mercy. God responded with a gracious rescue. And it ends with a grateful outpouring of praise.
Those are the stages of experience that we can see here: a God-given prosperity; a dangerous complacency; a fall into sin and sickness; a cry for mercy; a gracious rescue; and a grateful outpouring of praise. So the pattern is what we might describe as from hilltop to the depths of the valley, to the mountain top – hill to valley to mountain. Let's take a look at each of those in turn and see how King David expresses them.
First, WHEN GOD PROSPERS US WE CAN BECOME DANGEROUSLY COMPLACENT
Take a look at verses 6 and 7. This the beginning of the fuller version of David's testimony, after the summary version in verses 1-4. Verse 6:
As for me, I said in my prosperity,
"I shall never be moved."
By your favour, O LORD,
you made my mountain stand strong;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed. (v6-7)
Do see how in verse 6 it's all 'I' and 'me':
As for me, I said in my prosperity,
"I shall never be moved." (v6)
At an earlier, younger, greener, more immature stage of his life, David had lost sight of the fact that his prosperity was a gift, and that he should not and could not take it for granted. Nor could he take the credit for it. From his vantage point of later maturity he can see that. He knows that it was all from God, even though he failed to acknowledge that at the time. And the result of his complacent pride was that he lost his prosperity. He came crashing down. And he lost touch with God.
I got a new bike recently, with drop handlebars. I haven't had a bike with drop handlebars for about forty years. But I was confident. To Vivienne's great delight, on a couple of occasions when we've been out riding together, she's watched me when I've been trying to get off the bike losing my balance, and toppling over on to the ground. So much for my complacent confidence. No serious injuries thankfully. Just a bruised ego.
Another little parable of dangerous complacency was the fate of the Northern Rock bank. It's a symbol for the economic complacency of the whole western banking system – not to say the whole western world. Guess who had some Northern Rock shares, a relic of its demutualisation. We did of course. They, like the bank, were doing well. So we thought. But then came the run, and the crash. And the bank failed. And the shares became worthless. I keep the share certificate as a salutary warning against dangerous complacency.
David learnt his lesson from bitter experience, and from amazing grace. There in verse 7 you can see a wholesale switch from the emphasis being on 'me' to being on God:
By your favour, O LORD,you made my mountain stand strong;you hid your face;I was dismayed. (v7)
God is in control. Not us. All good things come from him. Not us. God is the one rightfully on the receiving end of glory. Not us. Sometimes God gives us good times, when things go our way. When that happens, such is our self-centredness, we so easily fall prey to complacency. That is very dangerous. Pride comes before a fall. When God prospers us we can become dangerously complacent. Beware the danger of complacency. That's the first point.
Secondly, IF WE FALL INTO SIN OR SICKNESS WE SHOULD CRY OUT TO GOD TO RESCUE US
Those first two stages of David's testimony – a God-given prosperity; and a dangerous complacency – are followed by the next two. These are a fall into sin and sickness; and a cry for mercy.
Now let it be said immediately that sickness is by no means generally related to sin. Jesus made that very clear and explicit. But sometimes sin and sickness are related. And we don't know the detail of what happened to King David here that's in his mind; but that seems to have been the case for him. Sin and sickness went together.
It seems that he nearly died . So verse 3:
O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.(v3)
Sheol is the land of the dead. As David looks back from safety, he knows that he was on the brink of death. And you can see the same thing later on in the Psalm where he remembers how in his desperation he called out to God. Verses 8-10:
To you, O LORD, I cry,
and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
"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?
Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me!
O LORD, be my helper!" (v8-10)
He feared he was going to die. He had no clear hope of resurrection. But he could see that death was the last and greatest of our enemies. And he could also see that God is a God of life. It is life that brings glory to God – not death. It is living believers who give him praise and glory – not the dead. He didn't want to die.
At the same time he recognises that wrapped up in this sickness is his sin. That's why his cry is a plea for mercy. He knows that he needs forgiveness. He needs grace. He needs God to deal with his sin. That's confirmed by what he says in that key lesson there at the start of verse 5:
For his anger is but for a moment… (v5)
He can see that he does deserve God's anger and judgement. His only way out is mercy.
So it is for us. And we find that mercy in the person of the Messiah, prophesied by David – the Lord Jesus who gave his life that we might live. So we too, when we find ourselves in a pit, whether or not it is of our own making, need to cry out to God for rescue.
If we hide from God, he, as it were, hides from us. David describes that life-sapping experience at the end of verse 7 there:
… you hid your face;
I was dismayed. (v7)
Do you know that in your own experience? My mind goes back to a time in my teenage years. My faith had only recently come alive. And with it, my sense of sin had also come painfully alive. But I found that too challenging, so metaphorically speaking I ran away from God. I knew that was what I was doing. But I wouldn't turn and face him. It went on for days. I tried to shut my mind to Jesus, and keep him out. But in the end I couldn't. I gave up running. And when I turned back to Jesus, he turned back to me; and met me with grace and mercy; and washed me clean.
David's experience of 3000 years ago is still so recognisable in the experience of disciples of Christ today. God is the same God. And he is a God of mercy. We mess up. We fall. We suffer. We get sick. And when we do, how we need to cry out to the only one who can save us – the living God.
So, when God prospers us we can become dangerously complacent, and that can lead to a fall. Then if we fall into sin or sickness, we should cry out to God to rescue us. And, as David found, God hears our cry. So:
Thirdly, WHEN GOD GRACIOUSLY RESCUES US WE MUST SING OUT OUR THANKFUL PRAISES TO HIM
King David's experience was that when, in his distress, he cried out to God, no longer confident of his own strength but depending totally on him, then God heard, and answered, and lifted him out of the pit of his suffering. God responded to a cry for mercy with a gracious rescue. And that gracious rescue resulted in a grateful outpouring of praise. Verses 2-3:
O LORD my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. (v2-3)
When we experience restoration, we mustn't keep it to ourselves. As David looks back to God's amazing grace in his life, he overflows with praise and thanksgiving. And the glory goes to God. He's learned his lesson. He doesn't want to keep the glory for himself. He wants to give it all back to God The glory belongs to God. So the beginning, the middle and the end of this Psalm is praise. Verse 1:
I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up
and have not let my foes rejoice over me. (v1)
That phrase "drawn me up" is graphic. The picture is of a bucket being drawn up from the depths of a well. So David knows that he has been lifted out of the pit. He could no more rescue himself than a bucket can lift itself out of a well. Nor can we. We owe everything to Christ our saviour. We should be pouring out praise and glory to God even more than David, because we can see it all more clearly than he ever could. That is what David urges. Verse 4:
Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name. (v4)
And again at the end – verses 11-12:
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you for ever! (v11-12)
There's another graphic picture of what God does for us in his mercy. He removes our penitential sackcloth and give us new clothes fit for a celebration. He clothes us in gladness.
The very sad thing is that all too often we take the grace but our lives and our words do not overflow with gratitude. Do you remember the ten lepers healed by Jesus? Only one of them returned to him and gave thanks for his healing. "Where are the nine?" Jesus asked.
Do you remember those Chilean miners who were almost miraculously rescued from deep underground after the San Jose mine collapse of 2010? Some of them gave glory to God. Some did not.
Into which group does our response to the amazing grace of God put us? We need, like King David, to grow up into mature disciples, who know by experience that God hears our cry and rescues us from trouble. Like David, we need to overflow with grateful praise as we extol the glory of our Lord and Saviour.
And that praise needs to flow from hearts that know what David learned:
Weeping may endure for the night,But joy comes in the morning.Hold on, hold on.God will see you through.