Arguing With God: Psalm 30
In this psalm we find another inspiring pattern for prayer—and it is the kind of prayer that can be offered up by a sinner. David offers up a petition here, and the need for the petition was created by his own spiritual carelessness. But we serve and worship a God who forgives.
I will extol thee, O LORD; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me. 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. Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved. LORD, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled. I cried to thee, O LORD; and unto the LORD I made 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. Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; 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 (Ps. 30:1-12).
Praise is like rent that we owe to a kind landlord—and the larger our estates, the more rent we owe. David will extol the Lord because of His great deliverance (v. 1). When David was in distress, he cried out to God and he was delivered (v. 2) The deliverance in this particular instance was from death; God kept him from descending down into Sheol. The saints of God are exhorted to sing to God, and to give thanks in remembrance of His holiness (v. 4). For His saints, God’s displeasure is momentary—in His favor is life (v. 5). Weeping is for the night, but joy arrives in the morning. What caused God’s displeasure in the first place? David has said, complacently, that he would never be moved (v. 6), so God turned His face away (v. 7). When this happened, David was troubled. In that trouble (of his own making), he cried out to God (v. 8). In the grip of his difficulties, David presents arguments (v. 9). Oh, God, he cries, help (v. 10). God answered the prayer, and turned David’s mourning into dancing, and exchanged gladness for sackcloth (v. 11). The end result was so that the glory of David would sing to the Lord, and give thanks forever (v. 12).
All things in the created world manifest the holiness of God. Nothing that is made has the ability to refrain from speaking of His triune holiness. At the same time, music is an aspect of creation that carries the weight of holiness, and manifests it in rich ways. And this is why, in v. 4, the psalmist exhorts the saints (holy ones) to sing about holiness. We have emphasized (rightly) that the music that is offered up to a holy God must be holy. But never forget—so must the musicians. You, the congregation, are the choir. You are the saints, the musicians, who sing to God of holiness. You are offering holy music, sacred music. James points to a particular discrepancy here, one that should be obvious, although it too often is not (Jas. 3:9).
ARGUING WITH GOD:
A few weeks ago, we considered our responsibility to pray specifically to God. But here we learn that God delights in it when we muster arguments. The great Puritan Thomas Watson once said, “Prayer that is likely to prevail with God must be argumentative. God loves to have us plead with him and overcome him with arguments in prayer.” David argues with God here—and his argument is that the choir needs him. “Will the dust praise you?” He does not just throw pious platitudes toward the ceiling. Rather, he presents his case. He gathers his reasons. He lays them out before God. If your doctrine of divine sovereignty makes you shrink back from this, then you do not understand sovereignty the way the Bible teaches it.
he THAT THINKS HE STANDS:
What had caused David’s problem is that when times were good, he did what humans naturally do—assume that good times are our natural born prerogative, and we say that we shall never be moved. We look down on what we have accomplished, like Nebuchadnezzar on his wall, and we say, “Look what I have done!” It is established. I cannot be moved. This trend, continued on, will make me a very wealthy man. It will make me successful. Of course, it must go this way. And, of course, we never say such things out loud. But when the sky turns dark, we are always astonished. Not only is our prosperity not like a mountain, all that is required to shake it is for God to turn his head.
GLADNESS FOR SACKCLOTH:
We really do want to rejoice before God. But it must be before Him. We do not want carnal partying, hollow as a jug. Neither do we want to be proper and dour. We want dancing. We want mirth. We want gladness. But we are not to be eating and drinking as they did before Noah disappeared into the ark. We are to rejoice after we have learned not to say, “I will never be moved.” Now here is the great wisdom of Ecclesiastes. Because our lives are transitory, because they are a mist, we are to be clothed in gladness. Our God hears our prayers.
SHORT CATECHISM FOR LITTLE SAINTS
Have you ever told God what you really want?
What is holiness like?
Holiness is a black thunderhead, destroying the forest.
What does God love?
God loves it when His saints present Him with arguments.