For the Love of God, Volume 2/August 22
From Gospel Translations
1 Samuel 14; Romans 12; Jeremiah 51; Psalm 30
MANY A CHRISTIAN HAS experienced the almost ineffable release of being transported from despair or illness or catastrophic defeat or a sense of alienated distance from God, to a height of safety or health or victory or spiritual intimacy with our Maker and Redeemer. Certainly David had such experiences. Psalm 30 records his pleasure during one of those transports of delight.
The psalm divides into three parts. In the first (30:1-5), David depicts the marvelous transformation. In the second (30:6-10) he describes the complacency that drove him down in the first place, whether prior to the first five verses or in another cycle of the same thing. In the last section (30:11-12), he concludes with the same exuberant joy he displays in the first five verses, as he bursts the boundaries of language to depict the glorious transformation when wailing is turned into dancing, and sackcloth into the garments of joy.
The list of contrasts in the psalm captures the heart and the imagination. Here we may reflect on one pair of such contrasts: “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (30:5).
David is writing from his perspective as a member of the covenant community. Almighty God is linked by solemn oath and covenant with them. If they sin, God does not write them off: “his anger lasts only a moment”; his punishments, however severe, are temporary. His basic stance toward them is gracious: “his favor lasts a lifetime.” And since the earlier verses show that David is thinking not of the nation but of his individual experience, what is true for the people of God as a whole is true for him in particular: God may punish him for various reasons, but God’s fundamental stance toward him is merciful and gracious, lasting a lifetime. Basking in the conscious presence and blessing of God, David looks back on his recent experience and exults in the fact that “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
There are many such contrasts in Scripture, not a few of them bound up with the new covenant. The apostle Paul can speak of “our light and momentary troubles” (though by our comfortable Western standards his troubles were neither light nor momentary!). These achieve for us “an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:17)—and on such a scale they truly are light and momentary. Paul is merely following Jesus, “who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).