Psalm 30 Commentary

Turn to Psalm 30 for our Psalm 30 commentary.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Praise Psalm

Psalm 30 is a praise psalm. But as we study through this psalm it might sound sort of like a lament.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Praise in Content

We’ll see David relate how his own pride seemed to bring God’s fearful chastening – which he says almost killed him. But the Lord was merciful and so David praises him for that mercy.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Praise in Structure

So, not only does the content of Psalm 30 indicate that it’s a praise psalm – but the structure of the psalm also indicates that it’s a praise psalm.

We have verse 1 that begins with the call to praise – “I will extol thee, O LORD.” Then we have the typical catalog of praiseworthy attributes or actions of the Lord that serves as the body of the psalm. And then the psalm ends with this typical concluding praise – “O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.

So, both the content and the structure of Psalm 30 let us know that we’re reading a praise psalm.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Occasion

Even the occasion that we’re given in the superscription of this psalm leads us to think of a time where David would be especially inclined to praise the Lord.

KJV Psalm 30:1 <A Psalm and Song at the dedication of the house of David.>

Now, there are a few different possibilities as to what David is speaking of here.

First, to be clear, David wrote this psalm. In fact, the phrase “of David” could be attached to the word house – as in the house is somehow related to David. Or that phrase of David could be associated with the phrase A Psalm and Song and mean that the entire psalm is written by David.

Psalm 30 Commentary
The House

But what is the house that’s referred to here?

Psalm 30 Commentary
David’s Home

I suppose that this could be speaking of David’s literal home. So, this psalm would be one that David wrote when he built his palace in Jerusalem.

And this is possible, but I think not likely.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Solomon’s Temple

Some have thought that this is Solomon’s Temple. If that were the case, then David is writing this in anticipation of the Temple being dedicated under Solomon’s leadership. David would never have seen it.

And this is a possibility. But I think there’s a better option.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Tabernacle

Now, sometimes the word house is used to describe the Tabernacle. And that Tabernacle was in Shiloh for a while.

But you remember that David transferred the Ark of the Covenant from Shiloh eventually to Jerusalem. And when the ark came to Jerusalem it didn’t come to the Temple. No, it was stored in a tent that David made.

And I think this is most likely the case – that this psalm was written for the time when the tabernacle of David in Jerusalem – which temporarily housed the ark – was dedicated for its purpose of housing that ark.

If this is the case, then David is recounting in this psalm the trouble he encountered while trying to get the ark to its place in Jerusalem – to the house of David. Trouble like Uzza putting his hand out to stabilize the ark and being killed. The trouble that ensued as David tried to figure out where he went wrong with that situation. And then the trouble of his own wife mocking his jubilant enthusiasm as he brought the ark into the city and into this house commissioned by David.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Verse 1

And with the context set, let’s examine verse 1 of Psalm 30.

Let’s look at the brief call to praise first.

I will extol thee, O LORD;

Let’s briefly stop there.

This is the call to praise of the psalm. David here is addressing not heavenly beings like he did in Psalm 29.

No, this time David is calling on himself to praise the Lord. And this praise comes both as a promise and as a determined desire. David will extol the Lord.

So, why is David determined to praise the Lord? Well, here starts the catalog of praiseworthy actions of the Lord in this psalm…

for thou hast lifted me up,
and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Lifted Up

So, David wants to lift up (or extol) the Lord because the Lord drew him up (or lifted him up). It’s as if David was drawn from a dangerous well. And so, he wants to turn around the return the favor in some small way by lifting up the Lord in praise.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Enemies

So, David is praising God for victories over his enemies. Not necessarily that David was granted some sort of military victory – but rather the Lord delivered him in some way which prevented the enemies from gloating.

And we can imagine how David’s enemies would have been given opportunity to mock the King after his failed attempt to bring the ark into Jerusalem. And then when the ark actually did come, his own wife turned into his enemy. So, this group of enemies wanted to rejoice over David.

And yet, David ultimately was given the upper hand in this situation. He triumphed through the Lord’s allowing him to finally bring the ark into Jerusalem in God’s time and in God’s way.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Up and Over

Now, notice the picture of elevation in this verse. God lifts David up. And if God hadn’t done that, David’s enemies would rejoice over him. Elevation then is pictured as victory and triumph here.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Verse 2

Now, how did the Lord lift David up and not allow David’s foes to rejoice over him? Well, in verses 2 and 3 David relates that God delivered him from a life-threatening situation.

 2 O LORD my God, I cried unto thee,
and thou hast healed me.

So, David cried to the Lord and the Lord responded with healing.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Healed

The mention of healing in response to prayer almost makes it sound as if David was sick. And the difficulty with that is that we don’t see anything about David being sick in relation to him bringing the ark up to Jerusalem.

In fact, we don’t have any record from this time in David’s life of him ever being sick. The closest we get is when Michal – Saul’s daughter and David’s wife who later would despise him and become his enemy – once she pretended that he was sick in bed to protect him from Saul.

But otherwise, we don’t see David sick around this time in his life – or really, ever.

So, the reference to healing may be metaphorical. As in – the rebuke I received when you killed Uzza was like a sickness for which I needed healing.

Or perhaps along with Uzza being struck by the Lord, David also experienced some physical chastening for his bringing up the ark in a way that disobeyed God’s commands.

Either way, David cried to the Lord for help and healing – in whatever way he needed it – and the Lord responded. For which now David is praising the Lord as he finally gets to dedicate this house for the Lord in Jerusalem.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Verse 3

And not only did David picture himself as sick – we see in verse 3 that he felt as though he might die.

3 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.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Prevention of Death, Not Resurrection

Now, this verse is not so much about resurrection as it is about prevention of death. The first line might sound like it’s speaking of resurrection, but the second line makes it clear that David has in mind not even dying in the first place.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Grave/Pit

And David uses two Hebrew words translated as grave = sheol and pit bor to communicate that he felt as though he was going to die.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Deliverance from Death

And really, I would assume that David was pretty close to Uzza when God struck him dead. And we don’t know if David experienced some residual effect from that blow to Uzza – but whatever the case, David is expressing praise to the Lord for deliverance from death – a death that David easily could have experienced for his carelessness in handling the Ark of the Covenant.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Contrasts

And then, note the contrast that David employs here. He was brought up from the grave rather than being caused to go down to the pit. Both are pictures of death – where a dead body would be laid.

God reversed what David deserved – which is why David praises him in this psalm.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Verse 4

And David came to realize after the death of Uzza that the Lord took this drastic action simply because it was in keeping with his holy standards. The Lord told the Israelites to carry the ark on poles with Levites manning those poles. Instead, David presumptuously kept the ark on a cart. That was not what God wanted. God’s holiness was neglected.

And so, in verse 4 David – with this deeper understanding of God’s holiness – calls on other believers to praise the Lord for this holiness.

 4 Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his,
and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Call to Praise 

So, here is kind of a second call to praise in this psalm.

And now not only is David praising the Lord – but he’s calling on God’s saints – his chasid (godly, faithful, devout ones) – to sing and give thanks to the Lord.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Remembrance of Holiness

But why should they sing and give thanks to God? The answer is – that the remembrance of God’s holiness is to stir this up in them.

Wait – you might think – God’s faithful followers were supposed to praise God because he killed Uzza?

Well, it’s not the death of Uzza itself that they were to focus on. Rather, it was the holy standard that God maintained through that unfortunate incident involving Uzza.

Psalm 30 Commentary
God’s Holiness in Chastisement

Have you ever experienced chastening at the Lord’s hand – and perhaps it was something devastating and shocking even? But you know it was the Lord’s merciful way of setting you back on the path from which you were straying?

The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians told that church that numerous of them were sick because they were abusing the Lord’s Table. In that way, they were not remembering God’s holiness.

God making believers sick? That’s shocking! Well, even more shocking is the indication that God caused some of those believers in Corinth to die because they did not regard God’s holiness – and that was manifested in the Lord’s Table and their abuse of it.

Yes, this can be shocking. And yet, it’s exactly how God deals with us at times. And it’s for our good – if we learn from it like David did. If you can get to the point where – instead of being bitter at God for the chastening – you and I are brought to the point where we can even invite others to praise the Lord for his holiness – the holiness which sometimes causes these shocking events.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Verse 5

And I think this shocking event is still on David’s mind as he continues into verse 5.

5 For his anger endureth but a moment;
in his favour is life:

Or, rather mechanically, “For a moment in his anger, a lifetime in his goodwill/favor/acceptance.

weeping may endure for a night,
but joy cometh in the morning.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Chastening

So, this is describing chastening from a loving God.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Contrasts

And notice the contrast once more – anger contrasted with favorA moment contrasted with lifeNight with morningWeeping with joy.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Weeping Lodges

Weeping is pictured as lodging overnight like Lot asked the angelic visitors to Sodom to lodge with him overnight.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Permanent vs. Temporary

We can view the holy actions and reactions of the Lord as so harsh and so permanent. No doubt David felt that way about the Lord’s dealings with Uzza as he left the ark in the house of Obed-Edom for three months.

And yet, really – for those who know and love God, it’s not the anger and the chastening that is permanent. No, that part is short and fleeting.

It’s God’s mercy that endures forever. It’s the life and the joy he gives that are permanent.

That’s what David experienced. It’s our experience too, and will be especially when we finally see our Savior Jesus Christ face to face.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Verse 6

Now, David in verse 6 kind of takes a step back and reviews what led to him keeping the ark on the Philistine cart. In a word – it was his complacent pride.

6 And in my prosperity I said,
I shall never be moved.

Psalm 30 Commentary
And I

In the Hebrew text, and I is the first phrase – kind of emphasizing and drawing that out. The emphasis of that is probably something like “Now as for me” or “but as for me.” (Important because I said is already built with the first person singular pronoun. So, the extra is redundant.)

Psalm 30 Commentary
Prosperity

The word prosperity is used only once in OT and that’s here. Apparently it could also mean ease or even self-confidence.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Moved

When David speaks of not being moved he’s talking about not being shaken or caused to totter. Being steady and stable and unmovable.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Pride

David then is filling us in on the background of what caused him to be in danger at the hands of this holy God. It was his pride and self-reliance.

That’s what led David to think it was fine to do it his own way when it came to transporting the ark.

He was prosperous! He really felt as though he would never be shaken! The man was practically invincible – as far as he could tell!

But isn’t it in those times when we are most vulnerable to the pride that would necessitate God’s chastening work in our lives?

Psalm 30 Commentary
Affliction vs. Prosperity

There’s nothing like affliction to humble you and bring you low enough to the point where God can exalt you.

And there’s nothing like prosperity to dull your sense of the need of God in your life and make you ripe for God’s humbling of you.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Verse 7

See our Psalm 30 7 Meaning article for information about what David means when he speaks of God causing his mountain to stand and hiding his face from David.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Verse 8

And yet, this hiding and troubling that God does is only for a moment – as we just saw. Joy does come in the morning. But it takes getting seriously humble before the Lord before that joy can come.

And it’s that activity of humbling himself that David will tell us about in verse 8.

 8 I cried to thee, O LORD;
and unto the LORD I made supplication.

And a mechanical translation of this verse would go, “To Yahweh I called, and to Adonai I pled for grace/mercy/pity.

So, in reaction to the Lord hiding his face from David, David spoke to the Lord and asked him desperately for mercy.

This is the first step in getting yourself back in line with reality – to stop thinking of yourself as independently prosperous and to rather acknowledge your need of the Lord’s mercy.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Verse 9

And as David was crying to the Lord concerning the situation with the ark and Uzza and what to think of it and how to move forward in light of it and all of that, he fills out for us what he said to the Lord. What does this “supplication” from verse 8 look like? He spells it out for us in verses 9 and 10.

 9 What profit is there in my blood,
when I go down to the pit?

Shall the dust praise thee?
shall it declare thy truth?

Psalm 30 Commentary
What Good my Death?

In other words, God doesn’t gain anything from David’s death. If God didn’t stop with Uzza but continued to strike down others – David included – David pleads with God – what good would that do?

Psalm 30 Commentary
Pit

Now, Pit is a different Hebrew word than we saw earlier in this psalm. It’s not sheol or bor but rather shachah. It’s yet another word for the place where dead bodies are laid.

Psalm 30 Commentary
No More Praise

So, if David dies, he doesn’t get to praise God in the land of the living. He looks forward in this life to declaring God’s truth or faithfulness to others. But this won’t happen if the Lord takes his life.

This is how David pled with the Lord for grace and mercy in light of his proud complacency that resulted in the death of someone else.

It’s like he’s thinking – Lord, don’t kill me like you killed Uzza. If you do, then I won’t be able to praise you. And that’s why I’m even bringing this ark to Jerusalem in the first place – to praise you. Don’t prevent me from doing what I know you deserve – even if I did it wrong.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Verse 10

Well, David then continues his plea for mercy in verse 10.

 10 Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me:
LORD, be thou my helper.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Mercy

Have mercy is the same word as I made supplication in verse 9. This then is still an excerpt of David’s prayer which began in verse 9.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Helper

Now, David asks God to be his helper. This request is recorded in this psalm. But the answer to this request is actually found in 1 Chronicles 15:26.

There we see the Levites taking the ark up to Jerusalem on poles – not a cart like David tried the first time. And it says there that the Levites were taking the ark up successfully and that they were moved to offer sacrifices to the Lord – because “God helped the Levites” – same word as we have here in our psalm.

So, David begged God to be his helper after the incident with Uzza. God answered by helping David and the Levites and the people bring the ark up to Jerusalem the right way.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Verse 11

And because of God’s help, now we see in verse 11 David comes out of his recalling his prayer to the Lord and he joyfully praises the God who is his helper – and ours.

 11 Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing:
thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;

Psalm 30 Commentary
From Supplication to Praise

So, David is done relating his prayer to the Lord and now gets back to praising God for his deliverance.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Contrasts

Note the contrasts again – mourning versus dancingputting off versus girding, and sackcloth versus gladness.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Mourning

The word mourning here is often used of the wailing that you’d hear at a funeral. And again the context gives this some significance. Because whose funeral had David witnessed recently at this point? Who died in the context of bringing the ark up to Jerusalem? Uzza. This kind of mourning would have taken place at Uzza’s funeral, no doubt.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Dancing

But no more of that! Now there’s dancing. And this is of course not some sort of sensual and sexual dancing – the kind that most pervades our current culture. No, this is what in Jeremiah is said to be the custom of young women as they played their tambourines. It’s innocent and joyful. You can have that kind of dancing.

It’s the kind of dancing that David himself performed when he was bringing the ark of the covenant into this house that he’s now dedicating in this psalm. His dancing was a kind of joyful leaping.

And he could do this because God had been merciful to him and allowed him to overcome his previous pride-driven mistake – and now there he is with the symbol of God’s presence rejoicing as he brings it into the house that he made for it.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Verse 12

And I think David still has in mind his dancing before the Lord as he enters verse 12. Why did the Lord answer David’s cry for help?

 12 To the end that [in order that…my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent.

Psalm 30 Commentary
Glory

That word glory is used in 2 Samuel 6:20 sarcastically by Michal the daughter of Saul as she rebuked her husband the king for his exuberant dancing before the ark as it was entering Jerusalem.

She said “…How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself!”

And now, I don’t believe that Michal was being accurate here. I think she’s exaggerating because her heart was not inclined to worship the Lord as her husband David’s was.

But, we learn here what David means when he says that his glory would sing praise to God and not be silent. He was going to sing and praise and rejoice and not hold back. Because God had been merciful to his proud sin and had restrained himself from taking David’s life.

So, let’s have reverent worship today. And also a worship that doesn’t hold back from God the praise that is due him. Let’s praise God with our glory today for his merciful saving power!

Psalm 30 Commentary
Concluding Praise

And the end of verse 12 is where David utters his concluding praise.

O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.

How do we apply this psalm?

We don’t have an ark. But we do have God’s presence nonetheless – which was what the ark was all about, anyway.

God dwells in each of us and in the church corporately. The living God is among us today. He’s with us and in us every day – but is among us in a special way as we gather together as a body.

So, let’s do what we do today with reverence. Let’s not let our prosperity influence us toward pride. But rather, let’s worship the Lord with all we have for his special presence among us.

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