I suspect many of us are familiar with the phrase: “God’s anger is only for a moment, but his favor is for a lifetime.” Well that phrase comes directly from the fifth verse of Psalm 30. That verse, along with this whole psalm, has proven to be a wonderful source of comfort for God’s people throughout the centuries. It is indeed a wonderful reminder that whenever we find ourselves in seasons of suffering and pain, that no matter how long it seems to be lasting, it will, in fact, turn out to be only a brief moment in God’s eternal scheme. This is true even when—as we see in this psalm—the pain and suffering we are enduring in this life is directly related to the sins we have committed. Even in those situations, as God’s people, we can be confident that suffering is only temporary because a new day is coming.
Let’s read this psalm now.
1 I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. 2 O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. 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.
4 Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. 5 For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
6 As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.” 7 By your favor, O LORD, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed.
8 To you, O LORD, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy: 9 “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? 10 Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper!”
11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, 12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever! (Psalms 30:0–12 ESV)
Praise for Deliverance (vv. 1-5)
In verses 1-5 the psalmist is reflecting on a time where God delivered him from certain death. In verse 3 the psalmist, who the psalm’s title identifies as King David, says, “O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.” In other words: “LORD I was on the brink of death and you saved me. You kept me alive!” And we see in verse 2 that God did this because David cried to him for help. In other words, David prayed. And it is because of this deliverance that David is promising to praise God in verse 1 and encouraging others to praise God in verse 4.
And in verse 5 we get our first glimpse that David’s suffering is in someway related to God’s anger or discipline toward David. Reflecting back on this situation, David acknowledges in verse 5 that “[God’s] anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime.” So God was apparently showing anger toward David because of his sin. But David says, “when I consider this period of my life, where I found myself out of God’s favor because of my sin, it was only a brief moment in comparison with the amount of time I have spent and will spend in God’s favor.” Yes, as we see at the end of verse 5, for God’s covenant people, “weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalms 30:5 NLT-SE). As God’s people we can always take comfort in that promise.
Recounting of a period of sinful complacency (vv. 6-10)
Well, in verses 6 and 7, David speaks of the sin in his life that God was angry about. We see in these two verses that the reason God had decided to turn away from David for a time, and withhold his divine favor from him, was because David began to pridefully trust in himself and believe that the success and security he was enjoying on this earth was the result of his own achievements. And as we see in verse 7, it was only when God removed his favor from David for this brief time that David became terrifyingly aware of his sin. Yes, God was disciplining David here, and the discipline was apparently severe enough that David was in a situation where he was about to die (maybe on the battlefield?). But God’s intention in discipline is always restoration. And that is exactly how things played out here.
We see in verses 8-10 that once David realized the seriousness of what was taking place, that he cried out to God in prayer asking for God to rescue him from certain death. And I love how he prays here. In verse 9 he prays:
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?
In other words, “God what do you have to gain from me dying?” And the answer he wants God to reach is: Nothing. David is “not engaging in crass bargaining here with God, but he is saying that if God delivers him from dying then he would have every reason to go to the sanctuary and tell everyone of God’s faithfulness.”1 So in verse 10 he asks for God to hear his prayer, to show him mercy, and to be his helper.
Praise for Answered Prayer (vv. 11-12)
And in verses 11 and 12 David makes very clear that God has indeed answered his prayer. He says that his mourning has turned into dancing and that God has replaced his garments of mourning with garments of gladness.
But, as we see in verse 12, David acknowledges that God has done this for a reason. God has not done this just for David’s sake. David should not rejoice silently over this. God has done this so that David will sing God’s praises in the presence of the rest of God’s people. And so David promises, at the end of verse 12, that he will give thanks to God forever.
Praying Psalm 30
Now I’d like to conclude our study of this psalm by discussing how you could take your Bible, and open it to Psalm 30 and pray it for yourself. I am interested in doing this because I have found in my own life that I am most satisfied with my prayer life when I am using the psalms to guide my prayers. Or when, as one author describes it, I am using the psalms as my main prayer list.2
The fact is, not many people pray the Psalms anymore. I’d like to help us recover that practice in our own lives. So let’s pray this Psalm together. You are welcome to follow along in your Bible as I pray or just focus on the prayer… whichever you prefer is fine. But there is no need to separate Scripture from prayer.
O God we want to thank you now that many times and in many ways you have drawn us up out of the traps of death that our spiritual foes, Satan and his demonic co-workers, have set for us. Father, many times in these situations we have cried out to you for help, and you have spiritually or physically healed us. For each of us here tonight, there was a time when we were spiritually dead, and when we were headed for eternal death, but you rescued us. You gave us new life in Jesus Christ. Thank you Lord. For each of these things we praise you O God.
Father we also know there are times in our lives when you discipline us. Times when for our own good you turn away from us and place us in a situation where we become desperate for you. And we thank you for these times, because you always intended for them to result in our restoration. And usually Father we come out of these times with a deeper and stronger faith in you. Father for anyone in this room who is experiencing your divine discipline tonight, I pray Father that they would turn back from you. And for anyone in this room tonight who is in the midst of a season of pain and suffering for any reason, Father I pray that they will remember that the difficult season will one day pass and that your favor is just around the corner. Joy is coming with the morning. Thank you Father for this promise. It sustains us in difficult times.
Father, never let us believe for any moment that we are self-sufficient. Grant that we might always remember you are the one who makes our lives secure. Forgive us Father when we forget these things. And sustain our lives in spite of these false beliefs. Do this Father so that we might realize the error of our ways and praise you when we come to our senses. Be merciful to us God when we sin and help us in our times of desperation. Do this for the sake of your name.
And God we vow to always praise you when you have delivered us from seasons of mourning. We vow to praise you when you forgive us and turn your face back toward us. And Father most of all, we vow to praise you for all eternity because through Jesus Christ you have delivered us from our sin and from an eternity apart from you.
And it is in his name, we pray all of this things. Amen.
- Allen P. Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms: Volume 1 (1-41) (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2011), 676. ↩
- T.M. Moore, God’s Prayer Program: Passionately Using the Psalms in Prayer (Ross-shire, U.K.: Christian Focus Publishing, 2005), 158. ↩