Psalm Thirty: Weeping May Endure for a Night, But Joy Comes in the Morning
There is no psalm that better sums up the very essence of the Christian life than this song of David, written for the dedication of the Temple. Here we have the truth most poignantly expressed that they who suffer and mourn now will be supremely blessed hereafter. Christ did not come to bring healing to the healthy, peace to the complacent, or joy to the mirthful. He came to bind up the brokenhearted, to heal the sick, to open blinded eyes, to forgive the guilt-laden conscience and flood the distressed and burdened soul with peace. “Your enemies will rejoice,” he told his disciples when he was about to save their souls, “but their joy will turn to despair. But you, though you sorrow for a moment, your sorrow will turn into joy that no one can ever take away” (see John 16:19-24). “Blessed are those who mourn,” he declared elsewhere, “for they shall be comforted” (Mat. 5:4).
How rich and beautiful are the poetic expressions of the sweet psalmist to that end! “You brought up my soul from Sheol!”, he exclaims. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning”. “His anger is for a moment, but his favor is for a lifetime”. “You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have cast off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness”. What a lovely panoply of gospel-images! Who could fail to be swept up on the arms of divine compassion to a place of sweet comfort, no matter how deep his hurt may be, when he meditates on these blessed assurances?
Notice the full extent of sorrowful conditions from which the sinner is rescued by the tender compassions of God the Savior: he was oppressed by enemies (vs. 1); but the Savior pressed his combat against that great Enemy even to the grave, so that he might snatch his lambs from the mouth of the lion. He was sick (vs. 2), but the Lord healed him. He was an heir of death and hell (vs. 3); but the Lord plucked him up from that broad way, teeming with the souls of the wicked plunging on to eternal punishment, and gave him new life. And ah, how much greater than all else was this sad condition, that he knew the anger of the Lord (vs. 5)! He was, as the rest of us, at one time a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3); but that anger fled away in a moment, and was replaced by favor which never ends. His eyes were a fountain of tears (vs. 5); but he was gladdened with a dawn of never-ending joy. He felt the dread of looking up to the heavens and finding the face of God his Savior hidden behind an irony firmament (vs. 7), and this was perhaps the deepest sorrow of all – but even this last great extremity was brought to a merciful end; the mourning and fasting and sackcloth that he had known were exchanged for garments of joy and the thrill of the dance (vs. 11).
No wonder, then, that David charges all the saints to do nothing other than sing their praises to the Lord, to give thanks to his holy Name (vs. 4)! What other response could he have than to sing the Lord’s praise forever, to give thanks without ceasing, world without end (vs. 12)?
Could a more beautiful portrait of the gospel ever be painted, dear Christian? We were in bondage to the Enemy through the fear of death (Heb. 2:14-15); but the Lord rescued us from among those who go down to the pit! We were heirs of the righteous wrath of God; but the Sun of Righteousness dawned upon us with an eternal morning of joy! We staggered beneath the weight of sin and shame, and sackcloth was our finest garment; but now we have been clothed with the white linen of the righteousness of Christ, our heads are crowned with joy and gladness, his favor toward us is for a lifetime. How can we fail to sing his praise forever?
Thus the first David recounted his experience for the dedication of the first Temple. But was he not also looking ahead, by the Spirit, beyond that first Temple built by his son Solomon, even to when his greater Son would rebuild the true Temple of his body in three days (John 2:18-22), raising his physical body from death and dedicating his mystical body, the Church, as a living habitation of God (Eph. 2:19-22)? If you would see this gospel-portrait in its most brilliant colors, then look to that dedication of the second Temple, when the Son of David knew the wrath of his God for a moment, when he was plunged into such a sorrow that wept tears of blood, and went down in terror to the pit, and heard his enemies rejoicing over him – ah, but it was only for a moment! For Sunday dawned, and the grave-clothes of our Savior were exchanged for garments of joy, rich robes of splendor and gladness with which he clothes his Bride, the Church, and brings her unto his great wedding feast, where the wine is well-aged, the food is full of marrow, and the songs of joy are unending (see Isaiah 25-26). Can we not endure a little suffering with our great God and Savior, seeing the blessed end that comes to all those who mourn for awhile with gospel repentance?