A Psalm of David. A song at the dedication of the temple.
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.
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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!
The God of Mercy
We can tell the context of this psalm from its inscription, which notes this was a song recited by the Jews at the dedication of the temple. The sub-title probably refers to David’s dedication of the goods and materials he had gathered for the building of the temple. At that time, David had taken a census of the Israelites, and was placing his confidence in his own mighty army, rather than in the one true God. David sinned against God, but God later had mercy on him, forgave him his sins, and stopped the plague.
The word “because” is mentioned many times throughout this psalm. David praised the Lord because of God’s own works. Like David, we too are “drawn up” by God, not by our own good works. God’s mercy and grace have “brought up our soul from Sheol” and restored us from the deep “pit” of sin and death. God has “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” God is the one who does not “let my foes rejoice over me,” but instead brings shame to Satan.
Verses 2 and 3 of this psalm may refer to God’s stopping of the plague which afflicted the Israelites. Many tribulations we face are caused by our own sins of pride and unbelief. But God saves his people because of his own mercy and love, and for the sake of defending the honor of his name from Satan’s shame. David saw his real situation before God: not only was he attacked by Satan, he was also attacked by his own sinful inclinations; not only was he distressed by sickness, he was disturbed by his own pride.
Just like David, our souls were also trapped in deep pits, and God alone rescued us from perishing in the deep gloom of death. God’s anger “is but for a moment” toward those who sincerely repent when facing discipline. Although tears of repentance may flow all night, “joy comes with the morning.” David contrasts the length of time between God’s wrath, which is momentary, and his grace, which lasts for a lifetime.
Because of His Name
This sharp contrast also brings the Lord to mind. If we had to face God’s wrath for just one moment, we could not bear it. On the cross, God’s anger was, in one moment, poured out on Jesus. But three days later, he rose from the dead, and God gave his eternal love to us. Jesus’s name is praiseworthy and memorable. Because of his name, we can turn from sorrow toward joy. Because of his name, we receive the smile of God, and our relationship with him is reconciled. We turn from weeping in despair to rejoicing with peace and joy.
Like David, we tend to become prideful and arrogant in the moments of prosperity, thinking we will “never be moved.” When our mountain “stands strong,” it is easy to forget God’s grace. When that happens, God hides his face from us and withdraws from us his hand of grace. He does this so we may be awakened from our “dismay” in difficulties, and return to him, to again confess our sins and repent.
Because of this, the moments of prosperity are the most dangerous times for us, the times when we should be most watchful, and stay close to God. David knew he was not worthy of God’s forgiveness, so his prayer was not attempting to strike a deal with God, but instead a plea for God’s free grace, holding fast to God’s own faithfulness and mercy.
Whether we are in sin or in difficulty, God is waiting to turn our “mourning into dancing.” He is waiting to clothe with gladness those who return to him, so that he may be glorified in us. The Lord Jesus bought this glory at the price of his life, and with this glory we respond to God with hearts of thankfulness.
Swimmer (a pseudonym) was converted in 1998. She is married to a pastor, lives in a city of nine million, and is studying for ministry alongside her husband.
Lord, Dear Father,
We thank and praise you, for you have turned our mourning into dancing. We have turned away from you because of our many sins, and because of our own pride and selfishness. But, by the blood of your Son, you have saved us from the pit. In your beloved Son, we are redeemed and our sins are forgiven. You are able to save us to the end, from all our troubles and from all our sins. We trust in you and give you all our praise. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” In the name of the Lord Jesus, Amen.