I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up
and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
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.
As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
By your favor, O Lord,
you made my mountain stand strong;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.
To you, O Lord, I cry,
and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
“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?
Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
O Lord, be my helper!”
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
Every Sunday, we gather to celebrate the resurrection of Christ from the dead. The first Christians did exactly that—they gathered for worship on the day that Christ rose from the grave to memorialize his victory over sin and death and to highlight the expectation of his return. The words we read, the songs we sing, the prayers we pray, all these are focused on one, single thing, what one Puritan called “the death of death in the death of Christ.”
In John 10, we read, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may pick it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (vv.17-18). In ancient days, in eternity past, the Father and the Son formed a binding agreement to redeem the people of God. God the Son came to earth to become the Son of David, the anointed one of God’s people.
In the Psalm you heard read this morning, Psalm 30, David is calling the people to sing this song with him at the dedication of the temple. David of course did not see the building of the temple, because that was left for his son Solomon to do. But David looked forward to the house of God, where God would dwell among his people and bless them. In this Psalm, David looks back and remembers God’s mercy. It is this mercy that has saved David from the grave, from death, from the penalty of sin. It is a psalm that knows the power of God to raise the dead to life. “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Resurrection is the constant hope of God’s people.
This psalm was written because David had come face-to-face with death on more than one occasion. Whether he was running from Saul, fighting the Philistines, or bearing the consequences of his sin, David was aware of just how flimsy this life can be. Everything can change in a moment. But the constant in this world is the sovereignty of God. Over his sin, over his life, over his death, David knew God was the one who bore him up at every turn; because if David was left to his own devices, he would fall into sin every chance he got. There would be no eternal rescue. David’s great hope was that the grave would not hold him. There was another side to the grave. And the only passage to that other side was the sheer mercy of God.
Whatever the specific life-threatening experience David is writing about, we don’t know. There were plenty to choose from. But he looks back on the provision of God during that time. David’s enemies would not get the upper hand, the final say. At the time that David prayed for God’s providential help, he received it. David even describes his experience as death, as going down to Sheol. But God would not abandon his soul to the grave; he would live again. Even if David is speaking in metaphor in his time, he does so because he believed in the ultimate reality of resurrection. Resurrection is the constant hope of God’s people, old and new covenant alike. David would die one day, and his death would be like everyone else’s. The true Son of David would truly go down to the grave, and he would die on behalf of his people.
David fears death not only for himself but for God’s name. Should David be defeated by his enemies, should David lose his throne, wouldn’t the covenant God made with David be brought to shame? Where would Israel’s hope be if there was no line of David to bring about the messiah? David’s enemies would of course be glad to see an end to God’s promises. But David had faith that a descendent would have his throne and redeem God’s people, because God had made that promise. The messiah’s enemies might rejoice in his death, but they would not get to hold on to that sentiment very long.
We know too well the mockery that Christ faced as he hanged on the cross. The priests, the soldiers, and the thieves all blasphemed the name. They formed quite the team. And if you had asked them over the course of the next few days, they would have been of one accord that they had succeeded in quieting Jesus and his disciples. But God quiets the voice of his enemies. We learn to pray as in Psalm 3, “Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the check; you break the teeth of the wicked” (v.7). God overcomes all those who blaspheme his name. In the death of Christ, paradoxical as it may seem, God’s enemies are declawed. Their teeth were broken. Their death warrant was signed. “Victory” is the name of the game.
David was saved from Sheol, and the Son of David was restored to life from the same. Where David could not defeat his enemies, his Son, the Christ, would be the first to not only go to the grave but leave it behind in victory over his enemies.
David calls for the people at the dedication of the temple to praise God for the brevity of his anger and the longevity of his blessing. David’s sin was egregious, and God was rightfully angry at David. David let his lust have full reign, and after committing adultery, he tried to trick Bathsheba’s husband to think he was the father. When that didn’t work, Uriah had to die. David became a conspirator to murder. As a consequence of all this, the child of his adultery died. God was right to be angry at David, the king, the one who was to lead his people in covenant faithfulness to the law of Moses.
David earned the anger of God. But God extended mercy to David, as well. God did not take the throne from David or his posterity. However, the Son of David willingly and voluntarily took on the cup of God’s anger and wrath. It was an innocent man who gave up his life in place of ours. No one has felt the wrath of God like the Son of God did at the crucifixion. He received no mercy but received the fullness of the penalty we accrued through our idolatry, our lust, and our greed.
But because of the nature of his sacrifice, his perfect righteousness, he could pay for that debt in a moment of time. He did not need to suffer forever. When he rose from the grave that Sunday morning, there was joy like never before. The debt is paid, God’s anger and wrath have been satisfied, so now we enjoy his favor and blessing for eternity. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”
As king, David became proud. He had wealth like we can’t imagine. Those things were blessings to David, but those gifts can become traps if we’re not careful. David said to himself, because of his great wealth, “I shall never be moved.” He didn’t say that because he had wealth and prosperity; he said that because he trusted in his wealth and prosperity to sustain him. Self-sufficiency is a dangerous place for a child of God. David became like a strong mountain—immovable and strong, like an impenetrable fortress. He thought he was the captain of his own ship. Everything he did he did in his own power. For someone who started out so humble, for someone who was taken from the sheep pen, he became so proud.
But in an act of mercy, God hid his face from David. God was not being cruel to David, but he was showing David where all the blessings of life come from. He was showing David where every breath, every day, every moment of joy comes from. Scripture often speaks of God’s presence as his blessing. To remove himself, or to hide his face, is to replace blessing with wrath. When God was with David, he was like an immovable mountain. Nothing could overcome his fortress. But when David turned from God, God turned his face from David to let David see that his own strength is nothing compared to his Creator’s. Strength does not come from the self but from the Creator.
Even if God hid his face from David for a brief time, the presence of God was still in the temple, in the holy of holies, lifted above the cherubim. God was not far. In the crucifixion of Christ, we see the veil delineating the holy place from the common place being ripped in half. That veil or curtain was there to keep impure people, those who were not priests, from even catching a glimpse of God’s glory and presence. But now, God was no longer there, and that was no longer the holy of holies. The true most holy place would be raised in three days.
When God hid his face from David, David experienced dismay. This is a phrase that, again, reminds the people of the presence and blessing of God. Jesus quoted Psalm 22 on the cross, which begins, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We often take that to mean that God rejected Jesus or hid his face. But verse 24 says that God did not hide his face from his anointed, specifically from the one crying out, from the one speaking in this Psalm, which Jesus speaks on the cross. So did the Father literally turn his face from the Son at the crucifixion? No, he did not. The Trinity—Father, Son, and Spirit—remains fully intact. But the turning of God’s face is a very biblical way of describing the wrath of God. And as he died, Jesus received the full cup of God’s wrath against your sin and my sin.
David cried out, “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit?” David was a man like you and me. Sinners. Idolaters. Unclean. David was correct; there was no profit in his death. There was no benefit. There was no advantage. There definitely was no redemption. David did not want to die. Whatever life-threatening experience David was facing was something that he knew would bring shame. The Son of David prayed in the garden before his arrest that he would not have to face what was coming. But regardless of whatever pain and mockery he would face, regardless of the life-threatening experience he would face, he would rather fulfill his Father’s will than run from the shame and contempt it would bring. Christ’s death would be profitable for his people; they would be redeemed, saved from wrath, and made fit for God’s kingdom.
Just as David was shown mercy and God turned his mourning to joy, so Christ was taken from death to life. He died an agonizing death, was taken to Sheol where he freed the captives, and ascended to heaven to the right hand of Majesty where he reigns until his enemies are his footstool. God loosed David’s sackcloth and clothed him in gladness; the Father loosed the Son’s burial cloths and clothed him in majesty.
It’s fitting that this was a song of David written for the dedication of the temple. The temple housed God’s special presence among his people. It was there that God took up residence and blessed his people. Jesus said that there would be a time when every stone that made up the temple would be torn down and a new temple would be built in its place. Early in the gospel of John, when Jesus cleanses the temple and removes the impurities, those watching ask him what kind of sign he can give that proves he has the authority to do this. He tells them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). John interprets this for us, saying, “But he was speaking about the temple of his body” (John 2:21). Christ is the cornerstone of a new temple, a temple of living stones offering living sacrifices, the church, the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Christ did rise from the dead, and he did build a new temple. On that first Lord’s Day, the women went to the tomb where Jesus used to be. They don’t know what to expect, but they at least expected to find Jesus just as they left him. When they see the stone has been rolled away, when they run to get Simon and John, they are still confused as to what’s just happened. Simon and Peter run back to the tomb with the women, but then they just go home. Mary Magdalene stays at the tomb and weeps. Where is he? Who did this to him?
But two angels show themselves to her and explain that her mourning is about to be turned to joy. John tells us that she turned around and saw Jesus. But even then, she mistakes him for a gardener. Thinking he may have some information on what happened, she asks if he took the body. Jesus then calls her by name, and she immediately is given the grace to recognize Jesus for who he is. He gives her a task, to go to the disciples and tell him that he will be ascending to the Father. The cornerstone has been laid and the temple is being built. Mary tells them, “I have seen the Lord.”
As David hoped to be brought up from Sheol, so we have that same hope. We have been restored to life, and so we sing praises and give thanks to his holy name. In this life, we may weep for a moment, but the joy that comes with every morning will one day be our eternal experience. On Resurrection Sunday, we announce like Mary that we have seen the Lord. He is not in the tomb but on the throne. We have had our sackcloth of mourning removed and have been clothed in his righteousness, all so that, like David, we would sing his glory now and forever.