Every ten weeks or so, we take a break from our other series and rejoin our ongoing series called Psalms Greatest Hits. This week we visit a Psalm of David which was prepared for the dedication of the Temple. For those with a basic bible understanding, you realize already that David never saw the temple, but it was his son Solomon, who built the temple. That being said, as David prepared the plans for the temple, it is also quite feasible, that he prepared the celebration of it with songs for that event.
David’s relationship with and belief in God is so believable as well as inspirational. His psalms are accessible to us because his humanity, successes, and failings are always combined with his deep love for God and his aspirations to do and be better. This Psalm is one of those which covers both extremes and brings us some of the most memorable verses in the Psalms. He begins with his praise to God as he looks over his life and reflects upon how time and time again, God delivered him out of the hands of his enemies, and lifted him from the lowest of shepherds, to the King of Israel.
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.
This Psalm has so much lasting power because it has been enjoyed and attributed to those within Judaism, Islam, and Christianity for centuries. That alone is something we would all do well to reflect upon. Any system of faith which brings with it the self-awareness of one’s sins and failures, and out of them, there remains a heart which seeks to be healed, and forgiven, and which also knows the dissonance that such sins create in the spiritual connection to God, can read these words and identify with this experience. In this psalm we meet God not after striving and climbing, but at the bottom when defeated.
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.
Lamentations tells us in the third chapter that the mercies of God are renewed every morning. David shared a similar experience and revelation as he gives us this “brain tattoo” that God’s anger is for a moment. The effect is that it reorients a wandering, defeated, and discouraged heart and mind, as it is restored back into the unmovable Truth of God’s nature.
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.
David knows that all that he has was given to him by the providential plan and love of God. As he reviews his success in battle and in his rise to king, he knows that if God establishes something, it cannot be moved unless God himself moves it. Through all of it, the thing that makes David so unique is that none of this goes to his head. He doesn’t become proud and forgetful as so many kings who come after him do. For David, the connection to God is his most treasured aspect of life. His dismay comes only when he feels God is disengaged, or when he steps outside the divine flow of life.
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!”
As a man whose life story doesn’t blink at those times of weakness, doubt, and failure, David’s low points are not places where he quits or abandon’s his faith. He prays through it. He owns his failings with an honesty that should inspire any of us who dare to look at ourselves holistically. Yet even in the lowest moments, he remains conscious of this relationship and he questions God to consider the value of staying connected just as David wants to stay in. These kinds of prayers are only possible for the tested and tried faith, the result of them, is a transformation which keeps even a powerful king humble and grateful.
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!
David closes this psalm celebrating this transformation. The fact that this Psalm was prepared for the dedication of the temple means that it was his hope that all the people of Israel, could experience this kind of joyful transformation in the same way he did. All the people were to reflect this humility and love for God. To turn mourning into dancing, to shed the garment of pity and turn ones countenance and face upward is something for which all of humanity has longed for centuries. Perhaps now, more than ever, our world would do well to pray this kind of prayer and sing this kind of song.
May we all come to experience this kind of transformation and relationship with our Maker and may we, like David, not remain silent about it. May we find words to express our gratitude and fidelity to the work of God within each of us and in within our world.