Sunday, March 09, 2014
"The Holiness of God as Salvation" Psalm 30
“The Holiness of God as Salvation”
March 9, 2014 Second Reformed Church
For Lent, by the Grace of God, we will look at five psalms in the hopes of knowing our Holy God better. This morning, we are looking at Psalm 30, which has just been read.
Psalm 30 is a psalm of David. I trust we remember that David had been a shepherd who was chosen and anointed by God and Samuel to serve as King of Israel after God deposed Saul.
Some of the Psalms tell us something about why or when it was written – either in the header that the author wrote or in the psalm itself. This psalm includes the header: “A song at the dedication of the Temple.” This should strike us as strange, because David did not build the Temple – it was built and completed by his son, Solomon.
To attempt to get the setting, we look over the whole psalm and we note that David talks about being about being saved from his enemies and being chastised for his pride – for his confidence in his prosperity. The scholars who look at this give a suggestion as to what this event may have been, though it is not absolutely clear.
In 2 Samuel 12 and following we read about the following history: in the latter part of David’s reign, he had conquered an enormous amount of territory, and Israel was at peace. David was secure, and all seemed well. But then, David’s son, Ammon, raped his sister, Tamar, and the Scripture tells us that David was angry with Ammon. David’s son Absalom didn’t think David’s anger was enough, so he murdered his brother, Ammon, and ran away. David tells Absalom to come home to Jerusalem, but he would not be allowed to live in the palace.
Eventually, Absalom sent for Joab to get him an audience with his father, but Joab didn’t come, so Absalom set Joab’s crops on fire. After which, he got to speak with his father. But Absalom wanted to be an enforcer of justice – with his father’s approval – but David refuses, so Absalom builds an army and goes to war with his father. In the end, Absalom is killed, and peace returns to Jerusalem.
This may be the background for the psalm, but we still need to ask ourselves about the header – David didn’t build the Temple, so how could this be “a song at the dedication of the Temple”? We may find the answer in I Chronicles 22 where the author explains to us that David secured much of the building material for the Temple and then commissioned his son, Solomon, to build it. It may have been that this psalm was sung at the collection of the materials and/or at the commissioning of Solomon to build the Temple.
In any event, we see four things in the text of the psalm that we can be sure of this morning:
First, God is to be praised for our salvation.
Second, God is to be thanked to His Holy Name for our forgiveness.
Third, God’s purposes and favor are to be sought first.
And fourth, God is to be praised joyfully.
First, God is to be praised for our salvation.
“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.”
David begins by saying he will extol the Lord – YHWH. We still use the expression that we “extol someone’s virtues” – what are we talking about? When we “extol” something, we lift it up, we show it as praiseworthy, we name reasons why our attention should be drawn to it, we say, “look at this!” David says, “I am going to praisefully, joyfully, draw attention to You, God, and show Your Worthiness based on Who You are and what You have done.”
And then he extols God for four things:
“You have drawn me up.” The imagery of the word “draw” is that of hauling a heavy bucket of water up out of a well. God – by Himself – by His Own Power – rescued David – He pulled him up – He saved him.
(At this point, Joshua is free to write down, “monergistic regeneration” in his notes – because David is saying that his salvation from the event he is recalling had nothing to do with himself, but only with God. God chose to pull him up – to save him – with no help from David. Buckets of water don’t help pull themselves up – and that is the imagery here – God pulled David up.)
When we are talking about salvation, the one thing we can say with absolute certainty is that our absolute salvation – our being made right with God – is only by God Alone. We’ll see that David confesses his sin, and God forgives him. So, we also are drawn up by God in salvation – sometimes in various events and trials on earth, and always in being made right with God.
Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44, ESV). Unless God hauls you up out of your well of sin, you will never get out.
“[You] have not let my foes rejoice over me.” When would your foes rejoice over you? When you have been defeated. God did not allow David’s foes to defeat him. God over threw David’s foes, so he would not be defeated, and they would not rejoice over him.
Who are our enemies?
Paul tells us: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:10-12, ESV).
Our fight is not with the Republicans or the Democrats, or the rich or the poor, or Iran or Afghanistan, or even the RCA – our fight is against the devil and all his ways. And though we are called now to fight in the Name of Jesus, Jesus has already won the war – He is victorious over hell and death and the devil – He will not let our foes rejoice over us in the final analysis.
Then David says that he cried out for help and “You have healed me” or “You have restored me.”
Have you ever noticed that if you don’t ask for help, it is very unlikely that you will get help? Jesus said, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14, ESV). If we ask – if we ask for anything that is the Will of Jesus, He will do it.
Jesus does not want us to sin, and we are to repent of our sin when we do sin, but we are also to cry out for help in the moment of temptation: “Lord, Jesus, help me to turn away from this temptation and be faithful and obedient to you!” Do we ask for help?
David asked for help, and God was pleased to restore him from his sin and, perhaps, any sickness that accompanied God’s discipline of him for his sin.
And, David says, “You have brought up my soul from Sheol”; “You restore me to life from among those who go down to the pit.”
Here he is talked about spiritual salvation – salvation of his whole self – becoming right with God. Certain scholars would say, “No, He is talking about a soul, like we say someone is a ‘good soul,’ meaning a person, he’s not talking about that part of the human being which is essential to his being a human – that part that goes to be with Jesus after death and prior to the resurrection.” But the word that is used for “soul” in Hebrew refers to the self, one’s being, that part of you that must exist for you to be you.
David had sinned in such a way that – were it not for the intervening salvation of God – he would have been lost. David recognized that his sin was a terrible affront to God, and that because of it, he was not worthy of being received by God into His Kingdom.
That’s when we know we’re on the right track – is it not? When we realize that our problem is that we have sinned against the Holy God and there is nothing we can do to make ourselves right with Him. Then we cry out for help, and God saves us – God draws us up and restores us and makes it so our enemies – and His – will not rejoice over us.
That’s why David is praising God and telling us the things God did for Him – that God would be known and praised and seen for Who He is. God is to be praised for our salvation.
Second, God is to be thanked to His Holy Name for our forgiveness.
“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.”
David then calls on the whole congregation of saints – all those who believe – to join with him in lifting up thanks to God’s Holy Name – to God in all of His Holiness – to God in all of His Attributes and for all of His Works – by singing.
God loves to hear His Creation sing – and especially, He loves to hear humans sing in thanksgiving to Him for Who He is and what He has done. We ought not to worry if are voices are perfect or classically trained – which is not an excuse to sing poorly, but an assurance that God has auto-tune. God loves to be thanked and praised and glorified and He loves us to do so with the instruments of the voices He has given us.
And the reason David gives us to spur us all on to singing thankful praises to God is that God does not give us what we deserve. God does not give us what we deserve for our sin against Him. Yes, our sin angers Him. Yes, we may endure chastisement – discipline – for our sin – but it is not eternal. God’s anger is short-lived against His repentant and believing sons and daughters. Our suffering is short-lived under God’s Sovereign Hand.
Isaiah records God’s words, “’For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you,
but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,’ says the Lord, your Redeemer” (Isaiah 54:7-8, ESV).
And Paul reminds us, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18, ESV).
God is not ignoring the fact that suffering and discipline hurt; He is telling us that what we have to endure in this sinful world, and for the Gospel – and specifically here, in the discipline of God for our sin – is nothing compared with the glory we are being received into.
If the scholars are right about this psalm being written in response to David and Absalom, David suffered the temporary loss of his kingdom, the death of many of his men, the rape of his daughter, and the death of two of his sons. David wept profusely and pleaded with God about Absalom, but God had him killed. And David was able to thank God for God’s Anger being momentary, and for his weeping to be as a night.
David was not uncaring. David was not a stoic – he wept and pleaded with God. But when all was said and done, David recognized God in His Holiness – and what could have happened for all the sin that occurred in those events, if God has taken justice out on him – and David thanked and praised his Holy God for God’s parental government – for the chastisement – the discipline that he received – because it was short-lived in the scheme of things.
Now, if we don’t know God as Holy, and we hold God’s discipline against us as unjust, the discipline may become greater, and it will surely seem as more than a night, and we will not find joy in the morning.
But, if we recognize God as Holy, and understand something of what it means that He is Holy, and what a terrible thing it is to sin against the Holy God, when we come out on the other side of discipline, when we have repented and God’s Hand has been lifted from us, then we will be able to thank God to His Holy Name for our forgiveness.
Third, God’s purposes and favor are to be sought first.
“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!’”
Here David confesses the root sin for which he was disciplined by God: he forgot that he was God’s chosen only by the Grace of God and he rested his hopes on his prosperity – on his wealth and power. David sinned by looking at his kingdom and his wealth and saying to himself, “I will never be moved. I’m set. The wealth of the nations is mine. We’re at peace. Yeah me!”
We do that, don’t we? When things are going well, we forget God and pat ourselves on the back.
In II Chronicles 32, we read about how King Hezekiah was sick and dying, and he sought God and God saved him and extended his life and made Hezekiah and his kingdom very wealthy. Then God sent representatives from Babylon – that terrifying nation to the north – and Hezekiah welcomed them in and showed them all the treasures and wealth of the kingdom. Hezekiah was very proud of himself for how well he had done as king. But God responded in telling Hezekiah, for his pridefulness and foolishness in showing the envoys of Babylon Israel’s wealth, God was going to send Babylon to conquer Israel.
Jesus distinguished between the one who lays up treasures in heaven and the fool who lays up treasures for himself: “And he told them a parable, saying, ‘The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, “What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?” And he said, “I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:16-21, ESV).
Now, we have said before, it is not wrong to be rich. The problem was that the rich farmer, and Hezekiah, and David, prided themselves in their wealth. They sinned in caring more about their stuff than God.
What David recognized later, in repentance, was that his strength was only by God’s favor. All that David had was only because it pleased God to give it to him that God’s Name would be known – that He would be known as the Holy God Who rules over Israel and saves His people from their sins and their enemies.
God’s response to David’s sin was for God to turn His Face away – God turned away from David and let David sink into despair. Have you ever been in a place – after sin – where you have realized that God is not there anymore? You’re all alone in your sin and the results of it. David’s kingdom was lost, his men were dying, his daughter had been raped, and two of his sons had been killed. And it was as though David was at the bottom of a deep well – alone – in the dark – or buried alive, with no hope of getting out. God allowed David to sink into despair so he would come to his senses and repent.
And David prayed to God realizing that God’s purposes and favor are to be sought first. David prayed to God, in effect: “Lord, will You be most glorified if I die, or if I live and show Your faithfulness through me? If my dying serves Your purposes best, so be it. But, if Your purposes will be better served by my living, then be merciful to me, help me.”
Understand, David was not praying, “Lord, do You know what You will be losing if You let me die?” He was praying, “Lord, I understand what I deserve, and if that extols You and Your holiness better than my living, I will receive death form Your Hand. But, if You are willing, be merciful to me, help me.”
We don’t have an ace to pull out to get God to fold His Hand. We don’t have anything we can use to blackmail God into saving us. All we can do is throw ourselves before Him in repentance and ask that God will do what achieves His purposes. All we can do is ask that God show mercy and help, if He is pleased to do so. God doesn’t owe us anything. We often act and speak as though He does, but God owes us nothing. Everything we have is His and from His hand, so all we can do, when we have gone down into that pit and God has turned away is to confess our sin, ask for forgiveness, and plead for God’s Mercy in accordance with His Holy plan.
Fourth, God is to be praised joyfully.
“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!”
God’s response to David was that He would save Him. God Sovereignly chose to save him, to restore him, to forgive him, to continue to use him to show the Holiness and the Faithfulness and the Mercy of our God.
David responded in being lifted out of his mourning – out of his despair, and physically responding by dancing. And some may ask, “Well, couldn’t it just be that his heart danced – that he danced in his soul?” While it is true that David would have been dancing in his soul, as we look at the life of David recorded for us in the Scripture, it was his practice to get up and physically dance in response to receiving joy in God.
And lest anyone worry that I am saying we must physically get up and dance in worship, I am not. But, in response to what God has said and done and in response to Who He is, we ought to respond with our whole selves – body, mind, heart, and soul. That will mean different things for different people, but it is our whole selves that responds and rejoices and praises God joyfully for what He has done and Who He is.
David had worn sackcloth – symbolic clothing used when one was repenting and mourning – and God took off that loose-fitting clothing of mourning, and dressed him in fitted robes of gladness. (Understand the mixed metaphor – there is real clothing called, “sackcloth;” gladness is a state of being and a state of response to God, it is not a type of cloth.)
David rightly turns around from his sinful pride and assurance in his wealth and in the stability of his kingdom and says that his glory – his magnificence – his achievement – his reason for rejoicing and having hope was now singing God’s praises and not being silent. The object of his salvation was giving praise to God – in celebrating the praise of God – in celebrating the Glory of God.
And he makes a vow that he will praise the Lord forever – from that time forward, his life would be about showing other people Who God is and what He has done – in lifting up His Holy Name as worthy – and he would discharge this service on earth until his earthly death.
Do we praise God joyfully – however we are gifted to express that? Consider how you react at sports events, at concerts, at lectures by your favorite speaker – do you react at least that joyfully and thankfully and praisefully to God for Who He is and what He has done – in history – in salvation – in your own life?
Having seen all of this, we still have at least one more question: why was this psalm to be sung at the dedication of the Temple – whether that was at the assembling of the materials, or after David’s death when the Temple was actually built and completed? Why ought we to read and sing this psalm now?
The simple answer is that David’s experience – generally speaking – is the same as ours – we are sinners who turn away from God and sink into despair, facing loss and death and discipline at the Hands of God. And we believe in and worship the same One Holy God, Who Alone saves His people by Himself for Himself, Who now is our Help, Who has shown us mercy, Who has replaced our mourning with dancing, Who has called us to delight in Him by thanking Him and praising Him and giving glory to Him for the rest of our lives.
And so we come into this building as the living temple of God and we join together in singing and thanking and praising God for Who He is and what He has done, saying, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12b, ESV). Amen.
Let us pray:
Holy God, our Savior, we thank You that with fatherly love and mercy, you have raised us up with salvation through Your Son Jesus. We thank You for disciplining us when we sin, that we would turn from it and turn to You. Thank You for making our mourning short and Your promises great. Increase in us the awareness of the greatness of our salvation, and cause us to open our mouths to praise You and thank You with everything that we are, so Your Glory would be known through us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.