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. Mourning must give way to joy

Mourning Must Give Way to Joy in the morning


Wow, what a roller coaster ride we have been on since March 2020. We have become use to a wait and see attitude, as we just do not know what tomorrow holds. Here we are, in August 2021, in what has amounted, for many of us, to be the strangest and most unnerving year and a bit of our lives. Think back to March last year. How much has seemed to change in so short a span of time?

 

I felt it necessary to share something today as we commence again with services, that will challenge us and encourage us at the same time. Something that will cause you not to put your life on hold, but to keep you moving forward responsibly, while glorifying God with everything, as we do not know what tomorrow holds, but we know Him who holds the future.

 

As I mentioned before, the Old Testament has glorious truths to be learnt, as long as we realise that we are not Old Covenant people but New Covenant people. Not all in the Old Testament speaks directly to us, but it is all given for our benefit. For today I want to share something of the heart of David, recorded in Psalm 30.

 

Psalm 30 has a word that we need to hear in 2021 as a semi prosperous and prideful generation that is being humbled. Maybe we have felt like David who says in Psalm 30:6 (ESV) 6 As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved,” and we look back and realise that all is from the Lord, as David says in Psalm 30:7 (ESV) “7 By your favour, O Lord, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed.”

How quickly things have changed. Corona and violence around the world, riots and violence in South Africa, churches under lockdown, truth becoming a lie, lies becoming the truth, right is wrong and wrong is right. The world’s theology, methods and mindset reigns supreme.

Let’s be honest we have been moved. By God’s favour, our mountain may stand strong, but when he chooses to hide his face, it crumbles overnight.

Let me say this: “Earthly prosperity is not a sign of God’s eternal favour; nor is poverty a sign of his disfavour.”

 

One question that David raises for us in 2021 is: How should we as Christians think about earthly prosperity (and by prosperity, I do not mean wealth only) and beneficial circumstances? How many of us now, looking back just before Corona struck, would say life seemed better then, easier then, more comfortable then, more prosperous then? How many of us have felt health and financial and civic anxieties and full-blown fears we have never felt so acutely? Perhaps some of us sail carelessly on with few changes. But many here in August of 2021 are not living in the same felt sense of prosperity we took for granted as recently as March last year. We struggle with those who are ill, we mourn with Shaun and Sharlene in the passing of Bernadette. It is so unreal.

This morning King David will lead us in this wonderful Psalm of thanks from Prosperity to the Pit, to Praise. David’s pit was not being on a ventilator in ICU, he did not have his business in lock down, but he had a close encounter with death, he cried out to the Lord for help and God rescued him.

 

This psalm begins in the present (verses 1–3), then draws others in to worship (verse 4), and grounds the praise in the timeless nature of God (verse 5), then flashes back to David’s time of trouble, when he was in the pit and how he prayed for help (verses 6–10), and then ends with enhanced praise in verses 11–12.

Let us see what this Psalm teaches us about each stage. What we learn will differ from person to person.

 

1. Earthly prosperity is a gift, and a test (verses 6–7).


As we contemplate the context of David’s story, we learn as Christians how we should think about our seasons of seeming prosperity in this age. The answer is not simple, but it is accessible.

 

Verses 6–7 give us two truths here for how we should think about earthly prosperity:

On the one hand, earthly prosperity is “from God.” Verse 7: Psalm 30:7 (ESV) “7 By your favor, O Lord, you made my mountain stand strong; I was dismayed.”


They say that success is 99% perspiration. As believers we work as if prayer does not help, but at the same time we pray as if all our hard work does not help. God made David prosperous. It was a gift — not the ultimate gift, but a real, tangible blessing, fragile as earthly prosperity can be. Which means David should not have grown prideful about his seeming strength, but humble. And what would humility in his prosperity have looked like? Gratitude. He should have thanked God for what he had (as should we), rather than slowly swelling to being prideful about it.

 

On the other hand, God’s temporal favour in this age is not an expression of his enduring favour. Verse 7: “You hid your face.” David was God’s anointed, and yet God making David prosperous for a season was not a final word about God’s favour on David. In fact, because God did favour David, he tested him; he humbled him. David almost lost everything, on the brink of death itself.

 

Prosperity in this world is both a gift (for which to thank God) and a test (in which to renew trust in God, not self). Both prosperity and poverty serve God’s eternal designs for his people. We saw this with Paul the other day, didn’t we? He says in Phil 4, he knows what it is to have much, and what it is to have little, but he has learnt to be content in all circumstances.

 

David now confesses in this flashback that he mishandled prosperity. Psalm 30:6 (ESV) “6 As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.”


That is pride talking. Prosperity gave space for David’s pride to swell. He came to think his strength showed he was strong, of his own doing, that he would not be moved. He grew numb to the truth that it was God who made him strong (like a mountain), and that God is able to make mountains crumble at his word, and for our eternal good.

 

“Both prosperity and poverty serve God’s eternal designs for his people.”


What Psalm 30 shows us is that in this life now neither mountain-strength nor God’s hidden face are the final word. The wicked can seem mountain-strong and be prideful; or the righteous can be mountain-strong and be humble; so also, the wicked, in the end, will be humbled, and the righteous not only might but will go through seasons where God’s face and favour seem hidden and withdrawn. Earthly prosperity is not a sign of God’s eternal favour; nor is poverty a sign of his disfavour.

 

If you are in a season of seeming strength and prosperity, the word for you from Psalm 30 is: humble yourself before God now; thank him; realize the fragility of your prosperity; acknowledge his kindness and your unworthiness. Do not say in your prosperity, “I shall never be moved.” Have you seen all the mountains God has crumbled since March last year?

 

And if you are in a season where His face seems hidden, don’t take that as God’s final word to you. In Christ, it is not his final word. We are fragile. Our world is fragile. Our economy is fragile. Our health is fragile. Our peace is fragile. When we are prosperous, God is the giver. And we should humbly thank him and not presume we shall not be moved. And when our mountain does crumble, God has eternal purposes for us in it. This is his test to reveal who we really are and purify us for his final favour.

 

2. The pit is fearsome, and purposeful (verses 3, 8–10).

Maybe you feel today that you are not living in the gutter, but under the gutter.

 

David thinks back to this season in his life in Psalm 30:8-10 (ESV) 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!”

David tells us how he pled with God when he was desperate and near death.

 

Firstly, he reasoned with God in verse 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?” In other words, “God, what good is it to you if I die? “I cannot praise you if I lose my body, and mouth, and tongue.” He sees himself as a better option than the dust of the earth to praise God. Not a bad argument, right? You know how often I remind us to be real with God and real with one another. David is being real with God here. Another name for this “pit” is “Sheol.” You see reference to this back in Psalm 30:3 (ESV) “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.”


Sheol — or the pit or Hades — was the dark and shadowy place of the dead where the human soul would go once body and soul were torn apart in death. The body dies, and goes into the ground, and the soul/spirit then would wait in Sheol, where a chasm was fixed between the righteous and wicked. We see this in Luke 16:36. Sheol was a holding place for the souls of the dead, waiting for the final judgment — no bodies to move, or hands to works, or eyes to see, or ears to hear, or mouths to speak.

 

David begs that God spare his life to preserve his praise. He reasons with God based on God’s glory. Which is a good way to pray. I always tell you that. Joy will have the last laugh, the final say, the last note.”

 

He continuous his reasoning in verse 10: “Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O Lord, be my helper!” And God does show him mercy. He heals him, rescues him, preserves his life and body and mouth and tongue. And David writes Psalm 30 to sing praise and thanks, and to draw others in to sing with him — and more than just sing.

 

3. Praise is audible, and bodily (verses 5, 11–12).


Psalm 30:11-12 (ESV) 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!”


Here are two things to see in these important, climactic verses. Firstly, sorrow and joy are not equals. In God, and for his people, the sackcloth of sorrow and the garment of gladness are not equal and opposite sides of the coin. Sorrow and joy are asymmetrical for God’s people. Sackcloth always serves gladness. God takes our mourning and turns it into dancing. That’s the final word. Not the other way around, not in the end. God removes the garment of our weeping and clothes us with joy, even when we must wait for that in glory.

 

I love verse 5 which is the title of the sermon. Psalm 30:5 (ESV) 5 For his anger is but for a moment, and his favour is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.


In God, mourning does not have the final say, but morning — joy comes with the morning Mourning gives way to morning. The reason we know this is true for God’s people, and verse 11 celebrates it, is because this is rooted in who God is. This is what David says in verse 5.

 

God is not only full of favour, He is not only gracious, He also gets righteously angry. But grace and anger are not equal in revealing who he is. Anger serves favour. Weeping does not have the last word for those who are his, but joy sounds the final note.

 

How can we say that? Because God is God. This is who God is. We sang this morning that He is a good – good Father. Because he has revealed himself as the God of verse 5, we can know that verse 11 will come true: that morning will come, rescue will come, relief will come, joy will sound the final note, no matter our present trouble or distress if we are his people, and we are faithful to Him.

 

Joy Sounds the Final Note


When we sink the roots of our joy into the very nature and character of God (as verse 5 does), our roots of joy go down as deep as possible. Our joy, come what may, is grounded in who God is as the God of joy, who is infinitely happy. There is no greater foundation, no greater source, no greater reason for stability and security and genuine joy, when our joy is hidden in God himself. Weeping may indeed tarry for the night. And it does. Oh, how often it does, for many long nights. But in God, morning is always coming — just a little while longer — and joy comes with the morning and gets us through the night knowing that more is coming.

 

“God removes the garment of our weeping and clothes us with joy.”


And as sure as David could be of this, as we see in verses 5 and 11, we now, in Christ, we are even more sure, and more secure. Even more enduringly stable. Because in a way David could not yet see we have the cross and the resurrection — which is not only another example of joy sounding the last note, but it is the once-and-for-all, an objective accomplishment in history that joy will win. Joy will have the final say. As sure as Jesus conquered the grave, so will we.

 

This is no promise about earthly prosperity — no matter how soon or how late the pandemic ends or whether any fresh and lasting peace is achieved in our country or not. The present pandemic might turn out far worse than current assessments. The previous riots might prove to be just the beginning of unrest to come. The nature and person of God doesn’t give us earthly assurances that we will have no nights of weeping. But in Christ, God does give us final assurance. The night will end. Morning will come. Joy will be the final note.

 

Sing with Your Whole Body


Let’s finish, then, with Psalm 30:11-12 (ESV) 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!”

God turns mourning into dancing, David says, “that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.”

What does my glory mean? Literally, it is poetic for the whole being “that my whole being may sing your praise and not be silent.” In other words, now, on the other side of the pit, David’s praise has been enhanced. He is not just praising with his mouth, but with his whole being. And what did verse 11 mentions? Dancing. He doesn’t just say you turned my mourning into joy, or my mourning into singing. He says dancing. This is whole-being joy. In other words, the whole person matters for praising God. The mind matters, and the heart matters. The voice matters. Singing matters. Dancing matters. The whole self-matters. Not what you want to hear as a conservative.

 

Remember David’s argument in verse 9 for not dying was that his voice would not be able to praise. And now his climactic declaration is that he will praise God with all his glory, with his whole being: his heart and voice and whole body. He will dance to praise God with his whole being. Which, interestingly enough, is what it means to “image” God in the world: not just to think about Him and love him and praise and thank him inwardly and invisibly, but to speak, to tell, to praise, to extol, and to dance, clothed with good works, to project him into the world for others to see and hear the joy we have in him.

 

This now brings us to the communion table, where there is Joy at the Table.


There is Joy at the Table


For David, the bringing up of his soul from Sheol, from the pit, was figurative. He was as good as dead. He despaired of life itself. He thought he was a goner. And God brought him up from a near-death experience.

 

But for David’s greater Son, Jesus Christ, it was literally true. He died on the cross. His body and soul were torn apart, and his human soul went all the way to the pit. For Friday evening, and all-day Saturday, and into Sunday morning, his spirit waited in the pit. And then God drew him up, and spoiled the joy of his enemies, and brought him up all the way, not just from the brink of death, but from death itself. Because God hid his face on Friday, Joy came with Easter Sunday morning. And because of Jesus, we experience joy — not wrath — as our final note. Clothed with gladness. And so, we are, as we are conformed or transformed to his image as we see in my daily devotions.

 

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church:- 1 August 2021