Today I turned to Psalm 30, having experienced joy and refreshment this morning. Boice gives us some excellent contextual information, as well as a wonderful practical illustration. As I discussed with a good friend last night, often I struggle with the faith he mentions, and I pray that I can not just mentally assent to God’s promises but fully trust in them and allow them to change my life. May that God gives me the faith to answer as Ironside’s father when my time of testing comes:
weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
By itself, this passage could mean, merely, “into each life a little rain must fall” or “every cloud has a silver lining” or “you’ve got to take the bad with the good” or “cheer up, things will get better.” But, of course, that is not the idea at all. It is true that there are good and bad things in life and that we do not always have to see a specific judgment or blessing of God in each one. But what David is talking about is God’s disfavor versus his favor, expressed in the experiences of life. His conviction is that the favor always outweighs the disfavor for God’s people.
The point is this. God is indeed displeased with sin and can never be indifferent to it. He judges sin with a holy anger, even in Christians. But for his people God’s judgments and anger are short-lived. They pass quickly. What remains is his favor, which lasts for our lifetimes and indeed forever.
We know that this was no mere theory for David, because there is an incident from his later life in which he put his convictions regarding this aspect of God’s character into practice. Second Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 tell how David decided to number the fighting men of Israel. He sent Joab and the other commanders throughout the kingdom to do it, despite their protest that it was a vain request and would displease God. The act did displease God, with the result that a man named Gad, David’s prophet at court, came to him with a choice of judgments. He could experience three years of famine, three months of being swept away before his enemies, or three days of plague in the land, with the angel of the Lord ravaging every part of the kingdom. David chose the latter because, he said, “Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men” (1 Chron. 21:13; cf. 2 Sam. 24:14).
David’s choice reflected the conviction we have seen in Psalm 30, and it proved to be a wise choice. The plague did fall on Israel, and seventy thousand men died the first day. But when the angel of death came to Jerusalem and was about to attack it, the Lord was grieved for the people and told the angel to withhold his hand and withdraw. So the plague was arrested.
The place the plague stopped was the threshing floor of Araunah, which David then bought and appointed appropriately to be the future site of the temple and of the altar of burnt offering where atonement for sin by sacrifice should thereafter be made.
I wrote that David is thinking of the character of God in our text and not merely of a balancing out of good and bad times with the weight being on the side of the good. He is thinking of God’s favor and disfavor. But it is also true, isn’t it, that God’s favor (forget his disfavor for a moment) also controls those otherwise simply good and bad experiences. We do experience hard times. They are part of life. But God is gracious in those things too, so that we generally experience far more of the good than the bad. Haven’t you found it to be so? Can’t you look back on your life as a Christian and confess that God has been very good to you, that he has kept the bad days to a minimum and multiplied the good? It is a rare Christian who cannot say that.
I acknowledge that some Christians do suffer a great deal, and sometimes their suffering is so intense that it seems longer than it truly is. What do we say of such circumstances? In the face of such suffering, we need to see our experiences not only in the light of this world but of eternity.
Harry Ironside tells that when his father was dying he was suffering a great deal. A friend visited him and, leaning over, said, “John, you are suffering terribly, aren’t you?”
The father did not deny it. “I am suffering more than I thought it was possible for anyone to suffer and still live,” he said. “But,” he added, “one sight of his blessed face will make up for it all.” That is the true Christian’s ultimate perspective. It is the faith that triumphs strongly over everything.
Boice, J. M. (2005). Psalms. Originally published: Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Books, c1994-c1998. (Pbk. ed.) (263). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.