“Pray Like a Sinner” – Psalm 30

THE TEXT:
The text for the sermon today is Psalm 30. These are the words of God:

A Psalm of David. A song at the dedication of the temple.

   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?
10    Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
O Lord, be my helper!”
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!

SUMMARY OF THE TEXT

There’s quite a bit happening in Psalm 30. It’s a thanksgiving for God’s mercy. David was sick and dying and God delivered him. (v. 1-3) It’s a Psalm of exhortation, calling the saints to sing. (v. 4) It’s a Psalm confessing sin (v. 6) And, if you look at the heading, it’s likely that Ezra repurposed this Psalm when they dedicated the second temple.

David extols the Lord because the Lord “drew him up.” (v. 1) David cried out and the Lord restored his physical health. (v. 2) We don’t know what kind of sickness he experienced, but David nearly died. (v. 3) And, whenever one of God’s children is delivered from a life-threatening illness, the proper response is for the saints to sing and give thanks. (v. 4) This illness was actually a minister of God’s discipline upon David, but thankfully it was only temporary. (v. 5) David had begun to live as if he was the reason for all his success. (v. 6) And, the moment he claimed to be self-sufficient, God hid his face, and David gets a rude awakening. (v. 7) As is proper, he confesses his sin and pleads for mercy. (v. 8) David mounts arguments. “God if I die, who’s going to praise you? Hear and be merciful.” (v. 9-10) The prayer ends with another round of gratitude and a promise: whatever glory I have, it will sing your praises. (v. 11-12)

DOES GOD SEND SICKNESS?

Does God send sickness? Of course, he does. (Ruth 1:21; Job 1:21) Why does he do it? Is he a monster; is he petty? No, the Bible is one long story of God using affliction to save and rescue his people.

Joseph’s brothers threw him into a pit and sold him as a slave. And through his afflictions, he became a ruler in Egypt and saved his entire family from starvation.

Jacob wrestled with the angel and his hip was put out of joint. But it was for his good because he saw God face to face.

“Who would not be willing to have a bone out of joint, so that he might have a sight of God?” – Watson

Paul was struck blind, but by that physical blindness, God opened Paul’s spiritual eyes so that he might behold the beauty of Jesus Christ.

At the center of the Bible is God taking the greatest evil ever committed—the killing of the Son of God and bringing the most good out of it—the redemption of God’s people and the renewal of all things in Christ.

BUT I DON’T LIKE THAT

This teaching, that God sends affliction into the lives of his children explodes several of our deepest assumptions:

First, in the age of modern medicine, we believe physical health is the norm. But we inhabit a fallen world of death and disease. (Gen. 3)

Second, our culture propagates the theological lie that what God wants most is for us to be happy and healthy. Rather, God purposes to redeem all creation through the death and crucifixion of his Son.

Third, we don’t understand what a Father is. Fathers love their children, therefore Fathers discipline their children. God loves us way too much to allow us to disobey him without consequence.

Fourth, we ought to pray less “gimme” prayers, and more “thank you for what I have” & “have mercy upon me for my sins” prayers. One of the great benefits of reading the Psalter is that it balances out our prayer life.

A SIN WORSE THAN SICKNESS

God’s affliction of David’s physical health was a preacher and a teacher to him.

   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.

The sickbed taught David more than a sermon ever could. It taught him what sin is. When you hear the Word of God preached, you hear what an awful thing sin is, but when the affliction of illness comes we feel the reality of the cursed world in our own body.

Now, mind you, I’m not saying you are to draw a straight line between the runny nose you have and the white lie you told last week. Rather, I’m saying that all sickness is the result of living in a sinfully fallen world, and when you are ill it is a reminder of how sick all of creation is; how desperately we need more than doctors and medicines. We need resurrection and redemption.

The only thing worse for David than dying would be to live eternally in the pride of self-sufficiency. If sinful pride separates us from God forever, then God’s temporary removal of health in order to wake us up is actually a mercy. If our love of this world outweighs our love of Christ and the world to come, then even disease and death, which steal this life from us, are actually a mercy because they force us to let go.

Watson again: “The barrels of God’s mercy are first seasoned with affliction, and then the wine of his glory can be poured in.” If the pains, snarls, sicknesses, and even death of this life make you long for Christ and the age to come then in that sense they have seasoned and prepared you to enjoy the wine of his eternal glory.

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