Psalm 30 – You Have Turned My Mourning into Dancing


Psalm 30


The psalmist thanks God for help and healing when he or she was at the brink of death.


This is one of the songs of thanksgiving in which the pray-er rejoices and gives thanks for having been delivered by God out of distress. These psalms are the other side of the coin of the laments, reporting God’s gracious response to the petitions in time of need. They may have been sung to accompany a thanksgiving sacrifice made at the temple. However, the present heading of Psalm 30 relates a different setting: “A Song at the dedication of the temple.” Since the word for “dedication” is Hanukkah, the psalm, once about individual healing, was apparently picked up to rejoice in victory over the Greeks and the cleansing of the temple at the time of the Maccabean revolt in the second century B.C.E.

The psalm begins with a brief summary of the time of distress, the prayer at that time, and the experience of God’s help (vv. 1-3). Apparently the poet had been near death, but has now been restored to health.

The singer invites the community to join his or her praise (vv. 4-5). For Israel, the delivery of one was the delivery of all. This particular renewal becomes a sign of God’s gracious favor, which gives rise to the praise of all.

This song is unique in remembering the pray-er’s earlier self-satisfaction (vv. 6-7). In saying, “I shall never be moved,” this poet is identified with the pride of the wicked (10:5-6), those who seem to prosper despite their arrogance and oppression. But God will not let this one alone. Strangely, distress and illness become a time for reassessment of life and return to God (vv. 8-10). The psalm here is descriptive; the poet reports that the time of trouble turned out to be a gift through which he or she found renewal. Neither then nor now should one turn this into a principle that sees all trouble caused by God for our good. Maybe (as was the case for this pray-er); maybe not (as the poet laments in Psalm 88).

Now, with God’s intervention, the poet who once thought all was well because of material prosperity discovers what it means to be truly well (vv. 11-12). This is true joy, the experience of full life in the presence of God. Characteristically for psalms of this type, the singer cannot be silent. He or she gives thanks, telling what God has done. Praise becomes witness, and these psalms function as testimony to the goodness of God (see also Psalm 40:3).