An Ecstatic Song of Gratitude

A man and woman gave a sizable contribution to the church to honor the memory of their son who lost his life in the war. When the announcement was made of the generous donation, a woman whispered to her husband, “lets give the same amount for our boy!” Her husband said, “What are you talking about? Our son wasn’t killed.” “That’s just the point,” she said. Let’s give it as an expression of our gratitude to God for sparing his life!”(James S. Hewett, ed., Illustrations Unlimited, p. 262).

Psalm 30 is a great work of religious poetry. In it the psalmist bursts into tears of gratitude to God for undeserved blessings received. He faced a serious crisis, very likely a terrible illness that brought him to the brink of death. He prayed for healing and “strange forces of life sprang up in (him).” He credits God with the “great deliverance that has occurred, an act of saving grace which was set in motion by (his) own sense of helplessness and need” (Walter Brueggeman, et.al., Text for Preaching….” Year B,p. 146). We see him in the company of the faithful at worship in the temple court; and he invites them to join him in praising God. He calls those around him to recognize the supreme importance of thanking God for God’s saving mercies. He also invites his colleagues in faith to see in his experience the realities of human life that truly matter. He is suggesting that the way God journeyed with him from life to near death and back to life again could very well be the story of their own lives, and we may add, of our lives as well.

In relation to time and space, we are removed from his remarkable experience. Still we can feel the tremendous power of his gratitude the springs from the depths of his being. His was not a casual “thank God” but a sincere, humble and joyous confession of faith in his all-caring and all-compassionate God. “I will extol thee, O Lord,” he says with a bold exclamation point, “for thou has lifted me up.” Without inhibition or embarrassment, he must have said, “I was sick and at the point of death; but now I am fully recovered. Not because I am a superman who owes my good health to nobody but myself, but because God healed me. My doctors gave up on me, but now, to their surprise, I am restored to full health. I was on the verge of a ‘masterful collapse,’ and almost numbered among those who had gone to life’s shadow of death, but God snatched me and brought me back to life.” For this psalmist, God willed that he should live a healthy life again. Why? So that, as he puts it, “I might extol him not only with my words but also with my deeds.”

The psalmist looks at his healed body and sees something more profound. For him, his fully restored health is a parable for his spiritual life. He suggests that physical healing is an outward and visible sign of a deeper and less visible but nonetheless real and significant healing of his spirit. For him, sickness is not only physical; it is also spiritual. He drives this point home clearly and forcefully in verses 6 and 7. Here, he makes a remarkable confession of false pride. He recalls a past incident in which everything in his life was comfortable and well. Everything was sweet and there was no reason for him to think that things would turn sour. He took for granted the prosperity that characterized his life. Moreover, he became arrogant, claiming that his good fortune was the fruit of his creative and unaided effort. “As for me, I said in my prosperity I shall never be moved.” He forgets that he owed to God whatever measure of good health and prosperity he enjoyed.

Everything was sweet and there was no reason for him to think that things would turn sour. He took for granted the prosperity that characterized his life. Moreover, he became arrogant, claiming that his good fortune was the fruit of his creative and unaided effort. “As for me, I said in my prosperity I shall never be moved.” He forgets that he owed to God whatever measure of good health and prosperity he enjoyed. (To be continued)