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Psalm 30

Joy in the morning 

A David psalm. A song for the dedication of the temple.

I exalt you, Yahveh
for you raised me up
refusing to let my enemies
gloat over my demise.
2 Yahveh my God,
I cried out to you for help
and you restored me to life.
3 You snatched me out of the grave, Yahveh
stopped my free fall into the pit in mid-air!

4 Sing to Yahveh
all you who are loyal to his covenant!
Give thanks at every mention
of his holy name.
5 For his anger lasts but a moment
his grace and favor a lifetime.
Weeping may stay the night
but in the morning—joy! 

6 Once when everything was going my way
I crowed, “Nothing can stop me now!
God’s blessing has made me
as unassailable as a mountain!”
7 But then you hid your face from me
and I was panic-stricken.
8 I cried out to you, Yahveh.
I begged the Lord for mercy:
9 “What will you gain from my death?
How will my departure
from this life benefit you?
Will my decomposing body
praise you for your faithful care?
And even if it did
how convincing would that be?
10 Hear me, Yahveh!
Be gracious to me!
Help me, Yahveh!”

11 You turned my mourning into dancing!
You took my sackcloth off me
and dressed me in pure joy!
12 So now I can’t help but praise you—
can’t keep quiet.
Yahveh, my God
I will give you thanks forever!

We live our lives with God not as spectator in the audience, but rather playing opposite us in every scene we’re in. We’re dependent on him, as the play’s director and lead actor, such that his every smile is joy, his frown distress.

David introduces us to one act in his play before giving particulars, including some of his lines, in verses 6-10. We don’t know his specific context, only that he’d become overconfident, presumptuous. Imagine young David beaming in Saul’s court—everyone’s hero, or so he thought—only later to flee madly from jealous Saul. By turning away from David, God instantly reoriented him, reminding him of who needed whom.

The little guy desperate for the big guy’s help often becomes servile, fawning. But God doesn’t want that from us, and David doesn’t give it. Verse 9 offers a perfect example of the sort of honesty God wants, as David weaves a little black humor into his cry for pity—asking God what possible good he’ll be to him dead.[a]

God’s sudden rescue leads to ecstatic joy, exuberant dancing, grateful praise and this rock-solid truth: God’s anger doesn’t define him. It’s only temporary, long outlasted by his favor. Weeping may stay overnight, but in the morning—joy!

I so soon forget my utter need of you, God. You smile on me, and I think I’m the star of the show. Thank you for revealing myself to me in your occasional withdrawal. Keep me humbly trusting that your anger always gives way to grace, that after weeping comes the joy-filled dawn. Amen.


[a] Brueggemann and Bellinger (2014) 151.

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.