(H) A psalm. A song for the dedication of the house. Of David. (1) I will extol you, Yahweh, for you have lifted me up and have not let my enemies rejoice over me. (2) Yahweh, my God, I cried to you for help, and you healed me. (3) Yahweh, you brought my soul up from Sheol and have kept me alive that I should not descend into the pit. (4) Sing praise to Yahweh, you his godly ones. Give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness, (5) for his anger (is) only for a moment, but his favor (lasts) for a lifetime. Weeping may remain for a night, but joy (comes) in the morning.
The occasion for this psalm’s composition, “the dedication of the house,” is not linked to a specific historic event. While David may have intended it for use in the festivities when he brought the Ark to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6), it could also have been written in anticipation of the time when Solomon would dedicate the great temple which he would later build (1 Kings 8).
Apart from the mention of Yahweh’s name four times in these five verses, no other word repetitions are found. However, in the opening three verses, the psalmist uses three words that mean “lift up” and another that means “bring down” (vss. 1-3). David begins the psalm by extolling or “lifting up” Yahweh in praise for having “lifted him up” in spite of the threats of his enemies (vs. 1). David acknowledges that Yahweh has “brought up his soul from Sheol,” the dwelling place of the dead, and has kept him alive, not allowing him to “descend into the pit” in death (vs. 3).
The last verse contains two juxtapositions. First, Yahweh’s “anger” is contrasted with his “favor.” Then “weeping” stands in opposition to “joy,” our two responses first to his anger and then to his favor (vs. 5). Note the difference in duration. Both “anger” and “weeping” are portrayed as temporary while “favor” and “joy” last for a lifetime.
I. David lifting up praise to Yahweh for his many blessings (1-3)
II. David calling on all who know Yahweh to praise him (4 & 5)
We who have been lifted up from the depths by God’s grace owe him our grateful praise.
Consider David’s statement, “(You) have kept me alive that I should not descend into the pit” (vs. 3). Later in the psalm, he will use a similar expression, “What profit…if I go down to the pit?” (vs. 9). The pit in Old Testament times referred to a cistern dug in the ground, usually for water storage, which could also be used to imprison enemies or criminals. Joseph was thrown into a cistern (pit) by his brothers before being sold into slavery in Egypt (Gen. 37). Jeremiah was punished by being thrown into a cistern (pit) by the servants of King Zedekiah after having prophesied against the monarch (Jer. 38). Pit could also be used to refer to a grave where dead bodies were interred.
“The pits” is a phrase that has come to mean an extremely unpleasant, depressing place as in Erma Bombeck’s clever book title, If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? The use of this phrase possibly derives from the British coal industry. There the pits referred to the mines, those dark, dangerous, and often fatal places where miners were compelled to earn a living by digging for coal far underground. Some who struggle with bouts of depression sometimes refer to their experience as the pits, meaning the sense of dark hopelessness that has overwhelmed them.
Being in the pits for the believer is a dismal place where we feel far from God and isolated from those who could encourage us. Whether physical or psychological, the pits represent a place which we intensely want to avoid and from which we desperately want to escape. David knew from personal experience how this felt. He also knew that avoiding or escaping the pits was possible by trusting in God to lift him up. What a blessing to know that we can call on Yahweh to deliver us when we desperately need his help!