Up, Down, Up
(6) As for me, in my prosperity, I said, “I will never be shaken.” (7) Yahweh, by your favor, you caused my mountain to stand strong. When you hid your face, I became dismayed. (8) To you, Yahweh, I call. The Lord (Adonai) I implore for mercy. (9) What profit (is there) in my blood if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it declare your faithfulness? (10) Hear, Yahweh, and show me favor. Yahweh, be my help. (11) You have turned my mourning into dancing. You have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, (12) in order that (my) glory may sing praise to you and not be silent. Yahweh, my God, I will give you thanks forever!
In the opening five verses of the psalm, David expressed his heartfelt thanks and praise to God for delivering him from almost certain death at the hand of his enemies. In the second half of the psalm, we find David wrestling with the possibility of falling back into the pit from which he had been delivered. We might trace his experience in this segment of the psalm this way: first praise for present well-being (vss. 6 & 7), then a plea for protection from potential disaster (vss. 8-10), and finally praise for deliverance from calamity (vss.11 & 12).
In Psalm 30 David presents us with two striking contrasts. In the first half of the psalm, he juxtaposed God’s anger with his favor and our weeping through the night with the joy that comes in the morning (vs. 5). In this second half of the psalm, the author uses two more contrasts, mourning vs. dancing and being clothed with the sackcloth of grieving vs. being clothed with the joy of triumph (vs. 11).
I. Praise to Yahweh for present prosperity (6 & 7)
II. Plea to Yahweh regarding potential adversity (8-10)
III. Praise to Yahweh for deliverance and delight (11 & 12)
Whether experiencing prosperity or adversity, we can rejoice knowing that Yahweh will deliver us and ultimately turn our sorrows into praise.
The concept of a “wheel of fortune” did not originate with the popular television game show. It is actually a very old cultural image, dating from before the ancient Roman Empire and referring to the capricious nature of fate. The wheel was said to belong to the mythical goddess, Fortuna, from whom we derive our English word, “fortune.” As her wheel turned, those who were riding high, enjoying success and prosperity, were eventually brought low while those who were riding low, in the midst of a siege of bad luck, could earnestly hope that someday things might get better. Geoffrey Chaucer, one of the earliest authors to write in the English vernacular, penned these lines: “And thus does Fortune’s wheel turn treacherously and, out of happiness, brings men to sorrow.”
For medieval authors the wheel of fortune served as a warning regarding the temporality of earthly prosperity and the inevitability of death. Inherent in this warning is the encouraging message that those who walk with God need never fear when their so-called run of good luck inevitably turns sour. Instead they learn to entrust themselves to the grace and goodness of a loving God whose sovereign purposes override the inevitable turnings of Fortuna’s wheel. By doing this they have, in essence, jumped off the wheel and into the arms of their heavenly Father.
Although life on earth will always have its ups and downs, its good times and bad, those who are God’s children need never fear reversals or downswings. They know that God is with them through times of prosperity as well as poverty and that he will eventually bring them through life’s ups and downs to the place of blessing. Keep in mind the comforting words of Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me...Surely goodness and steadfast love shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of Yahweh forever” (Ps. 23:4 & 6).