Verse 18 tells us the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. It’s important that we recognize how rare this claim is among world religions, both historical and contemporary. Our God cares for the broken. He cares for the oppressed. He cares for the abused. He cares for the impoverished. He cares! This is such a gift to each of us whom he cares for, and sets us on a path to embody his love to a crushed and brokenhearted world.
I wonder what examples a psalmist would use for our epitomes of power today that we look to to deliver us… No businessman is saved by the size of his portfolio; no politician escapes by his great following. Possessions and wealth are vain hopes for deliverance, despite all their momentary comfort, they cannot save. Just as kings, physical strength, and horses were not sinful in the ancient world, I’m not saying portfolios, politics, and possessions are sinful today. But am I saying that we look to these things to deliver us. They are the things we spend most of our worry, anxiety, and stress on.
For the most part, I grew up in church being taught that people in the Old Testament (old covenant) were saved by works and people in the New Testament (once Jesus died and rose–the new covenant) were saved by grace. Psalm 32 shows us that that just isn’t true. People in the Old Testament were also very much saved by grace. The psalmist describes a very Jesus-like salvation here where he talks about his sins being covered and forgiven, the Lord not counting his sins against him, and the act of confessing sin and being forgiven, with guilt being taken away. I could include numerous New Testament verses to each of those phrases. My point here isn’t to get us going down a theological wormhole, which we certainly could do, with some legitimate questions around the old covenant and around Jesus. My point is to stay with the point of the psalm, and that is to bask in the freedom of being forgiven!
It’s so helpful for me to hear the psalmist describe the simultaneous reality of his darkness and his refuge. In modern Christianity, it can often feel like results are supposed to come instantaneously when we cry out to God for help. That we are in the darkness, we pray that God would take the darkness away, and the darkness is gone! But time and time again, that is not the pattern we see in the Psalms. Yes, the psalmist is praying that God will take away the darkness, but the right now prayer is that God will be his refuge, shelter, and fortress in the midst of the darkness. This is something I can hold on to. This is something that actually gives my soul peace as I deal with my own seasons of darkness.
What stands out to me in Psalm 30 is that it is all in the past tense. The psalmist is looking back at his past and remembering what God has done. I need to do this so much more than I do. We are a “What have you done for me lately?” culture. If your team wins the Super Bowl, but has a losing season the next year, the coach will get fired. We are fickle with our sports teams. We microwave our food. We make instant coffee. We have on demand television and movies. And we demand the newest and the best in everything we buy. When the butterflies leave a marriage, we decide it’s time to move on. It’s no surprise that we do the same thing with God when things turn south.
There was a sense of humility and worship around all of it. A sense of awe of God’s raw power. His power to bring up life from the dirt, create the balance of life that I participate in, and the fear and awe of being exposed to the elements in all of their beauty, grandeur, and terror.