I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. O LORD, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit.
Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed. To you, O LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy: “What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness? Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help.”
You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.
Tradition holds that King David wrote this psalm for use in dedicating the Temple, and in fact it’s chanted even today during the Feast of Hanukkah, commemorating the Temple’s re-dedication after being cleansed from its desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes in 168BC. Commentators believe that David was speaking both to and for Israel, and that his use of the first person is meant to symbolize Israel crying out to God.
If so, then this psalm is particularly meaningful when viewed in the context of the Maccabean Revolt. Israel was as good as dead, and Syrian idolatry had become so pervasive that a statue of Zeus was actually erected in the Holy place. God’s Holy Temple was being converted into a pagan worship center! But the Lord heard the cry of one man’s heart and multiplied it into a mighty rebellion. The enemy that had overpowered and oppressed them was expelled, and the desecrated Temple was cleansed and re-dedicated. He turned their wailing into dancing, their sackcloth into joy.
That which was external, physical, and national in the Old Testament becomes internal, spiritual and personal in the New. “You are the Temple of the Holy Spirit,” Paul exclaimed.(1 Cor. 6:19) And today when the secularism and neo paganism of our society begins to pollute the sanctity of our lives, we too can cry out to God, “What gain is there in my destruction? Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help!” And just as He did for the Israelites, He will do for us. Our enemy will be expelled, and our desecrated Temple cleansed, for if we confess our sins He is just and faithful and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) Then will our wailing be turned to dancing and our sackcloth to joy! Our hearts will sing to Him and we’ll give thanks forever!