For his anger endures but a moment; in his favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)For his anger.—Literally,
“For a moment (is) in his anger,
Life in his favour;
In the evening comes to lodge weeping,
But at morning a shout of joy.”
Some supply comes to lodge with the last clause, but the image is complete and finer without. It is thoroughly Oriental. Sorrow is the wayfarer who comes to the tent for a night’s lodging, but the metaphor of his taking his leave in the morning is not carried on, and we have instead the sudden waking with a cry of joy, sudden as the Eastern dawn, without twilight or preparation. Never was faith in the Divine love more beautifully expressed. (Comp. Isaiah 54:7-8.)
THE TWO GUESTS
A word or two of exposition is necessary in order to bring out the force of this verse. There is an obvious antithesis in the first part of it, between ‘His anger’ and ‘His favour.’ Probably there is a similar antithesis between a ‘moment’ and ‘life.’ For, although the word rendered ‘life’ does not unusually mean a lifetime it may have that signification, and the evident intention of contrast seems to require it here. So, then, the meaning of the first part of my text is, ‘the anger lasts for a moment; the favour lasts for a lifetime.’ The perpetuity of the one, and the brevity of the other, are the Psalmist’s thought.
Then, if we pass to the second part of the text, you will observe that there is there also a double antithesis. ‘Weeping’ is set over against ‘joy’; the ‘night’ against the ‘morning.’ And the first of these two contrasts is the more striking if we observe that the word ‘joy’ means, literally, ‘a joyful shout,’ so that the voice which was lifted in weeping is conceived of as now being heard in exultant praise. Then, still further, the expression ‘may endure’ literally means ‘may come to lodge.’ So that Weeping and Joy are personified. Two guests come; one, dark-robed and approaching at the fitting season for such, ‘the night.’ The other bright, coming with all things fresh and sunny, in the dewy morn. The guest of the night is Weeping; the guest that takes its place in the morning is Gladness.
The two clauses, then, of my text suggest substantially the same thought, and that is the persistence of joy and the transitoriness of sorrow. The one speaks of the succession of emotions in the man; the other, of the successive aspects of the divine dealings which occasion these. The whole is a leaf out of the Psalmist’s own experience. The psalm commemorates his deliverance from some affliction, probably a sickness. That is long gone past; and the tears that it caused have long since dried up. But this shout of joy of his has lasted all these centuries, and is like to be immortal. Well for us if we can read our life’s story with the same cheery confidence as he did his, and have learned like him to discern what is the temporary and what the permanent element in our experience!
I. Note, first, the proportion of joy and sorrow in an ordinary life.
The Psalmist expresses, as I have said, the same idea in both clauses. In the former the ‘anger’ is contemplated not so much as an element in the divine mind, as in its manifestations in the divine dealings. I shall have a word or two, presently, to say about the Scriptural conception of the ‘anger’ of God and its relation to the ‘favour’ of God; but for the present I take the two clauses as being substantially equivalent.
Now is it true-is it not true?-that if a man rightly regards the proportionate duration of these two diverse elements in his life, he must come to the conclusion that the one is continuous and the other is but transitory? A thunderstorm is very short when measured against the long summer day in which it crashes; and very few days have them. It must be a bad climate where half the days are rainy. If we were to take the chart and prick out upon it the line of our sailing, we should find that the spaces in which the weather was tempestuous were brief and few indeed as compared with those in which it was sunny and calm.
But then, man looks before and after, and has the terrible gift that by anticipation and by memory he can prolong the sadness. The proportion of solid matter needed to colour the Irwell is very little in comparison with the whole of the stream. But the current carries it, and half an ounce will stain miles of the turbid stream. Memory and anticipation beat the metal thin, and make it cover an enormous space. And the misery is that, somehow, we have better memories for sad hours than for joyful ones, and it is easier to get accustomed to ‘blessings,’ as we call them, and to lose the poignancy of their sweetness because they become familiar, than it is to apply the same process to our sorrows, and thus to take the edge off them. The rose’s prickles are felt in the flesh longer than its fragrance lives in the nostrils, or its hue in the eye. Men have long memories for their pains as compared with their remembrance of their sorrows.
So it comes to be a piece of very homely, well-worn, and yet always needful, practical counsel to try not to magnify and prolong grief, nor to minimise and abbreviate gladness. We can make our lives, to our own thinking, very much what we will. We cannot directly regulate our emotions, but we can regulate them, because it is in our own power to determine which aspect of our life we shall by preference contemplate.
Here is a room, for instance, papered with a paper with a dark background and a light pattern on it. Well, you can manoeuvre your eye about so as either to look at the black background-and then it is all black, with only a little accidental white or gilt to relieve it here and there; or you can focus your eye on the white and gold, and then that is the main thing, and the other is background. We can choose, to a large extent, what we shall conceive our lives to be; and so we can very largely modify their real character.
‘There’s nothing either good or bad
But thinking makes it so.’
They who will can surround themselves with persistent gladness, and they who will can gather about them the thick folds of an everbrooding and enveloping sorrow. Courage, cheerfulness, thankfulness, buoyancy, resolution, are all closely connected with a sane estimate of the relative proportions of the bright and the dark in a human life.
II. And now consider, secondly, the inclusion of the ‘moment’ in the ‘life.’
I do not know that the Psalmist thought of that when he gave utterance to my text, but whether he did it or not, it is true that the ‘moment’ spent in ‘anger’ is a part of the ‘life’ that is spent in the ‘favour.’ Just as within the circle of a life lies each of its moments, the same principle of inclusion may be applied to the other contrast presented here. For as the ‘moment’ is a part of the ‘life,’ the ‘danger’ is a part of the love. The ‘favour’ holds the ‘anger’ within itself, for the true Scriptural idea of that terrible expression and terrible fact, the ‘wrath of God,’ is that it is the necessary aversion of a perfectly pure and holy love from that which does not correspond to itself. So, though sometimes the two may be set against each other, yet at bottom, and in reality, they are one, and the ‘anger’ is but a mode in which the ‘favour’ manifests itself. God’s love is plastic, and if thrown back upon itself, grieved and wounded and rejected, becomes the ‘anger’ which ignorant men sometimes seem to think it contradicts. There is no more antagonism between these two ideas when they are applied to God than when they are applied to you parents in your relations to a disobedient child. You know, and it knows, that if there were no love there would be little ‘anger.’ Neither of you suppose that an irate parent is an unloving parent. ‘If ye, being evil, know how,’ in dealing with your children, to blend wrath and love, ‘how much more shall your Father which is in heaven’ be one and the same Father when His love manifests itself in chastisement and when it expands itself in blessings!
Thus we come to the truth which breathes uniformity and simplicity through all the various methods of the divine hand, that howsoever He changes and reverses His dealings with us, they are one and the same. You may get two diametrically opposite motions out of the same machine. The same power will send one wheel revolving from right to left, and another from left to right, but they are co-operant to grind out at the far end the one product. It is the same revolution of the earth that brings blessed lengthening days and growing summer, and that cuts short the sun’s course and brings declining days and increasing cold. It is the same motion which hurls a comet close to the burning sun, and sends it wandering away out into fields of astronomical space, beyond the ken of telescope, and almost beyond the reach of thought. And so one uniform divine purpose, the ‘favour’ which uses the ‘anger,’ fills the life, and there are no interruptions, howsoever brief, to the steady continuous flow of His outpoured blessings. All is love and favour. Anger is masked love, and sorrow has the same source and mission as joy. It takes all sorts of weathers to make a year, and all tend to the same issue, of ripened harvests and full barns. O brethren! if we understand that God means something better for us than happiness, even likeness to Himself, we should understand better how our deepest sorrows and bitterest tears, and the wounds that penetrate deepest into our bleeding hearts, all come from the same motive, and are directed to the same end as their most joyful contraries. One thing the Lord desires, that we may be partakers of His holiness, and so we may venture to give an even deeper meaning to the Psalmist’s words than he intended, and recognise that the ‘moment’ is an integral part of the ‘life,’ and the ‘anger’ a mode of the manifestation of the ‘favour.’
III. Lastly, notice the conversion of the sorrow into joy.
I have already explained the picturesque image of the last part of my text, which demands a little further consideration. There are two figures presented before us, one dark robed and one bright garmented. The one is the guest of the night, the other is the guest of the morning. The verb which occurs in the first clause of the second half of my text is not repeated in the second, and so the words may be taken in two ways. They may either express how Joy, the morning guest, comes, and turns out the evening visitant, or they may suggest how we took Sorrow in when the night fell, to sit by the fireside, but when morning dawned-who is this, sitting in her place, smiling as we look at her? It is Sorrow transfigured, and her name is changed into Joy. Either the substitution or the transformation may be supposed to be in the Psalmist’s mind.
Both are true. No human heart, however wounded, continues always to bleed. Some gracious vegetation creeps over the wildest ruin. The roughest edges are smoothed by time. Vitality asserts itself; other interests have a right to be entertained and are entertained. The recuperative powers come into play, and the pang departs and poignancy is softened. The cutting edge gets blunt on even poisoned spears by the gracious influences of time. The nightly guest, Sorrow, slips away, and ere we know, another sits in her place. Some of us try to fight against that merciful process and seem to think that it is a merit to continue, by half artificial means, the first moment of pain, and that it is treason to some dear remembrances to let life have its way, and to-day have its rights. That is to set ourselves against the dealings of God, and to refuse to forgive Him for what His love has done for us.
But the other thought seems to me to be even more beautiful, and probably to be what was in the Psalmist’s mind-viz. the transformation of the evil, Sorrow itself, into the radiant form of Joy. A prince in rags comes to a poor man’s hovel, is hospitably received in the darkness, and being received and welcomed, in the morning slips off his rags and appears as he is. Sorrow is Joy disguised.
If it be accepted, if the will submit, if the heart let itself be untwined, that its tendrils may be coiled closer round the heart of God, then the transformation is sure to come, and joy will dawn on those who have done rightly-that is, submissively and thankfully-by their sorrows. It will not be a joy like what the world calls joy-loud-voiced, boisterous, ringing with idiot laughter; but it will be pure, and deep, and sacred, and permanent. A white lily is fairer than a flaunting peony, and the joy into which sorrow accepted turns is pure and refining and good.
So, brethren! remember that the richest vintages are grown on the rough slopes of the volcano, and lovely flowers blow at the glacier’s edge; and all our troubles, big and little, may be converted into gladnesses if we accept them as God meant them. Only they must be so accepted if they are to be thus changed.
But there may be some hearts recoiling from much that I have said in this sermon, and thinking to themselves, ‘Ah! there are two kinds of sorrows. There are those that can be cured, and there are those that cannot. What have you got to say to me who have to bleed from an immedicable wound till the end of my life?’ Well, I have to say this-look beyond earth’s dim dawns to that morning when ‘the Sun of Righteousness shall arise, to them that love His name, with healing in His wings.’ If we have to carry a load on an aching back till the end, be sure that when the night, which is far spent, is over, and the day which is at hand hath broken, every raindrop will be turned into a flashing rainbow when it is smitten by the level light, and every sorrow rightly borne be represented by a special and particular joy.
Only, brother! if a life is to be spent in His favour, it must be spent in His fear. And if our cares and troubles and sorrows and losses are to be transfigured hereafter, then we must keep very near Jesus Christ, who has promised to us that His joy will remain with us, and that our sorrows shall be turned into joys. If we trust to Him, the voices that have been raised in weeping will be heard in gladness, and earth’s minor will be transposed by the great Master of the music into the key of Heaven’s jubilant praise. If only ‘we look not at the things seen, but at the things which are not seen,’ then ‘our light affliction, which is but for a moment, will work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory’; and the weight will be no burden, but will bear up those who are privileged to bear it.Psalm 30:5. His anger endureth for a moment, &c. — Hebrew, רגע באפו חיים ברצונו, regang beappo, chaiim birzono, a moment in his anger; lives in his favour. The duration of his anger is but short; comparatively, but for a moment, but the effects of his favour substantial and durable. Commonly the afflictions which he sends on his people are of short continuance; and last but a small part of their lives: but he heaps his favours upon them for the greatest part of their present lives, and in the next life which endures for ever; of which the Chaldee paraphrast expounds this passage. And, indeed, without the consideration of eternal life, the difference between the duration of the afflictions and of the prosperous and comfortable condition of God’s people, is neither so evident nor so considerable as David here represents it. Weeping may endure for a night — Hebrew, In the evening weeping will lodge with us. Its stay will be short, like that of a guest who only lodges with us for a night: but joy cometh in the morning — לבקר רנה, laboker rinnah, for the morning there is singing: joy comes speedily, and in due season. Thus the Lord says to his church by his prophet, For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee: In a little wrath I hid myself from thee, for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, Isaiah 54:7-8. If weeping continue for a night, and it be a wearisome night; yet, as sure as the light of the morning returns, after the darkness of the night, so sure will joy and comfort return in a short time, and in due time, to the people of God; for the covenant of grace is as firm as the covenant of the day. This word has often been exactly fulfilled to us: the grievance has soon vanished, and the grief has passed away. The tokens of his displeasure have been removed; he has lifted up the light of his countenance upon us, and the return of his favour has been as life from the dead. In this sense also, in his favour is life; it is the life, or lives of the soul, spiritual life here and eternal life hereafter. These poetical descriptions of the shortness of God’s anger, and the permanent effects of his favour, are further illustrated in the following verses by the psalmist’s own example.
In his favor is life - It is his nature to impart life. He spares life; He will give eternal life. It is, in other words, not His nature to inflict death; death is to be traced to something else. Death is not pleasing or gratifying to Him; it is pleasing and gratifying to Him to confer life. His favor secures life; death is an evidence of His displeasure - that is, death is caused by sin leading to His displeasure. If a man has the favor of God, he is sure of life; if not life in this world, yet life in the world to come.
Weeping may endure for a night - Margin: "in the evening." So the Hebrew. The word here rendered "endure" means properly "to lodge, to sojourn," as one does for a little time. The idea is, that weeping is like a stranger - a wayfaring person - who lodges for a night only. In other words, sorrow will soon pass away to be succeeded by joy.
But joy cometh in the morning - Margin: "singing." The margin expresses the force of the original word. There will be singing, shouting, exultation. That is, if we have the friendship of God, sorrow will always be temporary, and will always be followed by joy. The morning will come; a morning without clouds; a morning when the sources of sorrow will disappear. This often occurs in the present life; it will always occur to the righteous in the life to come. The sorrows of this life are but for a moment, and they will be succeeded by the light and the joy of heaven. Then, if not before, all the sorrows of the present life, however long they may appear to be, will seem to have been but for a moment; weeping, though it may have made life here but one unbroken night, will be followed by one eternal day without a sigh or a tear.His anger endureth but a moment; commonly the afflictions which he sends upon his people are short, and last but for a few moments of their lives.
In his favour is life; or, life, i.e. our whole life, is in his favour, i.e. he heapeth his favours upon them, for the greatest part of their present lives, and in the next life, which endures for ever; of which the Chaldee paraphrast expounds this place. And indeed without the consideration of eternal life, the difference between the duration of the afflictions and of the happiness of God’s people, were neither so evident nor considerable as David here makes it.
Life is oft put for a long and happy time, as Psalm 34:12 133:3 Proverbs 3:2; and for an eternal and immortal duration, 2 Timothy 1:10 Jam 1:12. And in civil affairs estates for life are opposed to those that are but for a short time.
Joy cometh in the morning, i.e. it comes speedily and in due season. Isaiah 54:7;
in his favour is life; by which is meant his free love and favour in Christ towards his people; and designs either the duration of it, that it lives and always is, even when he seems to be angry, and that it lasts as long as life does, yea, to all eternity; neither death nor life can separate from it; or the object of it, God delighting not in the death but the life of a sinner; or rather the effects of it, it is what makes the present life to be properly life, and really comfortable; without it men may be said rather to be dead than to live, notwithstanding all enjoyments; and therefore it is better than life, abstracted from it, Psalm 63:3; it quickens the soul in a spiritual sense, and makes grace lively; it invigorates faith, encourages hope, and makes love to abound, and it issues in eternal life;
weeping may endure for a night; the allusion is to the time when afflictions are usually most heavy and pressing upon persons, when they most feel them, or, however, are free from diversion, and at leisure to bemoan themselves; and may point at the season of weeping, and cause of it, the night of affliction, or of darkness and desertion, and denotes the short continuance of it; weeping is here represented as a person, and as a lodger, for the word may be rendered "lodge" (p); but then it is as a wayfaring man, who continues but for a night; see Isaiah 17:14;
but joy cometh in the morning; alluding to the time when all nature is fresh and gay, when man rises cheerful from his rest, darkness removes, light breaks forth, and the sun rises and sheds its beams, and everything looks pleasant and delightful; moreover, the mercies of God are new every morning, which cause joy, and call for thankfulness; and especially it is a time of joy after weeping and darkness, when the sun of righteousness arises with healing in his wings; as it will be to perfection in the resurrection morn, when the dead in Christ will rise first, and be like to him, and reign with him for evermore.For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)5. Literally, For a moment in his anger;
life in his favour:
which is generally explained to mean, as in R.V. marg.,
For his anger is but for a moment;
His favour is for a life-time:
on the ground that the parallelism requires the contrast between a lifetime and a moment. But this is a maimed and inadequate explanation. The parallelism is (as is often the case) incomplete; life is not the antithesis to a moment but to the adversity which comes in Jehovah’s anger. If the thought of the lines were expanded it would be:
For in his anger is adversity for a moment;
In his favour is life for length of days.
The A.V. may therefore be retained as a tolerable paraphrase. Life carries with it the ideas of light and joy and prosperity. Cp. Psalm 16:11; Psalm 21:4; Psalm 36:9.
weeping &c.] Literally;
Weeping may come in to lodge at even,
But in the morning there is singing.
Sorrow is but the passing wayfarer, who only tarries for the night; with dawn it is transfigured into joy, or joy comes to takes its place. Note the natural and suggestive contrast between the dark night of trouble and the bright morn of rejoicing. Cp. Psalm 49:14; Psalm 90:14; Psalm 143:8; and for the truth expressed by the whole verse, which is a commentary on Exodus 34:6-7, see Psalm 103:8 ff.; Isaiah 54:7-8; Micah 7:18; John 16:20; and indeed the whole of the O.T. and N.T.Verse 5. - For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life; literally, for a moment (is passed) in his anger, a lifetime in his favour. God s anger is short-lived in the case of those who, having sinned, repent, and confess their sin, and pray for mercy (see vers. 8-10). His favour, on the contrary, is enduring; it continues all their life. Weeping may endure for a night; rather, at eventide weeping comes to lodge, or to pass the night; but joy cometh in the morning; or, but at morn joy arriveth (comp. Job 33:26; Isaiah 26:20; Isaiah 54:7). Psalm 122:5, cf. Psalm 9:8 - just as much as with the context; for the poet has not thus far expressly referred to the torrents of rain, in which the storm empties itself. Engelhardt also (Lutherische Zeitschrift, 1861, 216f.), Kurtz (Bibel und Astronomie, S. 568, Aufl. 4), Riehm (Liter. - Blatt of the Allgem. Kirchen-Zeit., 1864, S. 110), and others understand by מבול the quasi-flood of the torrent of rain accompanying the lightning and thunder. But the word is not למבול, but למּבול, and המּבּוּל (Syr. momûl) occurs exclusively in Genesis 6-11 as the name of the great Flood. Every tempest, however, calls to mind this judgment and its merciful issue, for it comes before us in sacred history as the first appearance of rain with lightning and thunder, and of the bow in the clouds speaking its message of peace (Genesis, S. 276). The retrospective reference to this event is also still further confirmed by the aorist ויּשׁב which follows the perfect ישׁב (Hofmann, Schriftbeweis i. 208). Jahve - says the poet - sat (upon His throne) at the Flood (to execute it), and sits (enthroned) in consequence thereof, or since that time, as this present revelation of Him in the tempest shows, as King for ever, inasmuch as He rules down here upon earth from His throne in the heavens (Psalm 115:16) in wrath and in mercy, judging and dispensing blessing. Here upon earth He has a people, whom from above He endows with a share of His own might and blesses with peace, while the tempests of His wrath burst over their foes. How expressive is בּשּׁלום as the closing word of this particular Psalm! It spans the Psalm like a rain-bow. The opening of the Psalm shows us the heavens opened and the throne of God in the midst of the angelic songs of praise, and the close of the Psalm shows us, on earth, His people victorious and blessed with peace (בּ as in Genesis 24:1
(Note: The Holy One, blessed be He-says the Mishna, Uksin iii. 12, with reference to this passage in the Psalms-has not found any other vessel (כלי) to hold the blessing specially allotted to Israel but peace.))
in the midst of Jahve's voice of anger, which shakes all things. Gloria in excelsis is its beginning, and pax in terris its conclusion.
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