“Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord, hear my voice.”
Observe: Psalm 130 is a penitential psalm. The psalmist has sinned, and is now overwhelmed with guilt like someone drowning: “Out of the depths I cry to you.” The plea from the heart is for God to hear the cry for mercy. This is an act of faith, that God really is merciful.
The psalmist knows that if God wrote down every sin, no one could stand. But God is forgiving, and once forgiven, we can stand and serve once more.
“I wait for the Lord, more than watchmen for the morning.” The lonely sentinel in the dark hours before dawn is a powerful picture of patient waiting for God. The psalmist knows that God will redeem, but this can not be hurried, not can we rush to “fix” it, so one must wait.
The last stanza (7-8) is a final call to the congregation to trust the Lord to be merciful. God will redeem Israel from all their sins. So, this is more than a personal and private prayer; it is also a word to others to do as the psalmist does: cry out to the Lord, and wait for God’s redemption. We move from private confession of sin to corporate confession and redemption.
Interpret: I recently did something wrong. I felt guilt and shame. But because I have faith that God forgives, I asked to be forgiven. I also know, partly from experience, that my efforts to “fix” or deny what I did wrong are vain, and only make matters worse. Faith, and experience, teach me that honestly talking to God and patiently waiting on God are the way to go. My part is to trust that God really does forgive when we confess real sin. God saves us.
All this is true of personal sin, but it is equally true of corporate sin. Israel knew this from centuries of bitter experience. Their long rebellion against God’s covenant finally resulted in their exile from Israel itself. Not just the 70 years of exile but the long years of reconstruction after the return gave Israel’s prophets and sages much to ponder. Does God truly forgive? Yes. Must we be honest in our repentance? Yes. Is there a process for redemption, rather than a quick fix? Yes. Finally, do we need to be patient and wait for God to do his forgiving work? Absolutely yes.
Apply: Is God mean-spirited, penny-pinching, holding long grudges against us? Or, is God gracious and forgiving, ready to listen, embracing the penitent sinner, generous with love and mercy?
How we answer this will determine much of our attitude to God, and will also set our compass on how we should treat others who sin.
Which picture of God do we carry in our hearts? Our answer to this question makes a real difference in how we approach our own sins. If God truly forgives, then we will honestly confess, and wait for what God will do.
But if God is mean and grudging, in our private picture of the Lord, then we will hide our sins not only from God, but even from our inmost selves, let alone everyone else. That is not a road to joy and freedom, but the road to perdition.
Which God do we believe in? Do we believe in a God who forgives?
Pray: Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name, through Christ our Lord. Amen (Collect for Purity, Book of Common Prayer, p.67)
Song: “My Faith Looks Up To Thee”
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.