March 26, 2017
A note to readers: Today’s post is part of a Sunday Voice Series by Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, a close friend, mentor and colleague of mine. He serves as the President of Asbury Theological Seminary among other posts he holds across the global church. This Sunday Voice Series will cover the Psalms, beginning to end, by focusing on a Psalm each Sunday. I can’t tell you how excited I am for his interest in contributing here. This will be a huge blessing to us all.
Psalm 130 (NIV)
Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
If you, LORD, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
for with the LORD is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.
This is the 6th of the seven penitential psalms, and it is found right in the Psalms of Ascents. The focus in this psalm is upon the reality of sin. If the psalms are a means of grace for our reorientation towards God, then one helpful way to understand sin is as a disorientation from God. This is the basic natural condition of humanity—a broken relationship with God. As sinners, our life has been oriented away from God. But even in a redeemed state, we still sin. Sin is choosing to turn away from God, or choosing the absence of God, whether at one particular moment, or as a way of life. And since God is the source of all light and life, sin means that we are, at that moment, orientated toward darkness and (as this psalm says in verse 1) “in the depths.”
The reality of sin is also part of the pilgrimage journey, and the psalmist gives voice in the opening line to the agony of that condition: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD […]” It is a desperate cry using the covenantal, personal name for God: Yahweh. Even in the depths, we can cry to God, for He has invited us into relationship. This is not the cry of a sinner before an unknown and uncaring judge. This is the cry of a child who is confident of a parent’s love. He acknowledges that none can stand apart from mercy; but he is also confident in the great mercy and forgiveness of God’s covenant love (hesed), and that gives him confidence to wait…and to hope. Five times in verses 5 and 6, the psalmist speaks of waiting. He waits even “more than watchmen wait for the morning” (vs. 6).
He waits. Confident. Assured. Reoriented. And then, that personal assurance of hope overflows to a corporate assurance for all of God’s people: “O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins” (vs. 7,8). The psalmist knew by faith what Paul proclaims later in Romans 5:20-21: “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Out of the depths, we cry. And out of great mercy, God hears and redeems—and he reorients us in covenant love. (For more on the meaning of God’s hesed love, see Psalm 107).