1 A song of ascents.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; 2 O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
3 If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.
5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. 6 My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
7 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. 8 He himself will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
Psalm 130 – Praying from the depths
(Verses 1-2) This song of ascent does not mention Jerusalem, Zion, the temple, or any of Israel’s foes. It concentrates on two very different persons. One is the LORD and the other is the psalmist. It ends by addressing Israel because the result of serious (even if short) ‘one-on-ones’ with God always spills over to the blessing of others. The psalmist is so honest with his Lord: that always guarantees blessing.
He cries to God ‘out of the depths.’ He seems to speak audibly as he prays—that is not a ‘must do’ but sometimes it helps to focus our prayers when we are alone with God. He submissively asks God to ‘hear his voice,’ and to listen attentively. We need never to ask the LORD to do that, but He is always pleased to hear and see that the person praying is in earnest. What are the ‘depths’ from which the psalmist prays? We will see in verses 3 and 4, but the key here is that he is crying out for ‘mercy.’ Probably the most commended prayer in the New Testament is that of the despised tax collector in Luke 18:13. He ‘stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”’ Jesus said God heard his humble prayer but rejected the proud pretence at praying by the religious hypocritical Pharisee.
(Verses 3-4) Only a sinner needs to pray for God’s mercy. We are all sinners and need to come and pray for mercy. The psalmist clearly feels the burden of his sins. God the Holy Spirit is at work in him to convict him of guilt. One hymn says, ‘Quicken my conscience till it feels the loathsomeness of sin.’ We need to feel our sins and confess and turn from them. There is ‘bad news’ and ‘good news’ for us. The ‘bad news’ is I am so sinful that I cannot ‘stand’ before a holy God, who keeps ‘a record of sins.’ That is why He can judge fairly. I am lost and condemned eternally because of my sins. But the ‘good news’ is that God is gracious. He forgives all who confess their sins to Him, repent of them, and come to God to be forgiven and restored. How can He do that? Because Jesus has borne our sins and taken God’s wrathful punishment for them on the cross. His perfect righteousness is counted as ours when we trust in Jesus to forgive us. ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ (1John 1:9). When we are forgiven through faith in Christ, we begin to fear God with love and reverence. Psalm 111:10 and Proverbs 9:10 both say, ‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.’
(Verses 5-6) A man on watch during the night, like a city watchman or a shepherd, watches until light breaks. The soul of the psalmist waits on God for mercy, like that. He knows it will come. But meanwhile he confidently puts his hope in God’s word.
(Verses 7-8) The psalmist urges Israel to hope in God, too. God’s love never fails. He fully redeems from ‘all their sins’ all who trust in Him and will do so for Israel. Do you trust in Jesus as your Redeemer?