Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Nov 17 2019 - Psalm 130 – Out of the depths

Here is another of the pilgrim psalms of the people of God, and what a wonderful psalm it is. This was Martin Luther's favourite psalm. In it, he said, we find all of the elements of the gospel.

The reality of universal sinfulness and condemnation: The psalmist asks the question, "If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?" (v. 3). It's not a question intended for discussion but one asked with the implication that no one is able to stand. If God were to examine the record of our lives with his all-seeing eye and all-knowing discernment it would not take him long to discover that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". As I write these thoughts many teenagers are receiving their A level results. Some will be delighted with the results and some will be disappointed but I very much doubt that any will have scored 100% in all their papers. And this is true also of us; we have failed to get everything right. We may feel fairly pleased with our lives or we may be disappointed and ashamed but even the best of us is far from perfect – we could have done better. And in the eyes of a holy God, left to ourselves, all of us stand condemned.

The free and full nature of God's mercy and forgiveness: But the good news is that there is mercy and forgiveness with God – "with you there is forgiveness" (v. 4). The psalmist discovered this for himself. He cried out to God from the depths – from the dark and miserable awareness of his own sin and failings. He cried out for God to have mercy on him. In other words, he knew that he had nothing to plead in his own character; he deserved for God to leave him to suffer condemnation. But he pleads God's mercy – his undeserved favour or grace. And he discovered that there is forgiveness with God. God, as it were, wiped away the record of his sins and refused to treat him as his sins deserved. And now he urges all of God's people to put their hope in the Lord, "for with the Lord is unfailing love" (v. 7). You also, he is saying, can find grace, mercy and forgiveness with God. You also can discover that the Lord will be attentive to your cry and will forgive you and enable you to stand before him.

Redemption is God's work from first to last: The Lord himself will redeem his people (v. 8). This wonderful word conjures up all sorts of pictures. The Israelites would have thought of how the Lord had rescued them from slavery in Egypt many years before. He had redeemed them and made them his own – like slaves purchased from a cruel master that they might belong now to one who would love them and provide for them. This would especially have sprung to mind if the pilgrims singing this psalm were travelling to Jerusalem for the Passover. And it would have reminded them of the cost of their redemption. A lamb had been put to death in every Israelite house that night to protect them from the avenging wrath of God. The Israelites were rebels against God as much as the Egyptians but the lamb had died for them and they were freed from slavery and condemnation.

And God has redeemed us through the shed blood of his own Son – the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Redemption is the work of our triune God from beginning to end: in love the Father planned it; the Son accomplished it; the Spirit applied it to our lives as he drew us to trust in Christ.

The Lord is the hope of his people: His goodness to us in times past provides us with a sure and certain hope for the future. The psalmist talks of his whole being waiting for the Lord "more than watchmen wait for the morning" (v. 6). If you have ever worked a night shift you will feel the longing expressed here by the psalmist. Knowing that God gave his Son for our redemption provides us with the unshakeable confidence that he will bring us at last to glory. Our hope is in him and in the promises of his word. We wait with longing for the dawn of Christ's appearing.

Father God, we thank you for this lovely psalm which speaks so powerfully to our own hearts – our experience and our hopes. We thank you that because of Jesus there is forgiveness with you and the knowledge that the work that your goodness began, the arm of your strength will complete. Help us to tell others of what you have done and to urge them to put their hope in you.

Peter Misselbrook