A Song of Ascents.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared. (vv. 1-4)
Psalm 130 is composed of four sections of two verses each. The first two verses record the Psalmist’s cry to the Lord out of the depths of despair. The next two verses express confidence that with the Lord there is forgiveness of sins (this indicates that “the depths” of verse 1 is the despair of a guilty conscience). The third section (vv. 5-6) describes the psalmist’s waiting for a word of assurance from the Lord. The final section (vv. 7-8) is a call for the people to hope in the Lord for he is the one who will redeem them from all their sins.
With this Psalm’s emphasis on sin and full atonement, Martin Luther referred to it as a “Paulline Psalm.” So deep is the hope in God’s forgiving mercy expressed, it could easily be placed in the book of Romans.
The theme of the Psalm is summed up in verse 4: “But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” The “depths” from which the psalmist cries is the knowledge of his own iniquity. The problem of sin cannot be adequately captured in purely therapeutic language. Sin is iniquity which is another word for wickedness. It is from wickedness that the sinner must be delivered. The psalmist expresses the confidence that with the Lord there is forgiveness.
Notice that the forgiveness which is found in the mercy of the Lord is not without its effect. God forgives the iniquity of his people so that they may fear him (vs. 4). That is, there is a direct connection between forgiveness of sins and fearing the Lord. God’s redemptive work in the lives of his people is comprehensive. He not only washes them clean from their sin, he changes them from sin lovers to God fearers.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning. (vv. 5-6)
God calls his people to put their hope in him. Specifically, the call here is to hope in “his word.” We can trust that all God says is true and reliable. He is present with his people by means of his word. In God’s word we find his law and gospel. We are comforted by his great and gracious promises. To hope is to wait. It is look with expectation toward the fulfillment of that which God has promised. Notice the repetition of the clause “more than watchmen for the morning” (vs. 6). God’s people hope in the Lord with the eager watchfulness of those whose job it is to scan every horizon.
O Israel, hope in the LORD!
For with the LORD there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities. (vv. 7-8)
Redemption from sin comes as the fruit of God’s “steadfast love” (vs. 7b). How God loves his people! The theme of God’s steadfast, covenant love is of central concern in the Scriptures. Indeed, the Bible tells the story of God’s commitment to his gracious covenant with his people. God will never break faith with his people. He will never betray his word. He saves us from all of our sin. He redeems our lives from destruction.
“The psalm is saying that the present (and repeated) cycle, for the remedy of sin – forgiveness and deliverance – is a harbinger of the final and complete deliverance from all sin. In other words, every deliverance is a preview and a pledge of that great day of redemption, and every experience of forgiveness is a foreshadowing of the final redemption from sin and everything connected to it” (Allen Ross, 711).