Psalm 130 (part 1)

I like to think of Psalm 130 as a Christmas Psalm. I mean, like Ps. 2, 8, 40 and 139, it looks forward to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The title of this psalm tells us that it was sung by the Israelites as they walked up the mountain road towards the temple in Jerusalem. It is a song of ascents — a song for going up. This title gives us a context for the Psalm.

In going up to the temple in Jerusalem, the Israelites were responding to things that God had already commanded in his word:

The Israelites were to go to the temple at least three times a year.

  • They were to come with an acceptable sacrifice, one that God had prescribed.
  • They were to bring the sacrifice to the priests whom God had appointed.
  • The priests were to perform the sacrifices in the place and in the manner that God had command by Moses.

God had required these things to be done so that people might know that He is the God who forgives sin.

But, unless a person acknowledges the reality of their own guilt before God, a message of mercy is not welcome. Rather than being a reason for joy it is a cause of offence.

If it were not for the mercy of God coming to us and bringing conviction of our own wrong doing, we would think that our bad behaviour and bad attitudes were ok, and regard the message of mercy as an offence against our good character.

This Psalm reveals the attitude of one who is rightly convinced and convicted of his sin.

Out of the depths, I cry to you, Lord

Lord hear my voice, let you ears be attentive to my pleading voice

If you should mark iniquity, Lord, who could stand.

The depths do not refer to

  • the valley out of which the Psalmist is climbing, nor
  • the depth of his feelings or sincerity, nor
  • his deep spirituality. He is not saying, ‘I’m a deep person, Lord’.

The Psalmist is confessing the depth of his sinfulness and acknowledges that his wrong doing should exclude him from fellowship with the Lord.

More than this, he acknowledges that his sin ought to bring him to judgment and condemnation.

 “If you should mark iniquity (sin), Lord, who could stand.”

If God should call him (us) to account, if the Lord were to recount to him (us) the record of his (our) words, thoughts and actions, he (we) would have no hope. God is Holy. He cannot look favourably upon sin or the sinner.

As the Lord said by Isaiah, “The one who sins shall die.”

Yet the Psalmist calls to the Lord. While he is painfully aware that he has offended his God, he does not despair.

The temple helps us understand why there is no despair in his voice.

Everything about the old testament temple tells us that the wrong-doer (us) is on the outside — excluded by our sin — with no right to come before our creator in our own name.

Our only hope comes in the way that God was happy to supply. This one way was represented in the temple. God appointed a mediator — the high priest — who once a year would make atonement for the sins of the people. An animal was killed in the place of the sinful nation of Israel. The sacrificial beast had to meet God’s specifications — no faults, a perfect specimen. The animal had to be killed and burned when and where God said. The way to God is narrow and the temple service shows us this.

(continued in part 2)

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Psalm 130 (part 2)

(continued from part 1)

The way is narrow, but it gives hope to the hopeless.

 ‘But there is forgiveness with you, so you may be feared.’

 God forgives the wrong-doer on the basis of the death of a suitable substitute. That’s the picture presented by the Old Testament temple service. The sinner is freely admitted to the favour of a holy God by the way that God himself supplies.

The work of saving is taken out of our hands. God provides all that is required. The sinner may (indicates permission) now fear God, because God has provided forgiveness.

The fear spoken of is not terror, but rather the word fear refers to an attitude of reverence and respect for God. Our attitude to our creator undergoes a great change because of his mercy.

We may worship him because our offence is removed and we are reconciled to our God. We may worship him because we now want to worship him.

 I wait for God, my soul waits, and in his word I do hope.

 Waiting on God means to live in the light of his statements that are given to us in the Bible. Our hope in the Lord, if it is to be a hope that is not disappointed, must be grounded upon what the Lord has told us. This makes the Bible most necessary.

In fact, we can know nothing reliable about the Lord Jesus except for the things that we read in the Bible. Jesus himself said that he must fulfil everything written about him in the Scriptures. The Jesus we are to trust is the one shown to us in the Bible.

But I think even more than this is meant in the idea of waiting for the Lord. The image given is that of the night watchman. His job was to walk the defensive walls of the city and watch for danger. In the dark, the enemy might attack or traitors might betray the city. The dark was a place of danger. What the watchman wished for was the coming of day. For light to come. For the safety of daylight.

In a similar way, these old testament Christians were waiting — looking forward to — the coming of light. For the Lord to come and save them from the darkness and danger of their sin.

Hope in the Lord, for with him is mercy and abundant redemption

He himself will redeem Israel from all his iniquity

 Jehovah himself will come and save/redeem.

So, the Lord has come. Our Lord Jesus is the one the Psalmist longed for.

  • Matthew 1:21; “You will call his name Jesus, (the LORD saves) because he will save his people from their sins.”
  • Luke 2:10-11; “Today, in the city of David, is born to you a saviour, who is Christ the LORD.”
  • John 2; Jesus said, ‘You destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three days.’ (The narrow way has to do with who Jesus is and what he has done.)
  • John 14; Jesus said, I am the way….

To redeem is to buy back. It is related to the old practice of paying a ransom to recover soldiers captured in war. It means to pay the necessary price to regain what was lost.

What did Jehovah-Jesus do to redeem? He knew the depth of our sinfulness when he took responsibility for it on the cross. He could say with the Psalmist, ‘Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord’. He also experienced the reality that the one who bears sin cannot stand in the judgment of God. ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!’ is what Jesus cried from the cross. He — the sinless one — died because of our sin. God did not spare his own son, but delivered him up for us all, as Paul says. He rose again after he had made propitiation for the sins of his people.

The Lord’s redemption is abundant. No supplement is needed. There is nothing that we can do or need to do in order to complete the work of Jesus Christ.

He himself has done it.

  • Jesus’ perfectly good life replaces the miserably bad lives of his people:
  • His death is regarded by God as the death we deserve. There is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.
  • His resurrection from the dead provides righteousness for his people.

The redemption that Jesus provides is abundant, full, free and forever. The plea of the psalmist, all his concerns and hopes are met and satisfied in the life, death and rising of Jesus Christ.