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)