Psalm 130 is a song filled with deep cries of longing for mercy and redemption. As one of the Songs of Ascents (Psalms 120-134) it would have been used by pilgrims as they made their way to Jerusalem for the festival celebrations. This particular song helped the pilgrims articulate their hope for salvation.
The psalm begins in a dark place, with crying out to God from the depths (v1). Wanting to be heard by God and pleading for mercy, the desperation in the cry is palpable. The depths are a desperate place for anyone to inhabit. The sense of echoing darkness with no chink of light in view and no audible reply to the cries for help leads to a sense of abandonment and helplessness. In the depths you feel cut off, out of sight and trapped.
The reason for the psalmists’ desperation becomes clear. The answer to the question in verse 3, ‘If you, O Lord, should mark our iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?’, is simply that no-one can stand. The psalmist feels helpless in the light of God’s perfection. God is so different from humanity. He is holy and no sinful person can come near to Him and survive. No one who has committed any iniquity or fallen short of God’s standards can stand before Him. This means that, at first glance, it appears there is no hope for the psalmist and they are right to express a cry from the depths. There is no escape from this darkness.
But just before hope is extinguished comes a truly amazing statement: ‘But with You there is forgiveness’ (v4). How can this be? How can the Most Holy One forgive sins? Well, it is all about God’s grace. Although the holiness of God is perfection itself, although the depravity of man is all-pervading, God in His gracious dealings with man is the One who forgives.
But just as things seem to be resolved, the psalmist reminds us that this forgiveness is not via an instant demand. Instead it is a future promise. The psalmist knows that forgiveness – redemption – is coming and so gets ready to wait. Waiting for the Lord. Waiting with their soul. Waiting through the night. Waiting for the morning. Waiting like a watchman. More than a watchman (vv5,6).
A glimpse of hope. That’s all that is being looked for. Because that is all that is needed to know that redemption is at hand.
And so, with their next breath, the psalmist calls the whole nation to hope in the Lord. The song reminds the people that not only does God forgive (v4) but that He loves, and that His redemption is abundant and plentiful (v7). And also that Israel will be redeemed and ransomed from all of their iniquities (v8). All of their sins. Every. Single. One.
That is a redemption worth waiting for. That is a redemption worth looking for. Full, free, forgiveness for all sins! Wow!
I’m writing this at the start of Advent and it is worth remembering that Advent is a period of waiting and watching for the appearing of the Greatest Redemption Ever. The name of that Redeemer is Jesus.
So as you watch and wait in anticipation, remember that through the ransom price of Jesus’ blood, there is forgiveness available for your sins. It means that this Christmas you can stand, instead of crying from the depths. This Christmas there can be an end to the darkness of your sin in the light of God’s gracious redemption.
‘Out of the depths I cry…For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with Him is plentiful redemption.’ (v7)