Over the last two weeks at The Globe Church we’ve been in the Psalms of Ascent, the songs that the Isralites sing as they ascent to the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. The songs teach us and point us to see God more clearly - they are climbing the hill to go to a holy place - a place set aside for God to dwell. These songs show us how holy God, and his dwelling place, is.
In contrast these songs also teach us a lot about the people singing them, and in turn us. They show just how far away we are from the holiness of God. And as we get to Psalm 130 today that’s how the author is feeling - there is despair at their state, the unholiness of the Psalmist, and the Israelites hangs around them; but as they sing their eyes are drawn to see the hope and the confidence they can find in God.
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.
Over the last few weeks I have felt myself fraying - all the uncertainty, the unknowns; it has felt like my ends are coming undone. Outwardly that has been stress, anger, worry, sadness, unrest… Over-working to distract myself from what is happening outside these four walls.
I think that the Psalmist can identify with this as they start their song – Out of the depth I cry to you Lord.
The Psalmist knows what fraying feels like, the implications of weariness, exhaustion, being run down, and sorrowful. That’s the depths from which they start their song. But for the Psalmist, their ‘out of the depths’ is not as a result looking back - being trapped inside for days on end - but looking ahead, up to the temple. Our Psalmist is aware of just how serious the thing they are doing is – look at verse three - If you kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? Looking up at the dwelling place of God, they see just how unprepared they are. How can they continue this journey to a place that they are so unworthy to enter?
Imagine suddenly the live stream breaks, instead of this video- a show reel of your every selfish action, harsh word, angry thought published live to the world. How could we look at one another? These are the thoughts of the Psalmist, but not that the people might see the sin, but knowing that their holy God has seen the sin.
I wonder if you’ve had that experience seeing just how significant your sin is next to the purity of God… Perhaps it was just before you became a Christian… Perhaps it was as the Holy Spirit convicted you of something in your life… When we see just how pure God is, and just how contaminated our sin makes us we can begin to understand the depths from where the Psalmist writes from. So heavy, so oppressive. It’s the kind of sorrow that causes you to cry out. And that’s the first thing to see from this Psalm - in our sorrow we can cry out to God.
Lord, hear my voice, let your ear be attentive to my cry for mercy. The Psalmist cries out to God for mercy. We looked at that when we were in Psalm 123- it’s an acknowledgment of just how powerless we are, and so there is a cry to the one who is powerful. They don’t cry out to any earthly ruler. The Psalmist leads the people to cry out to the Lord - the great I am - their God who is in covenantal relationship with his people. They cry out because they know that God is the only one who can help. In the sorrow we can cry out.
There is sorrow. And there is comfort in forgiveness.
Who would be able to stand before God who sees all things? Who is able to ascend the hill? Where is the comfort here? Look back at verse 3 and 4. The first word of verse 3 - ‘if’, the first word of verse 4 - ‘but’. If God kept a record of sin… but there is forgiveness.
The Psalmist sings of the comfort there is with our God who forgives. The Psalmist can keep ascending the hill, because there is forgiveness for them. At the temple there are the sacrifices, the lamb being offered for the sins of the people.
Look at the implications in verse four; there is forgiveness so that we can, we reverence, serve you. God’s mercy brings about a forgiven people who are able to do what they were created for - to worship! They ascend the hill and they are not blocked by their sin, instead God in his mercy makes a way for them to worship.
The same is true for us today - we look up to God, and how can we approach him knowing how far away we are from his holiness. But like the Psalmist we can hold to the comfort of forgiveness. We don’t climb the hill to make the sacrifices, instead today we entrust ourselves to Jesus who is able to ascend the hill, to Jesus who is the lamb offered for our sins. We can cry out to the Lord, and we are comforted in the promise of forgiveness and the ability to live the life we were made for.
Even with the comfort they know that they are not there yet. Read with me verses five and six - I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
These verses say that we’re not there yet. While there is comfort in the sorrow, there is a time of waiting, yearning, longing. Waiting more than watchmen wait for the morning. The watchmen stand guard at night - protecting the camp, always ready, always alert for attack - the morning brings relief, their watch has been completed.
But right now the people wait, wait to be in the presence of the Lord, on the edge, urgently desiring for their journey to be over.
The waiting might feel intense, painful at points, but the waiting time is never the end. As the watchmen know that morning will come, so the Psalmist knows that their journey will find completion. Psalm 130 speaks of a hope in which they can entrust themselves to, in the sorrow there is comfort, during the waiting - the Psalmist shares their confidence - I will wait for the Lord… in his word I put my hope. The waiting and the longing isn’t empty - it is rooted in the Lord and in his word. How is the comfort of forgiveness held during the waiting time? They know the character of the Lord and of his word - the promises are true and God is faithful.
There is a cry of sorrow, there is comfort in forgiveness, there is waiting in hope, and in the waiting there is complete confidence in redemption.
With this confidence the Psalmist can call all the Israelite people - verse 7 and 8: put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love, with him is full redemption. He will redeem Israel from their sins. There is no one else who you can put your hope in like this. No one else who will reach into your depths like the Lord, no one else who will hear your cry of sorrow, bring you comfort in forgiveness and so so much more. There is hope and that hope is found in God.
Read back through this Psalm as you will see so many promises-
Today you may be feeling in the depths. You may be feeling sorrowful. Today will you cry out to God who hears us in our depths? Let me point you to see Jesus afresh today who displays and makes all these promises possible. Our hope and confidence is found in Him, in his word, in Jesus as we look and see what he has done. His promises are trustworthy - he has shown unfailing love, he has redeemed his people, he did this with his life on the cross.
We wait now for his return, more than watchmen wait for the morning, or the world waits for coronavirus to be gone. But we don’t wait in the depths, we wait comforted with our confidence in Christ.