Chapter 10: Psalm 130

Psalm 130  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 9
De Profundis; or, Out of Darkness into Light.
IF in the preceding Psalm Israel recalls the sorrows through which they had passed, in connection with the oppression of their enemies, this describes the distress and anguish occasioned by the sense of their own sins. The structure of the Psalm is very simple. As with its predecessor, it is divided into two equal parts of four verses; but these again, as will at once be perceived, are subdivided. Thus the first two verses set forth the state of the soul under the sense of its sins; the next two express confidence in the Lord notwithstanding the consciousness of guilt; verses 5 and 6 give the sure ground of the soul’s confidence, together with the persevering character of its expectation; while the last two contain an exhortation to Israel, founded upon the assurance of Jehovah’s grace, and he certainty of a full and complete redemption from all their iniquities. Another thing of interest to the student of Scripture may be mentioned. In this and the preceding Psalm together, the name of Jehovah is used seven times; in this Jehovah is found four times, Jah1 once (in verse 3), and Adonai three times—eight names of God in all, corresponding with the number of the verses, although in two verses the name is absent. The reader should learn that the slightest detail of the inspired Word may be fruitful in instruction and profit.
To return to the subject of the Psalm, what can be sadder than the condition indicated in the opening words, “Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord”? But yet it is the indispensable requisite for the enjoyment of God’s favor. For what had brought Israel into the depths? 2 It was their sins, their iniquities; and there never can be hope for any until they, like Israel, are brought to feel and own their guilt. To be in the depths, therefore, is a blessed place when it is the consequence of a work of the Spirit of God. Jonah, for example, before his deliverance, had to cry, “For Thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about; all Thy billows and Thy waves passed over me.” The deeper indeed a soul gets down before God under the sense of its sin, the more certain is it to enter upon a signal and glorious deliverance. Let none, therefore, ever attempt to shorten the exercises of a convicted soul, for there cannot be too deep a sense of the exceeding sinfulness of sin.
But if Israel were in the depths, he turned to the Lord. This is the blessed fruit of grace, even as the publican, who, though he would not so much as lift up his eyes unto heaven in the deep feeling of his utter unworthiness, yet, as he smote upon his breast, cried, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” So Israel, in our Psalm, cried, “Lord, hear my voice let Thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.” Such is the sure pathway to blessing, for as soon as the sinner’s eye is directed to the Lord faith has sprung up, however feebly, in the soul, and the light of the coming day has already begun to dispel the darkness by which it has been enshrouded. The important of these two things—conviction of sin and turning to God— cannot be overestimated, and is earnestly commended to all who are passing through exercises similar to those of Israel.
Especial attention should be given to the next two verses:
3. If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?
4. But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared.
First, then, there is the confession of the holiness of God, and of the desert of sin. Not one on the face of the whole earth could be before God’s all-searching eye on the ground of his own merits. It is an immense thing when the soul perceives this, for then there will be no attempt at self-justification, but a frank and full acknowledgment that it is amenable to the righteous judgment of God. This gives God His place, and puts the soul, at the same time, into its only proper place before God. Together with this, Israel has learned that there is grace in the heart of God to meet its need. As we know, the cross of Christ is the foundation, the righteous basis, on which grace can be exercised and dispensed. It is in virtue of the perfect and the finished work of Christ, which was accomplished there, and by which God was glorified in respect to all that we had done and were, that He can now be just and the Justifier of every believer. This is one of the elements of Christian knowledge; but it is a little remarkable to find Israel, before their final deliverance, even if in the land, in the apprehension of grace. Here, however, it is, and not only so, but the object of forgiveness is before the soul— “that Thou mayest be feared.” One of the modern taunts (as, indeed, it was also in the apostle’s days) against the doctrine of grace is that it relaxes the obligation to a holy life. Even Israel will know better than this, for they will understand, what every true Christian has learned, that nothing binds the heart to God or gives it such a sense of moral responsibility as God’s sovereign unmerited favor in Christ. The constraining power of the love of Christ is a mightier influence than all the legal enactments that were ever ordained. But to understand this the heart must be in the enjoyment of the love of Christ, and to this, alas the objectors to grace are strangers.
In the next two verses we have the soul’s attitude and confidence:
5. I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in His word do I hope.
6. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning.
Such waiting on the Lord could only spring from the confidence of faith. The word so translated, indeed, means “to hope that a thing will be effected, and to wait steadily and patiently till it is effected.” Everywhere in the Scriptures, especially in the Gospels, perseverance is seen to be a characteristic of genuine faith. Assured, therefore, that there was forgiveness with the Lord, the Psalmist waits upon Him until he enters upon the enjoyment of the desired blessing. And he tells us, moreover, the ground of his expectation: “and in His word do I hope.” It was this which encouraged him to wait on,3 because having the word of God as the foundation of his trust, he knew that he would not be confounded. So we read in John’s Epistle, “If we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us; and if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.” Knowing this, we can wait on, wait His time, calmly resting upon His word, as in our Psalm.
The eager character of the waiting here is described in the next verse, wherein he tells us, and intensifies the statement by its repetition, that he waited for the Lord more longingly than a night sentinel looked for the dawn of the coming day. It was thus a waiting from which all doubt had been dispelled, and in which he already anticipated the fruition of his hope. We may surely glean instruction for ourselves from this blessed attitude of soul. It is a day of much public and united prayer. Week after week God’s people are gathered together to pour out their hearts before Him in supplication and intercession. Suffer, then, the question whether there be this waiting on the Lord in the confidence of faith for the answers to the prayers. Is there not a danger of being satisfied with having prayed, and of having too little regard to the waiting for the blessings sought? We might well ponder upon the earnestness of faith, the certainty of the confidence indicated here, as we challenge our own souls in seeking to answer the above questions.
The next verse is but the consequence of the undoubting expectation expressed in verses 5, 6: “Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption.” It is as if he said, “Do not doubt for one moment as to the issue of our present sorrows. Already I see, in the exercise of faith, the breaking cap of the clouds, and the outshining of God’s grace and unchanging faithfulness. Trust Him still, wait on, and we shall find that He will, without fail, interpose for our deliverance even beyond our most sanguine expectations.”
Remark, moreover, that although the speaker is not yet in the enjoyment of what he seeks, he can confidently testify as to what is in the heart of God for His people. “With the Lord,” he says, “there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption.” What an immovable foundation his faith had reached! It was not Israel’s state, nor his own prayers, but it was the immutability of Jehovah’s love which begat and sustained his confidence. He had learned the blessed lesson that God would act, not according to His people’s need, but according to His own heart, according to Himself. It is similar to what we find in the Ephesians, where the apostle tells us that “God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ,” etc. It is thus that the Psalmist can speak, not of redemption merely, but of plenteous redemption. It will be, he is fully assured, a redemption worthy of God Himself, and consequently beyond all His people’s thoughts and expectation.
The last verse goes still further: “And HE shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”
We understand this to go far beyond interposing for their present succor and deliverance; and, in fact, to include the history of Israel to the end. Jehovah will “redeem” Israel forever from the consequences of their sins or to put it in other words, it is a full and final redemption which is here contemplated, and not only that which is governmental. It will be the fulfillment of the word of the angel to Joseph: “And thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins.” The Jehovah of our Psalm is this Jesus; and, on the ground of His one sacrifice, His finished work which was wrought out at Calvary, He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities. Blessed be His glorious name forever! And oh! that every reader of these lines may be constrained, in the power of the Holy Ghost, to say from the heart, Amen and Amen!