Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The Verse - Psalm 130

Just to let you know, this is actually Hannah's husband Luke, doing a "guest appearance". Recently, I have been reading the Psalms, as part of my program of going through the entire Bible. The Psalms are not only a collection of hymns for praise and worship, but also an amazing source of theological insight. The other day I read the 130th Psalm, which apparently is one of 7 "penitential" psalms, or prayers of repentance. The most well-known of these seven is of course Psalm 51. Number 130 is also a "Song of Ascents", which means it was a hymn sung by pilgrims on their "ascent" to Jerusalem for one of the major national feasts. It is quite a short text: only eight verses, composed of four sections on related topics. However, its main point is far deeper than its size might lead one to believe: it teaches that despite man's total sinfulness, God is faithful and merciful to forgive us if we repent and trust in Him.

Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive
To the voice of my supplications.

The Psalms often talk about people crying out to the Lord in the middle of severe distress or penitence over sin. Another good example of this kind of plea is Jonah's prayer from the belly of the whale (Jonah 2:2-9). These passages of Scripture show us clearly that God always hears us when pray to him for forgiveness or aid - no matter when or where we are (see Psalm 139:9-10). In this psalm, as in Jonah's case, the author is both repenting of sin and asking for deliverance from trouble.

If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared.

These two verses contain such an incredible message. Verse 3 points out that if God judged everyone based on every sin they had ever committed, nobody would be blameless before Him in the day of judgment. (And by "sin", I mean everything we have failed to do, as well as all we have done wrong.) This short text reveals that if salvation were by works alone, the entire human race would fail the test, and we would suffer God's wrath. Then verse 4 gives the good news: There is forgiveness with God - not by works, but by His grace. He has provided a way for sinners to be saved through the atoning work of His Son, Jesus Christ. And why has He done this? So that He "may be feared". In other words, God did not save us because of any intrinsic worth that we possess. Instead, He did it primarily for His glory - so that He might be praised throughout all eternity for the marvellous work of redemption He has performed. This teaching can also be seen in Jeremiah 33:8-9, when the Lord speaks about how He will cleanse and redeem the people of Israel, so that He might be glorified and feared among all nations. God's salvation plan was also motivated by His love and mercy (John 3:16).

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
And in His word I do hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
More than those who watch for the morning—
Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.

Here the psalmist declares confidence and trust in God's Word, for He is faithful and unchanging. Psalm 46 is a similar expression of trust.

O Israel, hope in the Lord;
For with the Lord there is mercy,
And with Him is abundant redemption.
And He shall redeem Israel
From all his iniquities.

In this conclusion, the psalm tells us to hope in the Lord, because He is merciful. It was because of the Lord's mercy and love that He died for us on the cross, providing a way for us to be redeemed by His blood. His sacrifice is "abundant" - it is perfectly effective to redeem us from all our sins, past, present and future. (See Hebrews 8:25-29, 9:11-15). What a wonderful God and Saviour!


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