Psalm 130 – Waiting in Hope

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The Psalms of Ascent | Stepping Stones to God’s Heart

“Waiting in Hope” (Psalm 130)

“My soul waits for the Lord.” (Psalm 130:6)

INTRODUCTION: We have been working our way through the Psalms of Ascent on Sunday mornings (Psalms 120-134). Our message series is called “Stepping Stones to God’s Heart” and we have seen how these psalms lead us on an upward trail in our walk with the Lord. We have also seen how these psalms follow a pattern of a psalm of trouble followed by a psalm of trust followed by a psalm of triumph. Well, today we come to Psalm 130, which is one of the psalms of trust.

Psalm 130 is also one of seven penitential psalms in the Bible. (Psalms 6; 32; 38; 51; 102; 130; 143) These are psalms which express sorrow for sin and ask for God’s forgiveness for sin. Martin Luther called four of these the Pauline psalms because of their special focus on faith and forgiveness. (Psalms 32, 51, 130, 143) He said these were his favorite psalms for, in his own words, “They teach us that the forgiveness of sins is granted without the law and without works.”

This particular Psalm of Ascent begins as low as any of them do. As we will see it starts in the very depths of the sea. It is often called by its Latin name, “De Profundis” which literally means “from the depths.” It may start low, but as Charles Spurgeon said: “Certainly it does rise rapidly out of the depths of anguish to the heights of assurance.” Samuel Cox calls it “a tiny Gospel, announcing the truths which men in every age need to know.” The psalm is a call for help, a cry for forgiveness, and it is all about waiting for the Lord in hope. (Read Psalm 130:1-8 and pray.)

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Waiting. No one likes to wait, and yet life is full of waiting. Waiting on the mail. Waiting on answers to your questions. Waiting on traffic lights. Waiting for the end of your work shift. Waiting on medical results. Waiting.

Psalm 130 is a psalm about waiting. As we mentioned earlier it is one of the psalms of trust, and yet it almost begins as a psalm of trouble. The psalmist is crying out to the Lord from a place of deep pain and distress. Last week we looked at Psalm 129 which was all about persevering through pain. Now we come to Psalm 130 which is all about waiting on the Lord. But the focus is not on waiting through the pain. It is about waiting in hope, which is what makes it one of the psalms of trust.

Psalm 130 has a simple yet profound message for us today. Those who wait on the Lord wait in hope. We don’t wait in desperation or despair. Those who wait on the Lord wait in hope. This psalm tells us three things about waiting on the Lord. 1) Cry to the Lord for mercy. 2) Wait for the Lord expectantly. And 3) Put your hope in the Lord. Let’s look at all three.

I. Cry to the Lord for mercy (1-4)

The first part of waiting on the Lord is to cry to him for mercy. If you aren’t crying out, then you aren’t really waiting.

   A. Crying from out of the depths
      – Psalm 69:1-3; Psalm 124:4-5; Jonah 2:2; Lamentations 3:5

And so the whole psalm begins with this desperate cry to the Lord. The psalmist is in a low and deep place, crying to the Lord from out of the depths. Look at verses 1-2: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; 2 O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.” (Psalm 130:1-2)

The depths here portray a place deep beneath the surface. It’s a water image, a picture of the ocean depths. We saw similar imagery in Psalm 124, on of the earlier Psalms of Ascent: “The flood would have engulfed us … the raging waters would have swept us away.” (Psalm 124:4-5) Once again the Psalms of Ascent reflect each other, borrow from each other and build on each other along the way.

And so the depths here represent when you hit rock bottom and you realize you can’t fix this on your own. Eugene Peterson even translates this verse in The Message: “Help God – the bottom has fallen out of my life!” Whether the problem is financial, or illness or relational you are in a place of deep and personal pain.

We find a similar cry and imagery in Psalm 69 where the psalmist cries out: “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God.” (Psalm 69:1-3) Jonah cried out a similar prayer from the belly of the fish when he was actually in the depths of the sea: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.” (Jonah 2:2) We read in Lamentations 3:5: “I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit.” (Lamentations 3:5)

When do you cry out to the Lord from the depths? When you recognize that your very life depends on God. And so you cry out to God for mercy. Don’t stop praying when you’re in the depths. When you’re in the depths you need to be praying more than ever.

Corrie Ten Boom, who wrote The Hiding Place, was sent to a Nazi concentration camp during World War II Germany for hiding Jews in her home. Corrie once wrote: “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.” And that’s what you need to remember when the bottom falls out in your life. God is still there. When you cry out to him from the depths, he will hear you.

   B. If God kept a record of sins
      – Luke 18:13; Romans 3:19,23; Revelation 20:12-13

Now in the next verse we find out what the particular problem was in this psalm. Where did the bottom fall out for the psalmist that caused him to cry out to the Lord for mercy? And it all has to do with sin and guilt for sin. Look at verse 3: “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3) It is an important question. If God kept a record of sins, who could stand before him? If God kept a record of all your sins, could you stand before him? The Bible tells us that one sin is enough to keep you from heaven. What if God kept track of all of them?

Of course, the frightening answer to all this is that God does keep a record of sins. For example we read in Revelation 20:12-13: “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.” (Revelation 20:12-13)

The truth of the matter is none of us can stand before God in our sin. We are talking about crying out to God from out of the depths, and when it comes to sin, you are truly out of your depth. In fact this is the deepest depth of them all. As P.T. Forsyth wrote: “There is no depth so deep to us as when God reveals his holiness in dealing with our sin.”

The Bible tells us no one has standing before God when it comes to sin. We read in Romans 3: “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God … For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:19,23)

And so what is the answer? We need to cry out to God for mercy. We need to be like the tax collector in Jesus’ parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee. How did the tax collector pray? We read in Luke 18:13: “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’” (Luke 18:13)

It’s interesting that Psalm 130 comes here, more towards the end of the Psalms of Ascent than the beginning. The Psalms of Ascent are all about drawing closer to God, and one of the things we learn in our Christian walk is that the closer we come to God, the more aware we become of our sin, and the more aware we become of the depths of our sin. And the more we become aware of our great need for God’s mercy and forgiveness.

   C. Forgiveness and fear
      – 1 Kings 8:39-40; Psalm 103:8-12; Mark 2:7; Hebrews 10:17; 1 John 2:1

Which brings us to the next verse which talks about forgiveness and fear. Look at verse 4: “But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.” (Psalm 130:4) If God kept a record of sins, no one could stand, but with God there is forgiveness, therefore God is to be feared.

The word translated “forgiveness” in this verse is a special word for forgiveness that is always used in the Bible of God forgiving us, not of us forgiving others. In other words divine forgiveness is in view here rather than human forgiveness. You could even translate it as “the forgiveness” – with you is “the forgiveness.” In other words this is the real thing. This is the only forgiveness that really matters or counts. Human forgiveness is important, but without God’s forgiveness we are all lost.

Divine forgiveness is an act of God’s mercy that removes the record of sin that stood against us. For example we read in Psalm 103: “The Lord is compassionate and gracious … he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities … as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:8-12) If God kept a record of sins, no one could stand. But as God says in Hebrews 10:17: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:17)

It’s not that God somehow forgets what we have done. This is not a case of divine amnesia. Rather God does not keep a record in the sense of judgment. When you put your faith in Christ, God chooses not to remember your sins against you, and he will not punish you for your sins. He does not treat us as our sins deserve. In fact the New Testament tells us rather than speaking against us for our sins, Christ actually speaks in our defense. We read in 1 John 2:1: “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 John 2:1) If you are in Christ, Jesus is your advocate. He is not the prosecuting attorney; he is your defense attorney.

If God kept a record of sins, who could stand? But with God there is forgiveness, therefore God is feared. That verse reads a little strange to us at first. What exactly is the relationship between forgiveness and fear?

Well, first of all we fear God in the sense that only with God there is forgiveness, that forgiveness only comes through him. When Jesus forgave the paralytic who was lowered into the house, the Pharisees sat there thinking to themselves: “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7) Well if God is the only one who can forgive sins, then yes, God is to be feared. We see this sense also in 1 Kings 8:39-40: “Forgive and act; deal with each man according to all he does, since you know his heart (for you alone know the hearts of all men), so that they will fear you.” (1 Kings 8:39-40)

But there’s another way that forgiveness relates to fear of God in that forgiveness leads us to greater worship and reverence of God. You can see this better when you substitute the word “worship” for “fear” in verse 4: “With you is forgiveness, therefore you are worshipped.” Samuel Cox writes: “God shows this mercy, not that men may think lightly of sin, but that they may magnify His compassion, and pay Him the reverence due to His Name.”

And so there is fear on both sides of forgiveness. Only with God is there forgiveness, therefore we should fear him. But once we are forgiven, we also fear the Lord in that we hold him in even greater reverence and awe. As Charles Spurgeon writes: “None fear the Lord like those who have experienced His forgiving love. Gratitude for pardon produces far more fear and reverence of God than the dread of punishment.” Jesus said that he who is forgiven much loves much, and that’s the sense we are getting at here. (see Luke 7:47)

This is the good news that we all need to hear. When you are separated from God because of your sins, you are truly in the depths. But when you cry out to God for mercy in Christ, he will hear and forgive.

I want us to pause here for a moment to consider how far we’ve come in these Psalms of Ascent. We started way back in Psalm 120 where the main concern for the psalmist was dwelling with evil men and their sin. But now here in Psalm 130 the greater concern is dwelling with my own sin! Once again, greater maturity in Christ brings greater consciousness of our own sin and God’s mercy in our lives.
II. Wait for the Lord expectantly (5-6)

So that’s our first and longest point. The first part of waiting on the Lord is crying out to him for mercy. If you aren’t crying out, then you aren’t really waiting. The second point is this: wait for the Lord expectantly. The psalmist has prayed his prayer, he has cried out to the Lord for mercy, and now he waits expectantly for God to answer.

   A. Our hope is in God’s word
      – Psalm 5:3; Jeremiah 29:11; 1 John 1:9

And there are a number of things we can learn from these verses. First of all our hope is in God’s word. Look at verse 5: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.” (Psalm 130:5) We are not just waiting for help, but we are waiting for the Lord himself, and our hope is based on God’s word.

Don’t base your hope on your feelings or your circumstances, but base your hope fully on the word of God. Trust God’s promises to you in Scripture. Claim God’s promises in Christ, and pray God’s word back to him. When you put your hope in the Lord and in his word, you may wait for the Lord expectantly. You will be able to pray like David did in Psalm 5 when he wrote: “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” (Psalm 5:3)

Jeremiah 29:11 says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) When you have been forgiven in Christ, you have a future. You can have confidence that God is there for you and will be there for you. Your hope is in God’s word.

   B. “More than watchmen wait for the morning”
      – Psalm 30:5, 126:5

And then the psalmist gives us a beautiful poetic description of waiting for the Lord expectantly. Look at verse 6: “My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” (Psalm 130:6) It’s the picture of watchmen waiting for the break of day, looking forward to the end of their shift – waiting, expecting and anticipating.

Notice the multiple repetitions of the word “wait” and the repetition even of the whole phrase “more than watchmen wait for the morning.” The repetition is a poetical device that increases the sense of longing and expectation already built into the psalm.

I was a night watchman back in seminary. And you know what I looked forward to every night? The morning! And you know what? Morning came every time! The nights were long, and I still had to wait for it, but morning came every time. Verse 6 is a beautiful image because it presents to us both the sense of longing and waiting along with the certainty that the morning will arrive.

We saw something similar to this in one of the earlier Psalms of Ascent. Psalm 126:5 says: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.” (Psalm 126:5) And Psalm 30:5 ties this image of sowing tears together with the certainty of the dawn. “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

The psalmist’s hope is in God’s word. His hope is in God’s promise to rescue and deliver him. He is like a watchman waiting through the long stretches of the night for the morning to come. The night is real, the night is dark, and the night is long, but he has no doubt that the morning will come, and so he waits expectantly.

III. Put your hope in the Lord (7-8)

We are talking about waiting for the Lord in hope. And we’ve seen that the first part of waiting on the Lord is to cry out to him for mercy. The second part is to wait for the Lord expectantly. And now the third part is simply to put your hope in the Lord. Look at verses 7-8: “O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. 8 He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.” (Psalm 130:7-8)

The psalmist is still in waiting mode when he suddenly turns and encourages the rest of his fellow Israelites to put their hope in the Lord. He is waiting in hope, and now he invites all Israel to share in his confident expectation. And there are three things we see in these verses. With the Lord is unfailing love, with the Lord is full redemption, and the Lord himself will redeem Israel from all their sins. Let’s look at each of these briefly.

   A. With the Lord is unfailing love
      – Psalm 86:15; 1 Corinthians 13:8

Why should you put your hope in the Lord? First of all, because with the Lord is unfailing love. The word translated “unfailing love” in verse 7 is the Hebrew word for God’s covenant love or mercy. God will never break his covenant with his people.

Psalm 86:15 says: “But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 86:15) God is not only abounding in love but in faithfulness. He is faithful to his covenant, faithful to his people, unfailing in his love.

1 Corinthians 13:8 says: “Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:8) Human love can come and go and often fails us when we need it most. But not God’s love. God’s love is unfailing. With the Lord is unfailing love.

   B. With the Lord is full redemption
      – Romans 3:23-24, 5:20; Ephesians 1:7

And then with the Lord is full redemption. This redemption was foretold in the sacrifices of the Old Testament but was brought to fulfillment in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. We read in Ephesians 1:7: “In him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” (Ephesians 1:7)

A lot of us are familiar with Romans 3:23 in the New Testament, but Romans 3:24 is a great verse, too! We read in Romans 3: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)

With the Lord there is full redemption! Do you have great sin? Don’t be afraid, God has great grace! He has full, lavish, overflowing grace that is greater than all your sin. As the Bible says in Romans 5:20: “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more!” (Romans 5:20) You can never out-sin God’s grace. Even when you are in the depths of your sin, you are never out of God’s reach or redemption.

   C. The Lord himself will redeem his people from all their sins
      – Psalm 103:2-4; Matthew 1:21

Why should you put your hope in the Lord? With the Lord is unfailing love. With the Lord is full redemption. And then finally the Lord himself will redeem his people from all their sins.

Psalm 130 tells us that God will do it himself! We couldn’t redeem ourselves and no other human could do it for us, so God took it upon himself to redeem his people from all their sins. God sent his own Son into the world to die for us so that we might be redeemed. Even Jesus’ very name proclaims this precious truth. When Mary was pregnant with Jesus, God’s angel told Joseph: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

How wonderful to know that Christ has redeemed us from all our sins. Not just some of our sins, not just certain classes of sin. Psalm 130 tells us the Lord himself will redeem his people from all their sins. No sin left behind! We read in Psalm 103: “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.” (Psalm 103:2-4) God forgives all your sins in Christ. He redeems your life from the pit, from out of the depths of sin, and crowns you with love and compassion.

CONCLUSION: The Christian message is a message of hope. Is there hope for the hurting? Yes! Is there hope for the helpless? Yes! Is there hope for the sinner? Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes! Those who wait on the Lord wait in hope. Life is full of waiting, but God will never disappoint you. With the Lord is unfailing love and with the Lord is full redemption. As sure as the morning is coming, he will rescue you.

When you cry out to Christ for mercy, he will hear and he will answer. He has never turned anyone away yet. You may be sunk under a load of sin, you may be calling to him from out of the depths, but God is full of love and mercy. He will hear your voice and be attentive to your prayer.

No matter how bad your situation, no matter how deep the pit, God’s love is deeper still and he will rescue you from out of the depths. Those who wait on the Lord wait in hope.

© Ray Fowler

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