“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!” (Psalm 130:1)
We all know what it’s like—all of the redeemed know, anyway. We remember the darkness. We remember the coldness. We remember the way our heart felt fear and loneliness and sorrow and grief and guilt all at the same time. We were in the pit. Our cries echoed in the depths as if mocking our solitary confinement.
Worse, there was no one to blame. No one to point the finger at. No one to bear our burden alongside us. This was our doing. We deserved it. In fact, we knew then we deserved far worse. This was only the beginning. It was the point of no return. We could not pull ourselves out. Our only hope was someone coming to our rescue, but who would do that now? We pushed them all away. We sinned our way out of favor. We fell hard and fast though it had been coming for a long time.
Such is the heart of the Psalm 130 man and woman. Sin has not returned void. The bill is due. And out of the depths, a cry rises to God. As Derek Kidner says, “Self-help is no answer to the depths of distress, however useful it may be in the shallows of self-pity.”
Self-pity could never reach such lows. It’s too self-referential, too self-reverent. It still upholds a certain amount of pride. But the Psalm 130 man and woman has lost all sense of self-pity. It has fallen to the depths. From there, the cry goes out. Verse 2 shows us it’s not a silent plea of the heart but an urgent cry of the voice. “O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy.” Mercy. The only hope the sinner in the pit.
Mercy is, as Tim Keller says in his Bible Study material on the Psalms, “the appropriate reaction to spiritual depths.” When our sin is ever before us, God’s mercy alone is our hope. Thus the Psalmist prays. “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” (Psalm 130:3-4)
There lies the hope of the sinner’s heart: that God is merciful and forgiving. If God were to mark our sins and hold them against us, not one of us would stand. We’ve all missed the mark. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But with God, there is forgiveness of sins. There is hope even for the one deep in the murky pit.
Yet the forgiveness of God is not at our beck and call. It is not the dog out in the field. It is the sun on the other side of the world. We must wait for what we most need. And the waiting, as Tom Petty said, is the hardest part.
But the Psalm 130 man and woman waits. Their soul waits. How? Verse 5, “in his word I hope.” The sinner’s waiting stares at the Bible. It’s a waiting that turns and digs and prods and plows through God’s word, finding the promises, uncovering the truths, and treasuring every verse. In the depths, God’s word becomes the light.
So the soul waits as the watchman—not passively but expectantly. “My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning” (Psalm 130:6). Of all the phrases that could be repeated, it is surprising to me that it’s this one. But perhaps this is the core of it all. In the depths, there’s nothing to do but wait. You can’t pull yourself out. All you can do is wait for someone to come along. Cry all you want but it will not change a thing. Your only hope is something breaking the horizon.
What breaks in the horizon for the repentant sinner? The mercy of God. Just as a watchman knows the morning will always come, a sinner placing him or herself in the low place before God knows the morning mercies of God are coming sure as the dawn. The night may be dark, and it may get darker still, but light is coming. New morning mercies are on the way.
We know this because Mercy came in Christ. All our hope rests in the cross of Christ. If he took our sin upon himself, which he did, it cannot come back to us. God will forgive because Christ has died and risen.
As the Psalmist lets the fact of God’s impending mercy settle on his heart, he moves out into mission. “O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”
True repentance is always missional. The one who repents and finds the mercy of God cannot hold back the good news of God’s forgiveness. All the details may not be shared—they aren’t in this Psalm—but enough is told so that all can see that God has restored to his marvelous light the one who once was in the dark depths of sin. God’s faithfulness is seen in the forgiveness of sinners. And he loves to forgive!
When your sin puts you in the depths of despair, and you have no way out on your own, there is a God above who rules and reigns and forgives and saves. Even if no one else sees you there, he does, and his hand will come to your rescue, if only you’ll wait on him. Sometimes the destruction our sin causes results in a long recovery process. Wait on God! Keep waiting until the Sun of Righteousness rises on the horizon. Wait until mercy’s light shines into your heart. Wait on God as a watchman for the morning. Morning always comes. With God, so does mercy.
Editor's Note: This post appeared at David's blog and is used with permission.