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A cry from the depths;- Songs of Ascent Psalm 130

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posted on Nov, 12 2021 @ 05:04 PM
“…and make your humble confession to Almighty God, meekly kneeling upon your knees.”
(from Cranmer’s introduction to the General Confession).

Psalm 130

This psalm is about awareness of the guilt of sin, and the urgent need for forgiveness.

V1 “Out of the depths I cry to thee, O Lord…”
In the structure of this song, we find four distinct stanzas, divided for us into four pairs of verses.

In these first two verses, the psalmist appeals to the Lord to be heard. Evidently he is in some kind of distress, and we wait to find out what it is.
“Out of the depths” reminds us that Jonah makes a very similar appeal “from the belly of the fish”. He says he calls “out of the belly of Sheol… for thou didst cast me into the deep” (Jonah ch2 vv1-2).

V3 “If thou, O Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?”
Now we learn that the distress concerns the burden of sin.

This was exactly Job’s complaint, that it was impossible for any man to stand up and face God’s judgement, because God insists on taking note of our sins; “If I sin, thou dost mark me, and dost not acquit me of my iniquity” (Job ch10 v14).

V4 “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared”.
This was the solution that Job proposed, that God should “look away from me”, instead of observing him with such remorseless attention; “Why dost thou not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity?” (Job ch7 v21).

The second half of the sentence is curious, because of the implication that forgiveness, rather than judgement, will prompt men to fear God. The explanation is that the “fear” of God is at least partly about obedience to his will. The offer of forgiveness inspires them with hope. It motivates them to renew their endeavours to please God, even if sin has compromised their previous record. Without that prospect, they would give up trying to please God, because there would seem to be no point.

V5 “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.”
The word translated “soul” is actually NEPHESH. The very life of the speaker is waiting for the Lord.
“Wait” is an Old Testament word for that attitude of patient trust which we call faith. “Those who wait for the Lord will renew their strength” (Isaiah ch40 v31).
And as I always say, there is nothing tentative or uncertain about the Biblical word “hope”. It simply means confident faith directed towards the future.
The confidence is founded “in his word”, exactly as it should be. Not just promises of forgiveness, but all the general promises that God will be protective towards his people against all oppression, including that of sin.

This third stanza is particularly poetic, with the point about “waiting” made three times, and the phrase “more than watchmen for the morning” being duplicated. It makes me wonder how this psalm was distributed among the singers. For example, it could be a good effect if the first four verses were sung by a small group; then the stanza occupied by vv5-6, almost an aria in its own right, being thundered out by a larger mass; then the final address to Israel being delivered by a soloist.

V7 “O Israel, hope in the Lord!”
Any individual could identify with the psalmist in the first six verses and use them for himself. But here is a reminder that he is the spokesman, in the first instance, for the sinfulness of Israel as a whole. The people in general need to hold on to their hope in the Lord, their hope of being rescued from the burden

“For with the Lord there is steadfast love.”
This is the reason why we may safely hope in him.

“And with him there is plenteous redemption.”
In the Old Testament, the Lord frequently “redeems” his people from such enemies as the Egyptians and Babylonians. Anything he does to save them from their enemies may be called “redemption”.

“And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities”.
(Note “his” rather than “their”. Again the Hebrew habit of treating a corporate body as a single person.)
But in this psalm the great enemy is the burden of sin, so this is “redemption” in quite the New Testament sense.

posted on Nov, 12 2021 @ 05:05 PM
The above are my own independent thoughts on the psalm. Having got that far, I will now open up Weiser’s commentary to gain a different perspective, as I’ve been doing in the previous threads in this particular series.

Weiser treats the psalm as the confession of an individual, who repeats the prayer of repentance that he offered to God, and then testifies before the congregation about the way that his quest for forgiveness was fulfilled.

The word “depths” expresses the poet’s anguish as he becomes conscious of being separated from God.
The question “Who could stand?” is the shattering perception of the tremendous power of sin and of the paralysing powerlessness of man in his bondage to it.

Forgiveness makes God feared BECAUSE God thus proves himself to be even more powerful than sin itself. This reaches the height of the New Testament realization of the kindness of God that leads men to repentance.

The true attitude of repentance is a state of constant inward tension between hoping and possessing, because he is simultaneously conscious of the kindness and of the severity of God.

Only in v8 does the poet affirm the promise of salvation for the whole cult community. [The earlier words “O Israel, hope in the Lord” are not in the text which Weiser is using.]

Meanwhile I find no significant differences in Matthew Henry’s reading of the psalm.
Naturally he specifies that it is Christ who saves from sin, and he manages to find “There is a propitiation with him” in some readings of v4.

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