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).
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
“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
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.