Out of the Depths



Psalm 130

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.” The psalmist doesn’t say why he is brought so low, only that it’s a long way up to where he wants to be.

The Bible got to be the Bible because people have found that so much of it speaks to them across all time and space. We don’t need to know why the psalmist is down; we just resonate with his words. He gives voice to what we have felt.

Apparently the writer has made a mess of things. Whatever is holding him down, it includes the weight of his own shortcomings. “Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, Lord, who could stand?” He calls on God twice in the same sentence. Maybe it’s because he’s desperate for help, like a child crying, “Daddy! Daddy!” Or maybe his words are only halfway out when he realizes whom he’s calling, and his sin looks all the uglier as he lifts it up to the bright light of heaven. Maybe it’s both.

Now here’s the surprise. Instead of condemnation, he finds redemption. If you kept track of all our faults, O God, we’d be crushed by the weight of them, he says. But you don’t, and so we aren’t. On the contrary, astonishingly and undeservedly, there is forgiveness with you.

The psalmist begins in the depths, but he doesn’t stay there. The heading calls this “a song of ascents” in the psalter. It’s about climbing up out of the pit—or more precisely, being lifted up by the long arm of forgiveness.

When what’s coming to the rescue is grace, we wait with great hope. “My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.” Again he repeats, as if the thought and the hope it contains are too big to be said just once.

“O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.” And not only Israel. Anyone who cries out to God will be drawn up out of the depths, and into more love than we can possibly imagine

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