Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.
I have never worked a night shift … but I have worked the early shift and relieved the night shift.
Usually the night shift would be ready and waiting by the time clock … usually they were excited to see their relief show up … and they were in a hurry to punch out and head home.
One time my brother and I showed up and the night-shift guy had closed himself in the receptionist’s office at the very front of the building … he seemed anxious and more excited than usual to see us. We opened the door and asked if he was ok. He said there was a bat on the third floor … he was terrified of bats … it had surprised him … and flapped all around him … he ran downstairs and locked himself in the receptionist’s office and waited, who knows how long, for us to show up. We were annoyed he had given up on all the work that needed to be done so easily … it meant our day would be longer since we needed to catch up on all the other stuff that was left unfinished.
I should have been more compassionate … stuck with something he was terrified of … all by himself … in a gigantic downtown building. I should have been more compassionate, but I was really annoyed. Who could be that afraid of a bat? How could he just sit there and wait when there was so much work to do?
(I realized I should have been more sympathetic when I was nominated to help hunt down the bat … It dropped down out of a place in the ceiling where a bunch of ceiling tiles were missing and surprised me … after that the idea of locking myself in the receptionist’s office didn’t seem so bad!)
He must have been so excited to see the sunrise … I bet there was a big sigh of relief when he heard my old Pontiac pull up … finally he could get out of the receptionist’s office … at last he could go home.
I wait for the Lord … more than watchmen (or that night-shift custodian) waits for the morning … the psalmist paints a vivid picture … waiting … watching … hoping …
This Psalm is a Psalm for people who are sitting in the dark watching a clock slowly tick away the minutes as they wrestle with worry … regret … hurt … exhausted, yet wide awake at 3 in the morning.
The Psalm we looked at last Sunday, Psalm 129, had a lot to do with the pressure a person of faith experiences from outside forces – “They have greatly oppressed me from my youth … but they have not gained the victory over me” (Psalm 129.1-2). This is the kind of suffering we experience that is caused by outward forces. It doesn’t have much to do with something we have done. Today’s Psalm, Psalm 130, has something to do with the pressure a person of faith experiences from forces within themselves – “Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy” (Psalm 130.1-3). This is the inward pressure we feel inside, pressure we don’t have anyone else to blame for, ic comes when we say something, or do something, or make a decision we know isn’t right … that ties our guts up in knots and keeps us awake feeling anxious, guilty, worried, and full of regret.
The word we translate as “sin” in this psalm comes from a word that has the sense of “bending, curving, turning aside, or twisting.” Maybe this prayer comes from someone who did something selfish and now is dealing with consequences … Maybe a broken relationship? Maybe painful regrets?
The psalmist feels like he is in “the depths.” The depths have to do with a big body of water, like a lake or sea … Maybe it’s that feeling like we are sinking in a deep, unpredictable and unorganized, overwhelming heaviness. In the story of Jonah, when Jonah prays to God from deep in the guts of the giant fish, Jonah said he was calling out to God from the depths … from the heart of the sea. Ancient Israelites weren’t the biggest fans of the sea … often the sea was where threats to their safety came from. Storms? Invaders? Unpredictability. The psalmist doesn’t want to be in the situation he was caught in any longer and could have been feeling scared and not at all equipped or able to figure a way out … and maybe even worse, has only himself, or herself, to blame for being in that difficult spot.
The psalmist cries out to God for mercy … the psalmist has gotten into a bad spot and feels overwhelmed, the psalmist is painful aware of the situation, but I wouldn’t say he is panicky. The psalmist still seems to have confidence God can and will do something about the situation … even though he might have to wait. The psalmist seems to be confident in God’s character. He asks and looks for God to act in ways that are consistent with God’s character. You are merciful, God – be merciful to me. You are forgiving – forgive me. Your love is unfailing – allow me to experience it.
This is important … the psalmist’s hope comes from God. Who God is. What God has done. What God will do. The psalmist’s hope is firmly rooted in God. “Put your hope in the Lord … for with the Lord is unfailing love … and with him is full redemption.”
This idea of God’s unfailing love is really important – it is a core piece to scripture’s claims about who God is and how God relates to people. It comes from a really good Hebrew word – khesed. Sometimes it is translated as “unfailing love, loyal-love, devotion, goodness, loving-kindness, or even commitment.” John Goldingay writes,
[Khesed] is the Old Testament equivalent to the special word for love in the New Testament, the word agape … It can … refer to a … extraordinary act that takes place when there is a relationship between people but one party has let the other party down and therefore has no right to expect continuing faithfulness. If the party that has been let down continues being faithful, they are showing this kind of commitment” (Psalms for Everyone, location 4974).
Something must have happened that could have broken relationship with God, but the psalmist counts on God sticking with him in unfailing love and extending mercy and redemption. The psalmist grieves his unfaithfulness and trusts God’s faithfulness … he puts his weight in God’s promise – “I will take you as my people … and I will be your God” (Exodus 6.7). The psalmist entrusts himself to God, waits and hopes for God to make things right. This faith-shaped hope is all about entrusting ourselves to God … trusting in who God is … remembering that God’s actions in the past help us to trust that God will act in the future. The Psalmist holds onto God’s character … acknowledges his sin … asks for God’s mercy … and gives himself to God’s hands.
Psalm 130 invites us to trust God and to hope. To trust that God is who he says he is and place ourselves in God’s trustworthy hands … to wait … to watch … to live with the expectation that God will act in ways that are consistent with who God is.
In a little bit, when we celebrate communion together, we will hold onto God and God’s promises. We will grow together in hope. Even when we turned in on ourselves and turned away from God, God did not turn away from us … in loving kindness … in unfailing love … in mercy and forgiveness, God turned toward us … God sent Jesus Christ to us that we “may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18).
… Put your hope in the Lord … for with the Lord is unfailing love … with the Lord there is full redemption.