Out of the depths



The writer of Psalm 130 understands the tragedy of human life. He does not live on a superficial level where it is possible to kid oneself that everything is okay. He does not look at the external, transient things like physical fitness, financial success or social significance. Although they may give one a fool's peace and a fool's joy, he knows these are not the most important things.

Irrespective of how physically, financially or socially successful he might be, this Psalm writer knows that everything is not okay. He knows that human life, his own included,  is a mess. He knows the agony of human guilt in the presence of the holy God. He knows the depths of spiritual despair, the impossiblity of a human being ever qualifying for acceptance by God.  He knows the utter hopelessness that hounds each one of us in our innermost being. He knows the lostness. He knows the darkness. He knows the inner turmoil. He knows the fear.

And so he writes: 'Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.' Out of the depths of human guilt, human despair, human lostness, human severance from God, he cries to God. He knows he cannot help himself. He knows he cannot save himself. He knows that if any help and any hope is to be gained it can only come from the very Being whom he has most offended and whose rejection he most deserves. Knowing this he also knows that if there is any help and any hope it can not be given on the basis of merit but only on the basis of mercy.

And so he cries: 'O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.' His only plea, his only hope, in the presence of God is the mercy of God. He himself has nothing to offer, nothing with which to gain some credit or merit in God's sight, nothing with which to somehow deserve God's favourable consideration. Nothing. This man knows the depths of his spiritual destitution. He knows he is spiritually bankrupt. He knows that he is not only spiritually indebted because of his sins, but also completely unable to give to God the perfect obedience and the perfect love that is his due.

And so he meditates: 'If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?' No one. Not him. Not anyone. The record of our sins would condemn us all, banning us forever from God's presence, bringing God's just judgement upon us all. And God does indeed keep a record ... of every sin, even of every thought and every word. No one can stand in God's presence. But the writer does not stay here, he moves on in his meditation:

'But with you there is forgiveness ... ' Here is another truth, a saving truth, a liberating truth. Yes. God does keep a record of sins. Yes. On the basis of that record no one can stand. But there is another truth, another fact ... there is forgiveness with God. God, in a way totally unexpected and unprecedented by any human religious concepts, cancels the spritual debt, forgives the sins, justifies the wicked, gives hope to the despairing, and accepts the unacceptable.

On the basis of this amazing, incredible fact of God's mercy and forgiveness, the writer stands in the presence of God with deep, overwhelmed, reverential awe: '... therefore you are feared.' Knowing the depths of his lostness he also knows something of the magnitude and significance of this merciful, forgiving action of God. It moves him not to flippancy and carelessness in the presence of God but to a deeper reverence, a greater repect.

Knowing this incredible fact of God's mercy and forgiveness, and moved to hold God in even greater esteeem because of it,  he commits himself to expectant and confident trust in this amazing God: 'I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.'

 Even so may we.

 Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2008