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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Psalms 130

Verse 1



This psalm is an earnest prayer for the forgiveness of sins, not of the nation of Israel, but of a sinner who cries "out of the depths" unto the Lord. We have often noted that the absolute forgiveness of sins was not available under the Mosaic Law, nor anywhere else until the coming of Christ and his atoning death on Calvary. However, this psalmist, recognizing the agonizing sorrow of his penitent heart called to God for a forgiveness which he knew was "with God" (Psalms 130:4).

He was like a watchman "waiting for the morning" (Psalms 130:6); but that "morning" of forgiveness would not come until the heavens should ring with the angelic chorus singing Glory to God in the Highest and the shepherds of Judea would find the Christ child in the Manger of Bethlehem.

The theme of the psalm is in Psalms 130:5, "I wait for Jehovah, my soul doth wait; and in his word do I hope." It should not be overlooked that the psalmist was still in the dark; the morning had not come. Like all who lived under the Old Dispensation, he would "wait ... wait ... "until the Christ should come. "He felt sure that God would redeem him from all iniquity; but he lived in the twilight dawn, and he had to watch for the morning; the sun is indeed risen for us,"[1] even `The Sun of Righteousness' with healing in his wings!

There were doubtless many in Israel who, like this penitent psalmist, earnestly "waited" for the kingdom of God and the forgiveness for which mankind stood in the sorest need. Luke mentions the godly Simeon who was, "looking for the consolation of Israel" (Luke 2:26). We believe the psalmist here was also of that company who waited for the kingdom of God.

Barnes pointed out that, "Most interpreters suppose that the psalmist here is speaking, not as an individual, but in the name of the nation."[2] However, Barnes rejected this, stating that, "It may be the language of an individual mourning over his sins."[3] We interpret the psalm as exactly that. The idea that the nation of Israel was ever penitent in the sincere attitude of the psalmist in this song is foreign to everything the Bible says about the nation. If the nation ever repented of anything we certainly have no record of it. They never even repented for murdering the Son of God.

Psalms 130:1-2

"Out of the depths have I cried unto thee,

O Jehovah.

Lord, hear my voice:

Let thine ears be attentive

To the voice of my supplications."

"Out of the depths" (Psalms 130:1). There are several kinds of "depths" from which one may cry to God, (1) the death of a loved one, (2) a terrible illness, (3) a life-threatening danger, (4) some devastating loss, or (4) a soul-chilling consciousness of one's sinfulness. We believe that the latter is the "depths" spoken of here. There is no deeper pit than the black hole of despair which the soul experiences in the realization that one's sins have separated him from God.

Maclaren wrote:

"The beginning of true personal religion is the sense of personal sin. An insufficient realization of that is the mother of heresies in the creeds and superficial deadness in the practice of Christianity."[4]

Verse 3

"If thou, Jehovah, shouldest mark iniquities.

O Lord, who could stand?

But there is forgiveness with thee,

That thou mayest be feared."

"If thou shouldest mark iniquities" (Psalms 130:3). This emphasizes the truth that if God kept a permanent record of all sins instead of forgiving them, no mortal could stand justified in the sight of God. The epic question of the Apocalypse is, "The great day of God's wrath has come, and who shall be able to stand?" (Revelation 6:17).

"But there is forgiveness with thee" (Psalms 130:4). No greater insight into God's character is to be found anywhere in the Old Testament. Indeed yes, God has forgiveness; and, although it was not available in the absolute sense during the Old Covenant days, yet devout, God-fearing souls certainly found the equivalent of it in God's remission of the penalties deserved in anticipation of the Atonement in the times of the Incarnation. Paul referred to this as, "The passing over of the sins done aforetime." (Romans 3:25).

"That thou mayest be feared" (Psalms 130:4). The thought here is that, "The only hope is in God's forgiveness, which in turn quickens the feeling of awe"[5] in the sinner seeking forgiveness, without which his eternal death is certain.

Verse 5

"I wait for Jehovah, my soul doth wait,

And in his word do I hope.

My soul waiteth for the Lord

More than watchmen wait for the morning;

Yea, more than watchmen for the morning."

See the chapter introduction for a discussion of these lines. The picture here is one of hopeful and patient trust in God. No assurance of his forgiveness is registered here, but his hope encourages and sustains him. Somehow, he knows that God will "pass over" his sins for which he has truly repented and petitioned the Father in heaven.

"Wait ... wait ... I hope" (Psalms 130:5-6). The psalmist is waiting for the consolation of Israel, for the kingdom of God, and for the Advent of Christ the redeemer. Yes, death over took him before that "morning" came; but praise be to God forever, the healing mercies of the Cross of Christ flowed in both directions, all the way back to the blood of Abel and all the way forward till the Second Advent.

Verse 7

"O Israel, hope in Jehovah;

For with Jehovah there is lovingkindness,

And with him is plenteous redemption.

And he will redeem Israel

From all his iniquities."

"O Israel, hope in Jehovah" (Psalms 130:7). Such a plea as this for Israel to hope in the Lord is the equivalent of reporting that the nation of Israel at that time was certainly not doing so, else the word would have been that, "Israel hopes in Jehovah."

The revelation here is that the devout, God-fearing psalmist desired that his whole nation would also turn to the Lord and seek his forgiveness.

"He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities" (Psalms 130:8). This was not an unconditional promise. No promise of forgiveness and redemption to any person whomsoever, either in the Old Testament or the New Testament, was ever unconditional. The condition here is stated in the first clause. Let Israel hope in Jehovah, instead of hoping in their godless kings, their unbelieving Sanhedrin, their God-robbing priesthood, their hair-splitting Pharisees, and all the rest of the spiritual crutches upon which they attempted to walk. Let Israel hope in Jehovah by trusting his word and obeying it - then, and only then, will God redeem Israel from all of his iniquity.

By extension, God still promises to "Redeem Israel from all his iniquity," meaning the New Israel of God, which is the Church; but that promise is also conditional. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16).

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 130". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.