Partner with as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Psalms 130

In the Songs of Ascents in Psalms 120-126 we recognize the Feast of the blowing of trumpets, the New Year’s Day of Israel, when preparations take place to go to Jerusalem. In the Songs of Ascents in Psalms 130-131 we find the day of atonement. In the last two Songs of Ascents, Psalms 133-134, we recognize the Feast of Booths.

These three feasts are the last three of the seven feasts of the LORD in Leviticus 23 (Lev 23:23-44). Prophetically, these three feasts have to do with the restoration of Israel. We therefore recognize these three feasts in these songs of Ascents.

Psalm 130 is a retrospective of the day of atonement that found its fulfillment in the atoning death of Christ about 2,000 years ago. In Isaiah 53, actually beginning in Isaiah 52:13, we hear the confession of faith of the remnant on the occasion of the day of atonement (Isa 52:13-15; Isa 53:1-12).

Verses 1-4

Forgiveness and Fear

This eleventh “Song of Ascents” (Psa 130:1a) is also the sixth of the seven “penitential psalms” (Psalms 6; 32; 38; 51; 102; 130; 143). The psalmist or God-fearing cries “out of the depths … to You, O LORD” (Psa 130:1b; cf. Jona 2:2). This is about the depths of the sea as a picture of a very great distress in which a person is only one step away from death (cf. Isa 51:10; Jona 2:3). In these depths, as with Jonah, it is not possible to save oneself. The only hope is the LORD. This is what the psalmist sees. He cries to the LORD.

Exactly what distress it is about is not said. We can derive from this song that the psalmist is overwhelmed by the distress of his sins. He speaks of “iniquities”, “forgiveness”, “lovingkindness”, and “redemption” (Psa 130:3; 4; 7; 8).

Prophetically, we do know of Israel’s distress. Just as David committed two great sins – adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband – so too Israel has committed these two great sins. For Israel committed adultery, or idolatry, with the antichrist, and rejected and murdered its Messiah, Christ (Jn 5:43). By their sin against God in idolatry and their sin against the Neighbor in the murder of Christ, they have broken the two stone tablets of the law.

The exclamation “O LORD” indicates the intense suffering under which the psalmist is burdened, and that there is no one but the LORD, Yahweh, Who can help him. This intense suffering is also evident in Psa 130:2. After crying to the LORD, the God-fearing asks the “Lord”, Adonai, the sovereign Ruler and Provider, to hear and be attentive. In His hand are life and death.

He asks the Lord to hear his voice and that His ears be attentive to the voice of his supplications (cf. 2Chr 6:40; Neh 1:6; 11). He makes an urgent appeal to the Lord to pay attention to him, for he is in great, hopeless need. Therefore, he cries and pleads with Him to look at him, who is sitting there in great depth, in misery over his sins, and to lift him up out of it.

In doing so, he appeals to God’s grace (Psa 130:3). He knows that he has no right to deliverance from his misery. He is aware that no man, including him, can stand in God’s presence when God “marks iniquities”.

In Psa 130:1-6, the psalmist speaks in the first person singular – “I” and “my”. Psa 130:7-8 make it clear that he is speaking on behalf of the whole people, “Israel”. That means this is about the iniquity of Israel. That is also what takes place on the day of atonement. The day of atonement is about redemption from the sins of all the people. The high priest acts on behalf of the whole people. It makes clear why the Redeemer had to bear the name Jesus: it was because He would save His people from their sins (Mt 1:21).

For example, in Leviticus 16, the living goat had to carry away the people’s iniquity into the wilderness never to return (Lev 16:21-22). We have also seen this in Psalm 103: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psa 103:12). The east is the direction to which the living goat was to go, the west is where the people were, in Jerusalem.

God sees all iniquities; not one escapes Him (cf. Jer 2:22). To ‘mark iniquities’ means to impute those iniquities to the sinner, to hold him responsible for them. It means to keep track of those iniquities, to ‘keep’ them. The consequence is that God cannot receive him into His presence and cannot share with him what is on His heart, in other words, He cannot have fellowship with him.

This awareness is the beginning of the way up to reconciliation. We see this with the prodigal son. He has left his father and is living a wicked life. Then he comes to himself. He acknowledges that he is solely to blame for everything and wants to confess that to God and to his father. There is no self-maintenance at all, but the acknowledgment that he needs forgiveness. That is the moment of the way back to his father (Lk 15:17-19). Then he gets up and goes to his father, who takes him into his arms full of mercy (Lk 15:20).

This is the Divine “but” of which the God-fearing is also aware (Psa 130:4). This is what he also says to God: “But there is forgiveness with You” (cf. Neh 9:17; Dan 9:9). Forgiveness is obtainable only from God, not from any man, and only on the basis of confession of sins and faith in the blood of His Son (1Jn 1:9). As a result, he whose sins are forgiven can approach God and be in His presence. This is the meaning of the day of atonement.

Those who know and enjoy this forgiveness will not only rejoice with joy, but above all will fear God. That is stated here as the goal of forgiveness. Fear is not being anxious about God or being afraid of Him, but having reverence and awe for Him. The awareness of forgiveness will not result in a frivolous life, but a life of worship of God and obedience to Him (cf. Deu 5:29; 1Pet 1:17). Forgiveness turns people into saints and imitators of God (Eph 4:32; Eph 5:1-2).

To fear God is necessary to be able to draw near to Him. This is not so much about being delivered from the threat of judgment as it is about being able to draw near to God as a priest. That is the purpose of the day of atonement. The day of atonement is not about salvation from the anger of God – that is the Passover – but about how a redeemed people can approach God without being killed (cf. Lev 10:1-3).

The meaning of the day of atonement is explained in the letter to the Hebrews. The result of the atonement is: “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way …” (Heb 10:19-20), or to approach God as a worshiper (Jn 4:23).

Verses 5-8

Expectation and Hope

That the fear in Psa 130:4 that comes through forgiveness is not being afraid of God, as Adam was after his sin (Gen 3:10), we can see from Psa 130:5. There we hear the God-fearing say: “I wait for the LORD.” He does not run from Him because he would be afraid (Gen 3:8), but he looks forward to Him. His “soul does wait” for Him. He is full of Him. The reason for that is His word, what He has promised. That is what he waits for, that is, he looks forward confidently to the fulfillment of what the LORD has promised in His Word. That promise is that he may come into the presence of the LORD.

More than watchmen who wait for the morning light, the God-fearing longs for the light of God in his dark circumstances (Psa 130:6). By speaking twice of the longing of watchmen for the morning, that great longing is emphasized. That the longing of the God-fearing for the LORD is even greater indicates how strong it is. He does not primarily long for change in circumstances, but for the LORD Himself.

Thereby, the watchmen have the assurance that soon, at a certain time, it will be morning (cf. Isa 21:11-12). The God-fearing also has the assurance of the appearing of the LORD, only he does not know when that will be. What he does know for certain is that “the sun of righteousness” will “rise” on that “morning without clouds” (Mal 4:2; 2Sam 23:3-4; cf. Hos 6:3b).

The application for the church is that she looks forward with great longing to the coming of Christ to take His church to Himself. In this she may also hope in His word, His promise. After all, He has said: “I am coming soon” (Rev 22:20a).

Those who know forgiveness and reconciliation want to share it with the people of God, with their brothers and sisters (Psa 130:7). The testimony holds hope for Israel, a hope anchored only in the LORD. Only with Him “is lovingkindness, and with Him is abundant redemption”. Of this, anyone who has personally experienced it can and will testify. By “abundant redemption” we can think of the countless believers who have been redeemed, but also of the countless sins from which every believer has been redeemed. This applies to both Old Testament and New Testament believers.

Those who know the forgiveness of God for their sins (Psa 130:4), who know Him as the God Who is merciful and with Whom is abundant redemption (Psa 130:7), look forward confidently to the full redemption of His people (Psa 130:8). With a powerful, affirming “and”, the God-fearing also testifies to this. God’s people will be redeemed by Him “from all their iniquities”. This is not about redemption from hostile nations around them, but redemption from their own sins.

There is not one iniquity that has not been atoned for, for “all” his iniquities have been put away. Normally, on the day of atonement, Israel’s iniquities of the past year are put away. Here the psalmist expects by faith that all the iniquities of Israel will be put away once and for all. This is not possible with blood of bulls and goats. Christ, as the perfect, great High Priest, has done it with the sacrifice of His own blood.

Everything that has prevented the blessing has been taken out of the way and disappeared without trace forever through the work of Christ. Transgressions have been wiped out like a mist and sins like a cloud (Isa 44:22). This makes possible the full enjoyment of the blessing of the realm of peace by God’s people (Heb 8:10-12).

Added to that, we also look forward to the redemption of creation and of our bodies (Rom 8:20-23).

Copyright Statement
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
No part of the publications may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.
Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 130". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.