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The Psalm before us, like the other pilgrim-songs, implies circumstances of bitterness; but it is, as in truth is each of them, more than a cry occasioned by outward hardship and danger. The sixth of the seven penitential Psalms, so styled by way of eminence, and not with a meaning that there are no other Psalms of penitence—this is intensely spiritual. It is at once a soliloquy, a petition, a statement, and an exhortation, a hymn for private use and public service, the voice of the soul and of the congregation. The former half is an address to the Lord: the latter is, first a profession of hope and expectation in His mercy, and then an argued invitation to the mind and course described as happily adopted. Throughout it is the language of deep distress on account of sin, a prayer for compassion and forgiveness, and an expression of trust in the promises and provisions of God’s love.—The Caravan and Temple.
I. That a consciousness of sin sinks the soul into depths of penitential sorrow. The Psalmist is penetrated with a sense of personal defilement, and measuring sin according to the standard of Divine purity, is plunged as into an abyss of humiliation and despair. “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” The light makes manifest the darkness, the beautiful in nature reveals by contrast the ugly and repulsive; so an exalted purity brings out the loathsomeness and deformity of sin. Better to be overwhelmed with a genuine sorrow for sin than with the wrath of God that will certainly overtake the impenitent (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
II. That from the depths of penitential sorrow the soul cries earnestly for pardon. “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice; let Thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications” (Psalms 130:1-2). The distressed soul finds relief in cries and tears. The heart would break if it found no outlet for its pent-up grief. In the darkest, deepest sorrow, it is our privilege to cry to God and to be heard. To cry to God in sorrow for sin is to pray to be delivered from it: it is an appeal for mercy. It is only when we taste the bitterness of sin, only when we are surrounded by its black horrors and the terrible vengeance it merits, that we are truly in earnest in pleading for forgiveness. The wail of despair is transformed into a song of hope when assured that pardon is attainable. “There is forgiveness with Thee.” But for this, the soul might cry in vain: answered only by its own mocking eche; despair recoiling upon yet deeper despair.
III. That the penitent soul seeks pardon in order to serve God acceptably. “But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared” (Psalms 130:4). True religion is justly defined as the fear of God. Not the cowering terror of the slave, not the sullen, pouting fear of the culprit, not the half-hope and half-dread of the awakened sinner, but the loving, reverential, obedient fear of the forgiven and accepted child. Pardon is absolutely necessary for acceptable and useful Christian work. God forgives, not simply to deliver from the depths of penitence, not to give license for indulgence in wickedness; but to create a moral fitness for exalted and extensive service (Psalms 51:12-13).
1. From the deepest depths of misery the cry of penitence reaches the heights of heaven.
2. The more vivid our sense of sin, the more appreciative are we of the blessing of forgiveness.
3. The Lord delivers from sin that we may serve Him with loving fear.
THE HOPE OF REDEMPTION
I. Is based on the revelation of the Divine Word. “I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in His Word do I hope” (Psalms 130:5). Hope must have a solid foundation to rest upon, else it is mere dreamy conjecture, the rosy bloom of fancy that is shrivelled up by the first rude blast of trial. The Word of God is the foundation of the soul’s hope of redemption; and that redemption is the theme which pervades every page of revelation. The word translated to wait, properly signifies the extension of a cord from one point to another. The Word of God is one point, the soul the other; and the extended cord between both is the earnest believing desire of the soul. This desire, this hope, strongly extended from the heart to God, is the active energetic waiting which God requires and which will be successful. God never disappoints: His Word never fails. Myriads have looked to Him for redemption, and not in vain.
II. Rouses the most passionate longings of the human soul. “My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning” (Psalms 130:6). It is an emphatic repetition, indicating that the whole soul is waiting and watching for redemption. “The priest staying in the temple for the moment of the early oblation, the warder on the tower looking for the first streak of day, the benighted traveller unable to take another step till the long darkness shall be over, the sick man sleeplessly longing for the family to be astir, the mariner wanting the light that he may examine the doubtful coast,—not one of them so earnestly hopes for the morning which will end his watch as my soul waits for the Lord, who forgives repented iniquity.” The nearer a great blessing appears to us the more eager are we to possess it. The blessing of redemption is worthy of the most ardent and patient hope.
III. Is encouraged by reflecting on the amplitude of the Divine mercy. “Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption” (Psalms 130:7). The first conception of redemption was the offspring of the Divine pity and compassion. The Lord yearns to deliver man from sin: He delighteth in mercy. (Compare Jeremiah 31:20; James 5:11; Exodus 34:6-7). There can be no true peace, no moral safety, without pardon. How great and condescending is that act of Divine mercy by which the sinner is pardoned, and his soul, wearied and distracted with long and anxious waiting, is set at rest and filled with unutterable peace!
IV. Is strengthened by the assurance of the completeness of redemptive blessings. “And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities” (Psalms 130:8). It is no temporary, or indistinct, blessing that is so anxiously sought; it is nothing less than a complete deliverance from all iniquity. Redemption from sin includes redemption from all other evils: it is the greatest and most perfect work of God, and bestows the most exalted blessings on man. “A sacred presence in this Psalm asks the conscience a succession of important questions. Have you been in depths of distress on account of sin? Did you cry to the Lord to deliver you from the deep waters? Have you given up all thought of escaping by your own righteousness? Is all your appeal to God’s redeeming mercy? Are you contentedly waiting and watching till He shall give you His promised blessing? Is your heart set upon the full daylight of holiness to the Lord?”
1. Redemption is a Divine work.
2. The most degraded soul is not beyond the hope of recovery.
3. Redemption must be eagerly and prayerfully sought.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 130". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12