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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

Psalms 130

Verse 1

Psalms 130:1

I. That deep was not merely the deep of affliction. You may see men with every comfort which wealth and home can give who are tormented day and night in that deep pit in the midst of all their prosperity, calling for a drop of water to cool their tongue and finding none. That deep pit is a far worse place, an utterly bad place, and yet it may be good for a man to have fallen into it; and strangely enough, if he do fall in, the lower he sinks in it the better for him at last. There is another strange contradiction in that pit, which David found: that though it was a bottomless pit, the deeper he sank in it the more likely he was to find his feet set on a rock; the further down in the nethermost hell he was the nearer he was to being delivered from the nethermost hell.

II. The fire of that pit hardens a man and softens him at the same time; and he comes out of it hardened to the hardness of which it is written, "Do thou endure hardness, like a good soldier of Jesus Christ," yet softened to that softness of which it is written, "Be ye tender-hearted, compassionate, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you."

III. How shall we learn this? How shall the bottomless pit, if we fall into it, be but a pathway to the everlasting Rock? David tells us: "Out of the deep have I cried unto Thee, O Lord." He was face to face with God, alone, in utter weakness, in utter nakedness of soul. He cried to God Himself. There was the lesson. God took him up and cast him down; and there he sat alone, astonished and confounded, like Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah, when she sat alone upon the parching rock. But it was told David what Rizpah had done. And it is told to One greater than David, even to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, what the poor soul does when it sits alone in its despair. It shall be with that poor soul as it was with Moses when he went up alone into the mount of God and fasted forty days and forty nights, amid the earthquake, and the thunderstorm, and the rocks which melted before the Lord. "And, behold, when it was past, he talked face to face with God, as a man talketh with his friend;" and his countenance shone with heavenly light when he came down triumphant out of the mount of God.

C. Kingsley, The Good News of God, p. 68.

Reference: Psalms 130:1 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xii., p. 83.

Verses 1-2

Psalms 130:1-2 , Psalms 130:7

I. The first thing that occurs to us in glancing over the Psalms is the great variety of circumstances under which they seem to have been composed. These circumstances embrace the whole range of human life, its joys and its sorrows, its successes and its reverses; while the emotions which they express include all the corresponding feelings of the human heart.

II. Another striking feature is their unity, their agreement or oneness. (1) Manifold as they are, they all speak to one Person: God. All meet in Him as the one centre towards which they are directed. (2) In their various utterances to God there is the same spirit; the same principle seems to dictate each. They all speak the language of faith in God.

III. If you search through the Psalms, you will find this faith in God unfolding itself into: (1) faith in God as the Creator and Preserver of the world; (2) faith in God as the living King and Ruler of men; (3) faith in God as the righteous Judge; (4) faith in God as having compassion upon all who suffer; (5) faith in God as One who will not reject the penitent.

G. Formes, The Voice of God in the Psalms, p. 80.

References: Psalms 130:1-3 . M. R.Vincent, Old Testament Outlines, p. 149. Psalms 130:2 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xii., p. 84.

Verses 1-8

Psalms 130:0

This Psalm gives us what we may call the ascent of the soul from the depths to the heights.

I. We have the cry from the depths. The depths which the psalmist means are those into which the spirit feels itself going down, sick and giddy, when there comes the thought," I am a sinful man, O Lord, in the presence of Thy great purity." Out of these depths does he cry to God. (1) The depths are the place for us all. (2) Unless you have cried to God out of these depths, you have never cried to Him at all. (3) You want nothing more than a cry to draw you from the pit.

II. We have, next, a dark fear and a bright assurance (Psalms 130:3-4 ). These two halves represent the struggle in the man's mind. They are like a sky one half of which is piled with thunder-clouds and the other serenely blue. (1) To "mark" iniquities is to impute them to us. Here we have expressed the profound sense of the impossibility of any man's sustaining the righteous judgment of God. (2) "There is forgiveness with Thee," etc. No man ever comes to that confidence that has not sprung to it, as it were, by a rebound from the other thought. He must first have felt the shudder of the thought, "If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities," in order to come to the gladness of the thought, "But there is forgiveness with Thee."

III. "My soul waiteth for the Lord," etc. There is the permanent, peaceful attitude of the spirit that has tasted the consciousness of forgiving love a continual dependence upon God. The consciousness of sin was the dark night. The coming of God's forgiving love flushed all the eastern heaven with diffused brightness that grew into perfect day. And so the man waits quietly for the dawn, and his whole soul is one absorbing desire that God may dwell with him and brighten and gladden him.

IV. "Let Israel hope in the Lord." There is nothing which isolates a man so awfully as a consciousness of sin and of his relation to God; but there is nothing that so knits him to all his fellows, and brings him into such wide-reaching bonds of amity and benevolence, as the sense of God's forgiving mercy for his own soul. So the call bursts from the lips of the pardoned man, inviting all to taste the experience and exercise the trust which have made him glad.

A. Maclaren, A Year's Ministry, 2nd series, p. 31 (see also Contemporary Pulpit, vol. i., p. 25, and Preacher's Monthly, vol. viii., p. 122).

References: Psalms 130:0 S. Cox, The Pilgrim Psalms, p. 217; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xii., p. 83; H. C. G. Moule, Ibid., vol. xvi., p. 87; C. Kingsley, Westminster Sermons, p. 262.Psalms 131:1 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 100.

Verse 3

Psalms 130:3

We have here the second stage in the journey of the soul from the abyss to God.

I. Consider the state itself. "If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?" (1) There has been distinct progress here, yet the eyes are still dim with past slumber; the heart is still hardened by former sin; the vision is not clear. The soul is beginning to understand that to make any real progress it must know two things alone at first: itself and its wants, Christ and His redeeming blood; yet it cannot now shut all else out. Other men are still included in its view others, with their measure of guilt. The eyes are but opening to spiritual things; the soul is not yet alone with God. (2) Mark how this verse discloses all the conflict that rages in the soul. It is as though the shipwrecked man had been thrown upon a rock, bruised, stunned, bewildered; as if he could just hold on there, and no more; as if the roar of the angry waters was still in his ear; nay, as if he saw those waters almost sweeping up to him again, almost enfolding him in their fearsome embrace once more, and yet was powerless to move: only in his heart there is a reaching out to One who alone is powerful to save.

II. Consider the peculiar dangers of this time: (1) despair; (2.) a want of thoroughness and reality; (3) impatience; (4) the haunting of old temptations.

III. This stage is also one of hope, and one on which there rests an especial blessing from our God. If Satan be busy round us then, yet is not the heaven opened above us? Is not One watching us who Himself once suffered in the attack of the thronging temptations? He will never mark iniquities if you deal truly and honestly with Him. Yes, it is a time of hope, of joy in the presence of God, when the repentant sinner seeks the homeward way.

Bishop E. R. Wilberforce, The Awaking Soul, p. 16.

Reference: Psalms 130:3 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xii., p. 84.

Verses 3-4

Psalms 130:3-4

I. It is when the sinner feels his weakness and his utter inability to deliver himself from the clinging guilt of the past, to shake off by the mere exercise of his will the evil habits and unruly tempers that have got strong hold over him, and to keep himself free from falls for the time to come, that the concluding words of the text come home to him with their full power: "There is mercy with Thee; therefore shalt Thou be feared." If there were no mercy, there would be little fear. Men would grow reckless, desperate. All experience, the experience of all ages and countries, has shown this. Where mercy is never shown, crimes multiply; men grow bolder, take their chance more recklessly, and meet their fate more doggedly, than when there is an occasional pardon and reprieve.

II. If God were extreme to mark what is done amiss, there would be no hope for any of us. But He has a prerogative of mercy, which He exercises in favour of those whom He deems worthy of it. Because, therefore, He holds the prerogative of mercy, let us fear Him fear lest we should render ourselves unworthy of it; fear lest we should compel Him to withhold it; fear lest we should miss it.

F. E. Paget, Helps and Hindrances to the Christian Life, vol. ii., p. 28.

I. As St. Paul urged the goodness of God as a motive not, as some might expect, for hope and confidence, but for repentance "The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance" so here the same doctrine is taught us by the Holy Spirit; because God is merciful, therefore we ought to fear Him. We might have expected that the psalmist would have said, There is mercy with Thee; therefore shalt Thou be trusted. There is mercy with Thee; therefore shalt Thou be loved and adored: and so of course it might; nevertheless the word is, "Therefore shalt Thou be feared," or "that Thou mayest be feared."

II. We should all endeavour more and more to feel and acknowledge our own deficiencies, our sins, negligences, and ignorances, and then to set in earnest about leading a new life, because to go on as we have been, without trying to grow better, may indeed satisfy other people and ourselves too; but still the awful question remains whether we are indeed such as our Lord, Master, and Redeemer will acknowledge as His in the day when He makes up His jewels.

Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. iv., p. 250.

Reference: Psalms 130:3 , Psalms 130:4 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 367.

Verse 4

Psalms 130:4

(with Psalms 85:8 )

I. The particle "but" in these verses indicates the contrast of one truth to another. In Psalms 130:4 the contrast is between Divine holiness, the strictness of Divine justice, and the amplitude and freedom of Divine grace.

II. Psa 85:8 . When God speaks peace, Hewill accompany it with solemn warning, not without good cause and need. The fear of apostasy is set before believers, and is one of the means by which God creates and maintains that holy caution, self-distrust, and confiding trust in Him by which His people are kept from apostasy and, short of apostasy, from return to folly. There is forgiveness with Him, but it is that He may be feared.

III. With these two "buts," what is left: (1) for despair; (2) for presumption?

J. Duncan, The Pulpit and Communion Table, p. 276.

References: Psalms 130:4 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. x., p. 80, and vol. xii., p. 84.Psalms 130:5 . Ibid., vol. ii., p. 27.

Verses 5-6

Psalms 130:5-6

In Dr. Kay's translation of the Psalms, these verses are rendered thus:

"I waited for the Lord; my soul waited,

And for His word I looked earnestly."

Mark that past tense, and now the transition:

"My soul is to the Lord,

More than sentries for the morning, than sentries for the morning."

Here are two more steps marked put upon the homeward way: the past waiting and the present result of that waiting. The waiting may have been very painful, very long, very discouraging at times; but it was persevered in, and the earnest watch was kept. Mark the result: the turning of the soul to the Lord; completed conversion. Never did tired sentinel look more eagerly for the first ray of morning light than does that soul look for the signs of the presence of God with it.

I. It is a state of armed expectation, then, that is here described; one that is full of a hope based on past favours; one, however, that it needs much manhood to maintain, much fortitude to endure; one that has its own peculiar trials, and yet one that has its own uplifting helps. Most souls who know aught of Christ and His wealth of love, aught of sin and its misery, are somewhere about the region here described by the psalmist.

II. Consider some of the dangers of the state before us. (1) The time which we are considering is especially a time for building up the spiritual house, though now, as of old, the sword must be in one hand while the trowel is in the other. Guard at this stage against an emotional form of Christianity, against any mere hysterical approaches to Christ. (2) We should mistrust mere quiet, at least if that quiet mean only the absence of temptation. This is an armed wakeful quiet, if quiet it be. (3) Never let us be cast down by mere temptation, so long as, by God's help, we are able to resist the temptation; it will humble us to be tempted: that is good; it will warn us: that is helpful; it will teach us to rely only on Christ: that is what we want to learn. (4) Beware of spiritual idleness at this stage.

III. Notice some of the marks whereby we may know whether we have reached this stage of the spiritual life or no. (1) We shall have cut ourselves adrift from all old associations with sin. (2) There will be an abiding sorrow for sin, which will have an increasing gentleness of manner as one of its chief characteristics. (3) There will be a growing love of the word of God. (4) The growth of patience. The spiritual life is full of sweetest surprises to the patient looker-out on God; the eye grows to be instructed where to look for signs of His presence and to see them where others cannot, just as experienced mountaineers ever look to the westward hills for the reflection of the first faint flush of dawn, while tyros are still gazing up at the eastern hills, which only hinder signs. Let us be patient in our armed watch, and the morning will come. "My soul is to the Lord, more than sentries for the morning."

Bishop E. R. Wilberforce, The Awaking Soul, p. 48.

Reference: Psalms 130:5 , Psalms 130:6 . W. M. Statham, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 340.

Verse 6

Psalms 130:6

No one can read the Psalms and doubt that David knew and loved the Second Advent. And therefore I am inclined to believe that it was of this he spoke in the text.

I. Who but a very bad man thinks of the morning with any other than a happy feeling? The man of ardent enterprise chafes at the hindrances of the darkness, and longs for the morning. The timid child is afraid of the loneliness, and wishes it were day. The weary sentry treads his rounds, and listens for the early notes that herald his release. The solitary mourner wails that the night is long. The expectant bride looks out upon the horizon, and sighs for the dawn. And just so it is with the whole Church; all, with one consent, watch for the morning. That morning shall roll back the uncertainties and the hindrances, the terrors and the regrets, the sins and the sufferings of the old, and let in a new existence.

II. There are four things which especially go to make up that one little, comprehensive command "Watch." (1) Whoever would watch for Christ must have some intelligent conception of the nature of His coming. (2) To watch for the Second Advent is to be always regarding it as David did, and Peter: as the great antidote and cure for all present evil. (3) You must place the thought of the Second Advent as the crown of all your happiness. It will be like the bloom of the morning upon the mountain-top. (4) If you would watch for Christ, all life must be in harmony with the watch. The light must be in that heart that looks for light.

J. Vaughan, Sermons, 12th series, p. 189.

I. What is the true idea of the phrase "waiting upon God"? "Waiting" expresses a state or habit which is the result of a combination of desire, expectation, and patient submission. "Waiting on God" is thus the patient expectation of results which God has promised to secure, results which are in themselves desirable, and which God has given us reason to believe will be realised. It implies the exercise of self-control, a meek acquiescence in the Divine arrangements, a confident assurance that God will do what He has promised and show Himself in full accordance with all that He has revealed Himself to be.

II. As practically exemplifying this Divine principle, (1) we may take the case of a Christian man engaged in the business of life. Here waiting upon God will be exhibited not in the neglect of means or in any fanatical expectation that God will send down success apart from diligent and wise endeavours on the part of the individual to secure it, but in the pious, devout, and patient expectation of God's blessing to give effect to exertion wisely and perseveringly put forth. (2) The same principle applies to our spiritual business. We are to use the means; and when we have done what God has commanded us to do, true piety teaches us to wait on Him for that grace without which no effort of ours after spiritual attainment will succeed. (3) Take the case of a Christian man under the discipline of affliction. He who has learned to "wait" commits himself to God, assured that He will not afflict His people willingly or lay on them more than they are able to bear, but, in the infinitude of His love, wisdom, and power, will make all things work together for good to those that love Him and are the called according to His purpose.

W. Lindsay Alexander, Christian Thought and Work, p. 62 (see also Good Words, 1861, p. 191).

Reference: Psalms 130:6 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xii., p. 84.

Verse 7

Psalms 130:7

We may conclude from these words:

I. That the redemption purchased by the Saviour's death is ample and unlimited. It is the plain sense of Holy Scripture that Jesus shed His blood for Jew and Gentile, for bond and free; that by His death He put all into such a state that they may, if they will, come unto Him and be saved.

II. The redemption cannot be exhausted; provision has been made for each one of us. "Plenteous redemption" has been provided for each one of us; but the question for us to ask ourselves is this: Have we taken the needful steps for securing it?

J. N. Norton, Golden Truths, p. 278.

References: Psalms 130:7 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii., No. 351; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 367; W. Baird, The Hallowing of our Common Life, p. 47. Psalms 130:7 , Psalms 130:8 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xii., p. 84.

Verse 7

Psalms 130:7

We may conclude from these words:

I. That the redemption purchased by the Saviour's death is ample and unlimited. It is the plain sense of Holy Scripture that Jesus shed His blood for Jew and Gentile, for bond and free; that by His death He put all into such a state that they may, if they will, come unto Him and be saved.

II. The redemption cannot be exhausted; provision has been made for each one of us. "Plenteous redemption" has been provided for each one of us; but the question for us to ask ourselves is this: Have we taken the needful steps for securing it?

J. N. Norton, Golden Truths, p. 278.

References: Psalms 130:7 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii., No. 351; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 367; W. Baird, The Hallowing of our Common Life, p. 47. Psalms 130:7 , Psalms 130:8 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xii., p. 84.

Verse 8

Psalms 130:8

I. These words speak to us, first, of a Person. Do we know that Person? We are all well acquainted with His history; we believe it, no doubt: but does that faith colour our lives and shape our deeds? That is the question. Is the soul, in its separate individuality, reaching out to a personal God, whom even now it can touch by virtue of a sacramental union, and to whom it can even now speak in prayer and be certain of an audience?

II. How careful our blessed Lord is to teach us the truth; how often that tremendous "I am" confronts us at the very outset of much of His teaching; and in His one person all truth is seen to be summed up. He teaches us no doctrine about Himself. From first to last, His teaching is Himself; He is the expression of all He taught. From the first "I am" far away back in the pages of the old world history down to the "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end," of the book of Revelation, it is so.

III. Redemption implies both the bringing back by One who shed His blood for us, and it implies as well the victory of One who is our King. In Christianity we are led through obedience to the kingdom, through the sufferings to the crown. If Christ be King, He calls for our personal surrender; if Christ be the Redeemer, He calls to us to come to Him for cleansing: but as He Himself is truth, He looks for reality in all our approaches to Him. Let us strive to know our God by personal access to Him, and knowing Him, strive to serve Him ever better. Let us labour on towards the goal, till we learn to know Him perfectly, who can alone "redeem Israel from all his iniquities," who alone is "King of kings and Lord of lords."

Bishop E. R. Wilberforce, The Awaking Soul, p. 88.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Psalms 130". "Sermon Bible Commentary".