My Soul Waits for the Lord
A Song of Ascents.
Luther calls Psalm 130 the most Pauline of Psalms, a proper master and doctor of scripture. God forgives sin and God redeems and restores, as shown in Israel’s return from exile. This psalm proclaims the hope of full restoration, experienced by us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and looks ahead to the future hope for the church and world.
Listen for echoes of Romans 8!
Psalm 130 is a psalm in four parts, best seen as a conversation. We hear the voice of personal experience in verses 1 and 2, and 5 and 6, and the voice of theological insight in verses 3 and 4, and 7 and 8. The reality of human existence, and in response the reality of God’s character, combine to give us hope.
–Howard Carter (and all following in blue)
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
2 O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
The repetition accentuates the distress that the psalmist finds himself in. The depths are a vivid metaphor for trouble and sorrow and suffering in life, as if one is being tossed round on the waves of life. Walter Brueggemann identifies this as a psalm of disorientation, when we seem to have sunk into a pit and the world seems totally upside down.
3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.
It’s important to note that God’s grace, shown in mercy and forgiveness, is given as a reason to fear and serve the Lord. God’s grace and kindness is always seen as the foundation for relationship. The Ten Commandments and the Sinai covenant are based on God’s grace, rescuing Israel from Egypt. God’s invitation for all who believe in Christ to be the sons and daughters of God is based on Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. God calls us to love him and so keep his commands out of love, not out of fear of some tyrant. Walter Brueggemann sums this up by saying that “there is forgiveness and from it everything else flows. It is the first fact of the new life, of the new age.”
The psalmist still finds himself journeying through the depth, sojourning in a dark landscape, but his posture has changed—from wailing to waiting, from despair to hope, from fretting to trust. Knowing the character of God, knowing God’s forgiveness and grace, means the Psalmist can wait for God to act. To wait on the LORD is to live trusting in God. The dawn will come. The psalmist says he is like the watchman, going about his task in the sure knowledge that the sun will soon rise.
7 O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
8 And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.
So the psalmist calls us to put our hope in the LORD—to wait and watch and see what God will do. The depths are real, the suffering is real, but the bottom is not the bottom, for we find underneath us the Everlasting Arms. It is in the depths perhaps we can find the deep truth about God’s grace. The psalmist met God in the depths, and it changed things. The psalmist encountered the true gracious nature of God and we can too. Charles Spurgeon puts it so eloquently: “The one who cries out in the depths will sing in the heights.”
HERE are the Sons of Korah and their soulful rendition of Psalm 130.