Psalm 130

The fall season in Wisconsin was beautiful this year, but fall also reminds us that life in this world is limited. “How long, O Lord?”

The last Sunday of the church year we hear Jesus say, “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Luke 12:40). We watch and wait with the prayer, “How long, O Lord?”

We are mortal. This world is passing away. We wait for the Lord, our whole being waits, and in His Word we put our hope.

Psalm 130 helps us to do our waiting and our praying in hope…

Psalm 130 is a psalm of ascents, sung by Old Testament believers as they traveled to Jerusalem for the festivals.

Psalm 130 is listed among the penitential psalms—a call for mercy, out of the depths.

Martin Luther called Psalm 130 a “Pauline Psalm” because of its emphasis on the LORD’s forgiveness, unfailing love, and full redemption.

Psalm 130 can be divided into four sections of two verses each. The first section is an urgent plea for the LORD to hear and help:

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
    Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
    to my cry for mercy.

The second section contrasts what we deserve from the LORD with what we receive from the LORD:

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
    Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
    so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

The third section expresses a sense of longing, a sense of anticipation, and a sense of certainty. The morning always comes. For those who trust in the LORD, the night of trouble is always chased away by the light of God’s salvation.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.

This Psalm feels complete after the first three sections. The use of LORD and Lord in the first and third sections provides bookends around the beautiful statements in verses 2-3. The last two verses almost feel like an afterthought or an intrusion, which they aren’t.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
    for with the Lord is unfailing love
    and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
    from all their sins.

As pastors we often find ourselves in the depths. We call out urgently. We remember the LORD’s forgiveness; his grace and mercy strengthen our faith. We wait eagerly and joyfully for the LORD to bring us a new word of encouragement, especially the announcement that the eternal day has dawned.

And as we wait, we are reminded that this message is for all Israel, for all God’s elect. Unfailing love and full redemption—these are what the LORD intends to bring to others through us.

Psalm 130 is a great song for laborers in his harvest fields.