Psalm 130 – A Prayer of Hope

Last week Emma spoke to us about Psalm 44 –

A prayer when God is silent – the outpouring of the heart to God at a time of national need when He seemed not to answer.

Today we look at Psalm 130, set in a more personal context – A Prayer of Hope

Last week the Psalmist cried to God in despair:

Why do you sleep, O Lord? 

Wake up, do not reject us for ever.

But he ended with a note of expectation:

Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.

Today, like a rising graph, Psalm 130 begins:

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.

And it ends:

He will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.

(I.e. The Lord will redeem his people from all their sins.)

It’s is a personal prayer, an honest prayer and, above all, is a prayer of hope. 

In the classic film Clockwise John Cleese as a school headmaster is on a nightmare journey to get to an important conference where he is to speak.  But everything is going wrong and it will get worse. 

He says, It’s not the despair.  I can take the despair.  It’s the hope I can’t stand!  He couldn’t bear the hope of succeeding being dashed.  When our hopes are high and are dashed, it’s a long way to fall.  So we long to know God is ready and able to help when call out to him.

Psalm 130 has 8 verses. 

first 4 set the scene.

next 2 are the response of the writer. 

last 2 are encouragement to us.

Scene – response – encouragement of others.

1 The Scene set – vv1-4

v1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.

Lord, hear my voice!

You’d be amazed at how my prayer life picks up when I’ve got a problem!  True for many of us, I expect.  When life is going well for us, it’s easy for our prayer to be superficial.  When there’s a problem, when I’m under pressure, it gets a whole lot more intense!

The good thing about such times is that God has our attention – the attention He deserves all the time.

In Psalm 130 God has the psalmist’s attention.  This is honest, heartfelt prayer – the sort God loves.  It’s not going through the motions, not to impress us or others, but opening the heart and mind to Him.  It’s prayer we’re all capable of; not rehearsed and polished, but spontaneous, undefensive and real.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.

If you are ‘down’ today as we come to this psalm, pray it each day of the coming week and let it lift you up.

Further, v3 reminds us that this is the prayer of a fallible person, like you and me:

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities (take into account my sin, my short-comings), who could stand (in front of you)?    No-one.

It’s a matter of logic.  Paul said in Romans 3,

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Our perfect, glorious creator-God is himself the benchmark.  The glory of God, perfect love and holiness, are the yardstick. Why not? They must be.

But, v4 continues, there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.

Here’s the first tangible sign of hope.  Possibility of forgiveness however we may need it – so God may be revered.  So that He may be loved and respected for his grace to us.

He is the one truly worthy of the title Reverend which we apply to clergy; let alone the old Irish usage of Your Reverence.  I think I prefer what I was once called – Your Vicarage – but that may have been tongue in cheek!

God is the benchmark of our lives, the gold standard for our living, a merciful, forgiving Father, calling out our love, gratitude, humility

and respect.

This is why there is hope is at the heart of Psalm 130. It is a prayer of hope, ready to use out of the box, for each of us personally.  It isn’t talking about hoping for the best. It speaks of expecting the best from God whose past actions in Jesus calling us to be his friends assure us of his future trustworthiness.

Paul again in Romans 8 reasons it like this:

If God is for us, who is against us (that matters)?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, will he not with him also give us everything else (we need)? . . . Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness,

or peril, or sword (knife or gun)? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. . .  Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sure hope is a logical outcome of Christ’s sacrifice for us.  As a consequence we may live – ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven – every day into eternity. It is indestructible hope from God, having nothing to do with optimism, health, wealth or the weather.

C.f. Book of Common Prayer ‘General Thanksgiving’:

We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.

2 The Psalmist’s response vv-5-6

His response to God’s steadfast love in expectation of his saving help, was to say:

v5  I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.

He cried to God from the depths, but he also had a secure hope.  He wasn’t clutching at straws, nor chasing shadows, nor heading for any port in a storm, nor saying ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’. But he committed himself to the God he knew who had been faithful, loving and patient his people:

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.

In 1000 BC the writer didn’t have the rich treasury of the whole Bible that we have. Just the first 5 books, and likely a few others.  He fed his heart and mind through these and their stories of God’s known character and blessing.

His repeated phrases in Psalm 130 emphasise his decided course of action. And he compared himself to a night watchman – city, army, factory, ship – waiting for daylight when his shift would safely finish.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord

more than watchmen wait for the morning,

more than watchmen wait for the morning.

The psalmist, looking to God, didn’t expect to be disappointed:

I’m waiting, my soul is waiting, I’m watching;

I’m fully expecting God to resolve all that troubles me and my people, even to resolve the needs and contradictions of my own life.

Finally

3 The Psalmist’s encouragement vv7-8

. . . of his people, friends, family and neighbours.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!  For 2 good reasons!

For with the Lord there is steadfast love,

And with him is great power to redeem.

It is he who will redeem his people from all their sins.

He uses his love and power to build us up, not break us down.  To save us for himself.

Paul again, in 2 Corinthians 1:20

All God’s promises find their ‘yes’ in Jesus.

In other words, whatever God has done and has promised to do for us is worked out through the amazing death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It has been said, No-one saves us but ourselves.  No-one can and no-one may.  But I believe that is false, and hope-less. We cannot pull ourselves by our own boot laces.  Just try and you’ll see why!  Neither can we atone for our own sins.

But in Christ God comes to us, forgives us, makes us his friends and gives us his Spirit.  There is no better hope for today and tomorrow.

Pray this week for those leading and those participating in our children’s summer Bible week, DABS, that they too may experience new hope in Christ on whom all hope ultimately rests.