A Meditation on Psalm 130
1 Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice; let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication. 2 If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss, O Lord, who could stand? 3 For there is forgiveness with you; therefore you shall be feared. 4 I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; in his word is my hope. 5 My soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. 6 O Israel, wait for the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy; 7 With him there is plenteous redemption, and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.
When times get tough, my advice is always to read the psalms. I’ve personally come back to the psalms during these days working from home, and it has reinvigorated my love for their honesty, passion, and truth.
Psalm 130 is one of seven penitential psalms of the Lenten Liturgy in the medieval church. Pope Innocence III (late 12th and early 13th century) said this psalm and the six others should be prayed every day or at least on Fridays during Lent.
The title of this psalm in Latin is “De Profundis” which means “Out of the depths,” and it is used in many countries for invitations to funerals. In their sorrow, the mourners cry “De Profundis” because their only request is that God listens and be attentive to them.
“Out of the depths have I called to you,” says the writer, and what comes out of the depths is pretty amazing, and I believe it has a number of lessons for us today.
For one thing, this psalm sums up the penitential season of Lent so clearly when it says in the second verse, “If you, O Lord, were to note what is done amiss, O Lord, who could stand?” It names the great divide between God’s goodness and our own iniquity. Even from the depths of despair, the writer recognizes the perfect Creator and the broken creation.
But thankfully for us it doesn’t stop there. In verse three it says, “For there is forgiveness with you; therefore you shall be feared.”
It goes on to call on the faithful to wait for the Lord as watchmen expectantly wait for the first morning rays to break over the horizon.
And we wait “for with the Lord there is mercy” (v. 6). For those of you were a part of our Hebrew words class a few months ago, you’d love to hear that in this instance “mercy” is the Hebrew word “hesed.” And we said hesed can mean mercy, lovingkindness, or loyal-love. We wait “for with the Lord there is loyal-love.”
It is in the very nature of God to be forgiving and filled with hesed.
So, crying from the depths, patiently waiting, and experiencing God’s loyal-love: these are all things we need to hear as a church in exile, and as a country, and world, that is continuing to suffer.
What does it mean to cry from the depths, right now in our situation? What does it mean to wait “more than watchmen for the morning, as we continue to wait and wait and wait? And what does it look like to find God as the source of our hope and to rediscover his loyal-love during this trying time?
The only answer this psalm gives, and that pretty much every psalm gives, is that we must put our whole trust -- and really our whole selves --into the loving care of our perfect Creator.
May God hear us “de profundis” – out of the depths.
Photo by Federico Respini on Unsplash