Today’s scripture, Ps. 130, is a prison gem… the Psalmist may not literally be in prison, but the opening line could easily be spoken by a prisoner: “Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord.” This Psalm speaks to many situations from those literally in prison to those who are feeling lost. I found an old Frank and Ernest cartoon I clipped out years ago:
Frank is in a hospital bed looking miserable and the nurse is explaining to Ernest: “Yes, he’s on the critical list – critical of the food, critical of the nurses, critical of the service….”
Anyone feeling stuck in a situation they’d never choose, can relate to the heart cry of Ps. 130:1: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.” The richness of Ps. 130 is that it moves from a cry of pain to a new life of living as if the future is NOW. Circle some of the words in this Psalm which form the movement from a cry of pain to HOPE: Depth, cry to God, God listens, mercy, forgiveness, waiting, hope, salvation.
Are you feeling lost, disappointed, crushed, stuck? Join me in watching the transformation of the author of Psalm from complaining in critical care to HOPE…
Prison is a good thing for those who change. I have a friend that was caught drunk driving. One night in jail. It changed him forever… Hitting the bottom is the best thing for those who emerge with a stronger faith. “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.”
I read a couple of different people’s take on Ps. 130. One was a perspective I’d never thought of (Randy Hyde)….He sees the author of Ps. 130 as a bit selfish and manipulative… Maybe he’s correct…He tells about a trick car salesman use: if you’ve ever bought a car, how often the salesman uses your name (is this true?), because people like to hear their name, it personalizes it… listen to Ps. 130:1-3… (READ, emphazing “O Lord”) and then Ps. 130:4 it’s like the writer is overly complimenting God. READ.
I tend to think that man is wrong. I see the writer of Ps. 130 as hitting the bottom and now he turns to the Lord with a sincere heart. The man is ready to be transformed. Rather than endless complaining, the author turns to God. But suppose there is a bit of selfishness on the Psalmist’s part... I can accept that possibility because we humans are fully capable of trying to outmaneuver God. The good news is God is a master chess player and he is always at least five steps ahead of us… I am capable of thinking I can willfully sin because God is a forgiving God and will save me… or, “I am saved so I don’t need to worry much about being obedient to God.” I can visualize God smiling when we think that we can manipulate God into doing what we want because we rely on his merciful character.
35 years ago when I sat at the front desk of the registrar’s office at Fuller Seminary, from time to time students would demand a reversal of a bad grade from a class they forgot to drop, “You have to give me grace because this is a Christian School.” That is us saying, “You have to forgive, God, because you are God and your character demands it.” On several occasions, I called the registrar down from his office to set a demanding student straight. “Come down hard on this arrogant person” I’d think to myself, wanting the registrar to set him straight. To my disappointment, in spite of the arrogant attitude, the registrar would give the student grace.
Isn’t that just like God…even if we are impure, he’s way ahead of us. It doesn’t matter how pure the motives are of the writer of Ps. 130… grace is grace…God is always way ahead of us…
The Psalmist is at the bottom. He’s ready to rise… “I cry to you, O Lord… hear my voice…” There is no greater loneliness than that of not being heard. I spoke to a woman this week that had a list of personal heartaches and tragedies… “nobody knows the hurt I’m going through…” I was honored to listen… by the end nothing changed, but I could sense a calmness… a sense that she could make it. I had no wise words, no answers… “hear my voice” (Ps. 130:2) God is always ready to listen… it is “a cry for mercy.”
Asking for mercy means no excuses. A guilty prisoner/sinner that makes excuses will never change. Asking for mercy is implicitly admitting guilt: He doesn’t want to rehash what went wrong, how it isn’t his fault. Just mercy. Asking for pure mercy cuts through a lot of garbage. Sometimes we need to draw a line and quit overthinking how I got into the mess I’m in… I know one family that is in such a huge snarled multi-decade mess I’m not sure God himself could untangle the web. The only solution I can see: draw a line to start new: “Mercy” is what this writer asks. Just mercy. A new beginning. Ps. 130:3 is the same idea: “No need to go over all my sins… I would be crushed if I have to relive that nightmare.” He thanks the Lord for forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not ignoring or overlooking, or making light of sin. Forgiveness from God is treating us as if we had done no wrong and giving up any right for revenge or punishment. Forgiveness is welcoming the prodigal home not as a servant but as a full fledged son. Forgiveness is not probation, it is pardon. Listen to Promises from God:
- Micah 7:19: “You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!”
- Ps. 103:12: “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.”
- Heb. 10:17. “Then [the Lord] says, “‘I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.’”
- Is. 1:18: “‘Come now…,’ says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.’”
I like the story of a woman married to a crumb bum of a man. He drank too much, and was abusive in many ways. He especially ridiculed her Christian faith. One day after slapping her, he sneered, “And how is your Jesus helping you now?” She replied, quietly, “He’s helping me love and forgive you.” That’s mercy – that’s forgiveness. Forgiveness is the path that leads to HOPE!
HOPE involves waiting. One of the things I’m learning about myself in this present reality of limiting our social activities is that I’m having a hard time waiting. The open ended waiting. I want to know the timelines of when it will all end, when the church can get back together… I vote for Ps. 130:5-6 to be the most incredible verse of this Psalm: READ.
I drive Sally nuts by saying way too often, “I’ll be so happy when we can get back to normal in the church…” I tend to put conditions on my waiting… I have perfected a stubborn kind of waiting, “all right, I’ll wait because I have to, but I don’t like it.” I am so good at stubbornly waiting you will interpret what I am doing as patience… but if you only knew how good I am at digging in my heals and saying nothing. Ps. 130:5-6 is not a stubborn kind of waiting, it is a redemptive kind of waiting, waiting with peace....
I wait for the Lord… Gary Severson said once, most of the time we are either trying to catch up with God or waiting for God to catch up with us, and most of the time it’s ‘God hurry up and catch up.” … we want God to get moving to bless our plans, to get us into the next phase of life… Ps. 130:5-6 is redemptive… I wait for the Lord, it’s his timing, his plans, when he is ready. In my devotional reading I’m in the gospel of John, one of the recurring themes: “the time is not yet right.” The disciples are constantly trying to get Jesus to go here or there, and his response: “it’s not the right time.” Redemptive waiting is life itself, it is a way of life, not a stubborn biding my time… God wants us to wait with a beautiful godly kind of waiting.
A shout out on this mother day to young parents who are get exhausted by the energy of their children. Learn to appreciate those moments because they grow so fast… not a time to endure, but a time to live, to thrive… “I wait for the Lord… my soul waits” (twice). i.e. I wait with peace, I wait with assurance, I am settled within… I long for that kind of waiting in my own life… in my experience, older people often have the ability to wait in a way younger people don’t…, a wonderful contentment and peace even in the middle of storms… not knowing how it will end… but just having peace… redemptive waiting…
A beautiful touch is added to godly waiting: “and in His word I have hope” [Bible]
What’s Ps. 130 mean by “more than watchman wait for the morning…”? watchman are the professional waiters. The worst jobs are those in which you don’t have enough to do. Yet that is that is the job description of a watchman… but they aren’t doing nothing! They are watching…. To me that’s a mindbender… but what a wonderful image: waiting is always part of the job description of being a follower of God. Waiting is not being in a holding pattern for something better to come. Waiting as people of faith is not wasting time. WAITING is the calling…
At last we arrive at Hope. Hope, Love and salvation are intertwined. READ Ps. 130:7-8.
My definition of hope: Hope is the ability to clearly see an amazing future and because the vision is so sure it’s as if the future is now. This is why a person literally in prison can be the most free of all: HOPE. Repeat defition.
This is why freedom can found in the most difficult situation even if nothing changes. HOPE. A divided family, loneliness, broken relationships, unexpected tragedy, major blunders you’ve committed: The offer of God: you can live as if an amazing future promised by God is now.
Do you feel like you are deep in problems, like you are up to your neck, hope is claiming God’s promises/words and living as if they are now, “my soul waits” the Psalmist cries, waiting is part of my calling even greater than a watchman, the Lord listens to those who are hurting, “Out of the depths I cry to you” ~ not the time to argue with God about how it’s not your fault, but ask for mercy and forgiveness.
An amazing prison gems is to live as if the promised future of God is now. It comes through hitting the bottom, crying out to God, asking for mercy and forgiveness, and waiting with hope as if the future is now. Amen.