"Down in the Depths" Bible Study on Psalm 130:1-8
March 26, 2020, 10:57 AM

Dear Members & Friends:

In this time of social distancing, it is easy to become depressed.  You can find almost every human emotion in the Book of Psalms.  The appointed psalm for the Fifth Sunday in Lent is Psalm 130.  Listen to the psalmist cry to God for help:

"I cry out to you from the depth, LORD -- my Lord, listen to my voice!  Let your ears pay close attention to my request for mercy!  If you kept track of sins, LORD -- my Lord, who would stand a chance?  But forgiveness is with you -- that's why you are honored.  I hope, LORD.  My whole being hopes, and I wait for God's promise.  My whole being waits for my Lord -- more than the night watch waits for morning; yes, more than the night watch waits for morning!  Israel, wait for the LORD!  Because fiathful love is with the LORD; because redemption is with our God!  God is the one who will redeem Israel from all its sin" (Psalm 130:1-8, Common English Bible).

Psalm 130 has inspired some of the greatest works of music and other literature over the years for a very good reason.  Here is a poem -- a worship song of ascents sung by a traveler on her or his way to the Temple.  Here is a pilgrim's heartfelt cry from the depths of despair that strikes a chord in our hearts.  The traditional Latin title of this psalm is De Profundis, "Out of the Depths," and it has long been classified not only as a pilgrimage song but also a penitential psalm.  Psalms 6, 32,38, 51,102, 130, and 143 belong to this group of psalms that express grief for sin and beg God for forgiveness.  And yet, there is more to this psalm than just heartfelt repentance.

Psalm 130 opens with cry for help to God to "Listen!"  The psalmist unashamedly calls out for divine attention.  Then verses 3 and 4 praise God as a forgiving God, the God for whom the sinner yearns as watchers wait for the morning.  There is an expression of hopeful expectation, as if expecting the coming of the dawn (verses 5-6); and then an address to the congregation (verses 7 and 8).

While waiting for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak to subside, we are experiencing this kind of waiting -- waiting for the darkness to give way to the morning light, longing to return to our normal routines.  We cry out, "From down in the depths of my soul, O God, listen to my voice.  O God, if ever I needed you, I need you now."

And so, the psalmist calls out to God from the depths of human anguish in the expectation that God hears and that God cares because of who God is: the Helper.  The psalmist's cry does not seem to arise from any sense of abandonment but from confidence and trust that God is a God who listens and who not only listens but helps (verse 5).

While the expression "depths" is evocative, it's interesting that the psalm doesn't really tell us why the psalmist is in the depths.  We may presume that is due to some sin that the psalmist has committed, considering that the psalmist mentions God's forgiveness (verse 3).

Psalm 130 is noteworhty not simply as an eloquent expression of human vulnerability and anguish (even though it is that, for sure), but rather as an affirmation of God's character:  It is God's very nature (mercy and faithful love) to hear, to care, to not count our mistakes against us, and to forgive.  Thus, the psalm is not only a psalm of honest confession of sin, but rather a psalm about God as hearer, forgiver, and helper.

During this time of Lent and of social distancing, we can cry out to God from the depths of our being, "HELP US!"  We can also trust that God will give us hope.  God is merciful.  We will make it through this pandemic.

Notice how the psalm ends.  While some psalms are addressed directly to God, this psalm seems addressed to us, calling upon us to celebrate the character of God.

"Israel [read Church or people of faith], wait for the LORD!  Because faithful love is with the LORD; because great redemption is with our God!  God is the one who will redeem Israel [and the Church or people of faith] from all its sin" (Psalm 130:7-8).

Remember, my friends, God is listening to your prayers, your longings, and your expectations from the depths of your souls.

Blessings & Shalom!

Pastor Greg Rupright

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