02/08/2017: Psalm 130 | Out of the Depths | Timothy Rist

Psalm 130 (NIV)

A song of ascents.

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

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.

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.

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.

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Psalm 130 (MSG)

A Pilgrim Song

1-2 Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life!
    Master, hear my cry for help!
    Listen hard! Open your ears!
    Listen to my cries for mercy.

3-4 If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings,
    who would stand a chance?
    As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit,
    and that’s why you’re worshiped.

5-6 I pray to God—my life a prayer—
    and wait for what he’ll say and do.
    My life’s on the line before God, my Lord,
    waiting and watching till morning,
    waiting and watching till morning.

7-8 O Israel, wait and watch for God—
    with God’s arrival comes love,
    with God’s arrival comes generous redemption.
    No doubt about it—he’ll redeem Israel,
    buy back Israel from captivity to sin.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

  • A call to Worship

Psalm 130

Healing God, we come together in our brokenness,
to call to you in your mercy, to make us whole again.
Wholeness–giving God, listen to our prayers, we pray.

Restoring God, we gather to worship you, even as
we hopefully seek to be renewed and restored again.
God, our Quiet-Centre, listen to our prayers this day.

Foundational God, we come to praise and thank you!
In the depths of your Holy Being we find peace and rest.
God – our Beginning and our End, we hope always in you. Amen.

© 2012 Joan Stott – ‘The Timeless Psalms’ RCL Psalms Year B. Used with permission

  • Psalm 130 is referred to as the sixth of the seven penitential Psalms.
  • The Seven Penitential Psalms (used in the ancient church) were believed to have been David’s lamentations of repentance for his sins against Bathsheba and Uriah, and for his other sins. Psalm 130 combines tender sentiments, simple and sincere language, and the most profound understanding of the nature of sin and grace. It is the confession of a God-fearing man who could rise from the uttermost depths of “soul pain” [anguish] caused by sin to the assurance of divine grace and forgiveness. [Wesley and his need for the assurance of salvation].
  • The pattern of the penitential psalms is: Fear of punishment (6) sorrow for sin, then confession and forgiveness (cancellation) of sin (32) hope of grace, then more fear, followed by hope again (38) love of purity, mercy given (51) longing for heaven (102) distrust of your own strength and confidence in divine mercy (130) and joy (143).
  • This psalm is best known for its first line, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord” (verse 1). Because of this powerful opening, Psalm 130 is often identified as the typical lament. It expresses both the key components of lament (complaint and petition) and the proper “stance” before God from which to pray. Authentic prayer offered “out of the depths” is instructive because it reminds us of the key role petition and complaint play in biblical prayer.
  • Lament is a form of speech that allows the worshipper to complain about injustice and to call on God to hear the cries of those who suffer, as did our biblical ancestors. Because lament is offered to one in covenant relationship, however, lament also is praise, and a very important expression of praise at that. It gives evidence of faith worked out in the reality of hardship, hurt, and loss.
  • Psalm 130 also deserves attention for its detailed development and nuances of language. The psalm develops in four divisions. Verses 1 and 2 open the psalm with the most basic petition. After identifying the location “out of the depths,” [represents both mental and physical pain] the psalmist pleads, “Lord, hear my voice,”(verse 2). This cry to God carries an implicit statement of confidence and faith. The psalmist believes God is present in “the depths.” The fear is the separation sin causes between the sinner and God. A chasm of sin separates the sinner from God, so the worshipper stretches out [her] hands to God and pleads that God will reach down to [her].
  • Verses 3 and 4 suggest the psalmist is in the “depths” of life because of his or her own sinfulness. But the psalmist makes no specific confession. There is not even an outright admission of guilt or sin. Rather, the psalmist focuses on the character of the God who forgives (verse 4). It is up to God to make the decision to forgive. The psalmist refers to iniquities [sin] to declare that God does not count them, or else no one would be acceptable (verse 3). In forgiving sin, God proves himself more powerful than sin itself, and because he alone has the power to forgive sin, he is to be feared just because he is also the God who forgives! The forgiveness of sin proves the power and majesty of God! Forgiveness of sin does not take away the seriousness of the situation(s) that sin causes [David and Absalom, 2 Samuel 18: 5-9,15,31-33].
  • All human beings live under the pall of sinfulness. Proper awareness of that fact is crucial to right prayer and right relationship to God. By not naming specific sins the psalmist gives no explicit opening to moralize or deal with petty matters. Instead, he or she points us to that most fundamental failure we share with the rest of humanity.
  • The final two portions of Psalm 130 contain complementary statements about waiting for and hoping in the Lord (verses 5-6, 7-8).


Write your own Psalm of penitence and repentance.

Rev. Tim Rist