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Lenten Reflections: Psalm 130

By Gianluca Cueva

Have you ever felt like church on a Sunday morning was the last place you wanted to go? Perhaps you felt like the crippling guilt and shame of your sin from the previous week or even night was too much? That fellowshipping with other Christians would just be too exhausting? Perhaps you’ve asked: how many times could God keep forgiving me? How far do God’s mercies and grace extend and reach? Often when we find ourselves in some of the most difficult seasons of our lives, or as we wrestle with our sin, we are tempted to shrink back, tempted to isolate.

Psalm 130 gives us hope and a vision for what we’re called to do when we find ourselves in these moments. This psalm is part of a larger collection of fifteen songs within the psalter: the Songs of Ascent. The Songs of Ascent would be sung by the people of God as they went up to Jerusalem for worship. One perhaps would maybe then reason that all these songs would be songs of rejoicing and gratitude - extolling God for his goodness and love. And though there are certainly songs like this, the Songs of Ascent are not exclusively made up by these kind of psalms.
How does Psalm 130 begin? “Out of the depths I cry out to you, O LORD” The psalmist is completely and unashamedly aware of the difficult and trying place they find themselves in. They equate their circumstances to what we would call “a watery grave”. What has placed the psalmist in this situation? They have been confronted with their own sin and iniquity (v.3). However, this psalm was not sung privately in one’s “prayer closet”. This psalm would have been sung publicly, in the context of a corporate body worshipping, on their way to Jerusalem. How often does the guilt and shame from our sin keep us from gathering with other brothers and sisters in worship?

So what drives the psalmist’s confidence to sing this? With God there is forgiveness (v.4). Hallelujah! The almighty and all knowing God is also a God of forgiveness. The psalmist does not belittle his sin, but knows that he also does not have to be undone by it because the LORD is a God who forgives. Therefore, he fears and pledges his reverence to this God alone. Upon the LORD alone does the psalmist place his hope and salvation. He waits upon the LORD, more than watchmen for the morning (v. 5-6). But the psalmist does not stop there.

Sin tends to make us look down and look in. Psalm 130 helps model for us that in light of a forgiving God, we can not only look up, but also look out. We can proclaim to our brothers and sisters of God’s steadfast love and redemption (v. 7). We can proclaim hope not just to ourselves, but also to one another (v.8). This lenten season, as we wait, let us not just look up to our Lord and Savior, who made possible the forgiveness of all our sins, but also out to our church family and proclaim hope and victory from sin and death.