A SONG OF ASCENTS.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! 2 O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! 3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. 5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; 6 my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. 7 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. 8 And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
A few thoughts for meditation:
1) There are many situations which cause us to feel like we are in “the depths”, like we are sinking and drowning with no way out. The pilgrim here is in such a situation. In this case, he is immersed in the depths of conviction over his sin. Perhaps this came to mind as he attended the sacrifices at the temple. He felt the weight of his guilt pulling him down into despair and so he cried to the Lord for mercy. Have you every felt convicted over your sin like that? Have you grasped how evil and dishonoring to God your sin is? The culture currently has a very low view of sin because there is no fear of God or dread of his judgment. But when you understand who God is, how he called us to live, and how destructive sin is to ourselves and to others, then your sins should put you into “the depths.” It is an appropriate response to understanding your guilt before God and the first step in repentance.
2) What kept this pilgrim from drowning was that he knew God was merciful. Four times here he appealed to the covenant name of God, “LORD”. He appealed to God’s faithfulness. He knew God was a merciful God and would forgive their sins if they sincerely returned to him. The result of such generous forgiveness is a greater “fear” of the Lord, a greater reverence and gratitude. You would think that pardoning a criminal would have the opposite effect, diminishing fear because he got away with his crime. But for the believer, fear increases because it’s not the pardon itself that he wants, but the restored relationship to God. His sin cut him off from fellowship with the God he loves, and that is what sinks him into the depths and long for mercy. Notice, he cried out “I wait for the LORD” not “I wait for forgiveness”. He wanted to be reconciled to God again. That was the heart of his cry for mercy, getting back to God again.
3) So, knowing God is gracious he waited “for the Lord” with great longing, eagerness, and confidence. He knew God’s “word”. He knew God’s promises. He knew that his hope of returning to fellowship is not in vain. And so he encouraged his brothers to embrace these promises as well. Given his situation of guilt, one may wonder how he could be so confident that God would take him back. This confidence was based upon God’s own word and upon God’s history of faithfulness to his people. He is a God of “steadfast love”, covenant love. God bound himself to the salvation of his people. And he provides “plentiful redemption” to them. He knew God hated his sin even more than he did and will gladly help him get rid of it in order to enjoy fellowship again. That is the heart of the great covenant promise, “I will be your God and you shall be my people.” But that still leaves us with a spiritual tension. He is confident God will redeem him from “all his iniquities” but perhaps doesn’t know how God will do it yet. This tension of a holy God showing steadfast love and mercy to guilty sinners was a great mystery to the Old Testament saints. God did not give them what their sins deserved. Why? That great tension it is not resolved until the Cross of Christ, when God himself provided his Son as the true sacrifice to take away all our iniquities and secure our fellowship with him forever.
So if you are sinking into the depths of your guilt today, let this song lead you into greater assurance. If you truly long to be restored back to the Lord, he will forgive you and receive you, and proved his willingness to save sinners by providing us an all-sufficient Savior in Christ.