I know…I know. “A psalm of grace” again? Hasn’t there been a lot of psalms on/of grace already? Yes…but hold up. This “grace” is something different. Think of it as another “room’ in the house of grace. But we’ll get there. First off, do me a favor and please read Psalm 130.
Our need of forgiveness runs deep. Often times our request for forgiveness comes from something we have just done but our sin runs deeper than that moment of sin. Our sin is physical, mental, and spiritual. But it’s also more than that as sin encapsulates our relationships and physical place and space in time. Psalm 130 may not give us much details but the details we do have help us understand the depths of sin and the thankfulness of our psalmist.
They begin their psalm with a crying out from the “depths”. Is it a depth of sin within? Is it a space in the physical world where their sin has dug them into a physical pit? Is it not sin but harm? In truth we simply do not know for the psalmist doesn’t proclaim either the sin they committed or the depths to where they find themselves – and yet we do have a small hint as to where they could be. The word “depths” that we have in verse 1, in Hebrew, is typically a word that is associated with the sea. And the sea, in Ancient Israel, was considered a dark and evil place. It’s where monsters lurked and bad things lived. It was a place of chaos. So was this a place of the sea where they called out to God to hear them? Was there a storm on the water to where they cried for God’s mercy and hoped he’d hear them over the crashing waves? Maybe. So then if not on the sea are they then home and surrounded by the sufferings of their personal sins? Maybe.
In truth we simply do not know. But no matter what it is, there is something that has made them feel so far from God that there is a space and distance between them. So verse 2 almost becomes a hope that their voice and crying to God can cover the distance. That their crying would be heard. Which is really interesting because we affirm God is everywhere and outside of space and time. We affirm that God, while we use human traits to help our understanding of him, God isn’t us. He took on “human form” in the way of Christ coming to earth but God still is not a human being with human characteristics and physical traits. And so I find it fascinating how in our desperation, pain, and suffering we often “humanize” God with human physical characteristics. And I get it because I do it too. This is the only way we really understand things (by what WE know) and so we use them to help us in our understanding and communication with God. But let’s think about this for a second. Why wouldn’t God hear us? Are we saying God CAN’T hear? Are we putting God in a box and limiting him and his powers? No…but it sure feels like my place and space can put a limit on God’s ability to draw near and save me, redeem me, and most importantly: forgive me.
So what and where is this psalm taking us? What does this psalm mean?
Well, Martin Luther once wrote that this psalm (along with 4 other psalms) were “Paulin” in nature. That is, they had a feeling and focus that were very much like Paul’s letters (the letters we have in scripture that Paul wrote are called “Pauline Epistles”). So for Luther this psalm felt like one of Paul’s letters. And why? Because it speaks of sin and the need of being saved. It speaks of a salvation from God that is not dependent on anything but God’s mercy.
It speaks of grace.
We may not know what depths the psalmist speaks of or finds themselves – but it was very real and they felt that where they were was awfully far from God. We may not know what sin the psalmist is dwelling in but they know this wasn’t the first and won’t be the last and they are thankful that God keeps no records. But it’s not only that God doesn’t keep records it’s that God uses his grace to allow the psalmist to stand before him, receive forgiveness, and be comforted in that knowledge so that they can worship and praise God today and tomorrow. And that there is an aspect of grace that I had never thought about before. Grace doesn’t only completely forgive (and do so without merit) but grace allows you to live today and tomorrow in worship to God. Without grace there would be no need to worship God today and tomorrow because my sins would have condemned me today. My sins would have made it so God wasn’t attentive to my cries. My sins would have forced God to turn his back on me and cast me down to where I SHOULD go. But grace? Grace not only washes my slate clean; grace not only forgives and makes me white as snow; but grace gives me hope, reason, and the ability to worship God today. And not only because he forgives but also because he doesn’t condemn, destroy, and cast aside.
Go figure that yet again we have a new understanding of grace. Go figure that once more grace is more complex and yet complete. Go figure that grace not only gives us the hope of tomorrow but it opens up the praise of today that we simply wouldn’t know or be capable of doing.
Forgiveness, redemption, mercy, and grace. Know it…because it’s not only what you need for tomorrow but it’s what you live on today.