Saturday, February 24, 2007

psalm 130

My Soul Waits for the Lord

A Song of Ascents.

1 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.

This psalm has been on the front burner of my head for the past several weeks. I liked it so much that I even tried to memorize it -- not that I wasn't able to, but it took me more than half an hour to have it imprinted on my memory.

I like it mainly because:

1. It reminds us that, apart from Him, we are helplessly and hopelessly enslaved to our own evil desires. "If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?" (v. 3)

No man, no, not even one, not even the Pope or Mother Teresa, could stand in and of himself righteous and be justified before God. We are all instigators and participants in a rebellion of cosmic proportions against the Creator, and thus deserve to be convicted and thrown into eternal fire and darkness.

2. It highlights the hard truth that even though we Christians are already washed in His blood and saved by His grace, we still are sinners, and will always be until our last breath on this earth. The Apostle John affirms this, writing, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (1 John 1:8)

The Christian life, therefore, is a continuing cutthroat battle against the old self within us, in which the stakes are infinite -- an eternity of knowing and enjoying God, or an eternity of separation from Him.

3. It comforts us that in spite our utter wretchedness, the Lord, out of pure grace, is willing to lavish us his "forgiveness... steadfast love... and redemption." (v4, 7) For some incomprehensible, unfathomable reason, it is God's desire to do us fornicators and blasphemers good.

And He really means it! He says through His prophet that "He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will exult over you with loud singing," (Zephaniah 3:17b) "you" being you, dear reader, and me, and the countless thousands of people whose souls completely despair of themselves but instead, "wait [and hope] on the Lord more than the watchmen for the morning." (v. 6)

4. It suggests that God does is not being unjust by doing good to His enemies. When you come to think of it, there's a disturbing, resonating inconsistency in the mind of God, as He lavishes His overflowing mercy towards sinners and sweeps their sins under some spiritual rug. Whatever happened to His justice and holiness? It appears that God would cease to be righteous the instant He acquits a sinner without Him carrying out punitive measures.

When the psalmist says that God will "redeem Israel from his iniquities," it is as though God will provide a way that will save His people from damnation while at the same time, preserve and exalt His holiness and righteousness. John Piper writes,

The wisdom of God has ordained a way for the love of God to deliver us from the wrath of God without compromising the justice of God."

And this way could be nothing else but the death of His Son on the splintered cross.

In the last verse, the Psalmist points to that watershed event in which God Himself, in the person of the Son, bore on His humble back the horrendous burden of His Father's righteous wrath. When God "put forward [His own Son] as a propitiation by His blood," (Rom. 3:25) He does two things: He proclaims His righteousness in passing over the sins of Israel during the past, and His absolute freedom to forgive and redeem the sinful and the unclean to Himself.

And now He welcomes with wide open arms anyone and everyone, "from every tongue and tribe and people and nation," (Rev 14:5) who repents of their sins and looks in faith to Him and Him alone. He beckons you, dear reader, to put your trust not on the fleeting pleasures in this fallen world, but on His own heart.

"...hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption."

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