Sunday, October 07, 2007

"If you, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?" (Psalm 130)

A Song of Ascents

Out of the depths I have cried to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
If you, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you, that you may be feared.

I wait for the Lord, my sould does wait,
And for his word do I hope.
My soul waits for the Lord more that the watchman for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord, for with the Lord there is lovingkindness,
And with him is abundant redemption.
And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

- Psalm 130


In the world, the high ground gives the advantage, but God hears best when we cry out from the depths, not when we speak from on high in the world. I was thinking about this psalm today, and I realized that if this were not true, I would never believe it. I've learned on my hide through many years how unavailing my advantages have been.

Here, specifically, he's in the depths because of his iniquities, because his hope is that if God should mark iniquities, then no one could stand. So his hope is in the forgiveness of his iniquities, not in his lack of them.

That's humbling himself. If we're expecting to be heard because we're better than someone else, we're walking in pride and in confidence in ourselves. God abases the proud, quite ready to do that by making us fall by the hand of those more wicked than ourselves. There is forgiveness with God, that he may be feared. If that were not so, the well-behaved would be feared instead.

Instead of making sure that he's more righteous than others, the psalmist waits for the Lord, because he hopes in the Lord's word. We don't stand before God by not having iniquities, but if we hope in what God has to say to us, God will redeem us from all our iniquities, as we read in Isaiah 1:16-18.

In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14), the tax collector cried to the Lord out of the depths - "God, be merciful to me, the sinner." So he didn't stay in the depths. He went down to his house justified. By humbling himself, he ascended, just as we read in this song of ascents.

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