If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.”
Today is the second Sunday in Advent, a season in which we prepare for Christmas by remembering just how much we need God. In particular, we need God to save us by forgiving our sins. Psalm 130 reassures us that this is exactly what God will do for us, thus inviting us to wait upon the Lord and put our hope in him.
The psalm begins with a desperate cry for help. The psalmist calls out to God “out of the depths” of despair (v. 1). We do not know the exact predicament in which the psalmist found himself, but we do know that it was related to his sin: “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?” (v. 3). Implied within this statement is an understanding that our sins are so numerous and appalling that we deserve to die because of them.
But that’s not the end of the story. Verse 4 continues: “But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.” No matter how much we have sinned, we have hope because God is merciful. He forgives and restores. Notice the unexpected result of our forgiveness: “that you might may be revered.” The Hebrew behind this translation reads literally, “that you might be feared.” But this is not a fear that drives us away from God. Rather, it is an awestruck fear that drives us to our knees in humble worship. The more we truly grasp the impact of our sin, and the more we truly realize the wonder of God’s forgiveness, the more we will be drawn to bow before the Lord in humble worship and live our whole lives in service to him.
In Psalm 130, the fact that God forgives and restores fuels the psalmist’s hope: “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope” (v. 5). The psalm writer yearns for the day when God will forgive, not just his sin, but also the sin of Israel. On that day, God “will redeem Israel from all its iniquities” (v. 8). Thus, the psalmist urges Israel to “hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love” (v. 7).
The hope of Psalm 130 is an Advent kind of hope. The psalmist is hoping, waiting, aching to experience God’s forgiveness and redemption. In the season of Advent, we remember how God’s people once yearned for a Savior who would restore their nation. We also get in touch with our own need for forgiveness and renewal. Though our situation is quite different from that of the writer of Psalm 130, we also put our hope in the Lord and long for him. We too need him to put our lives back together. We too need to experience the new life he alone can give. Thus, Psalm 130 helps us prepare for a rich celebration of the birth of the Savior who will indeed bring God’s forgiveness and redemption to the world . . . including you and me.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Take some time to reflect on the reality of God’s forgiveness through Christ. How do you respond to the fact that God forgives all of your sin?
How does this truth help you to fear the Lord, that is, to revere him and humbly worship him?
Gracious God, like the psalmist, there have been many times when I have cried out to you from the depths of despair, times when I have begged you to hear my prayer and pay attention to me. Thank you for being there, for listening, for making yourself known to me.
Yes, it’s true, Lord, that if you kept a record of my sins, I’d be without hope. But in fact you are gracious and merciful. You do forgive. Thus I hope in you. I trust you with my present and my future.
To be sure, there is still more to be redeemed in my life. May your forgiveness and healing touch every part of me. May I live each moment out of reverence for you, offering myself to you as a living sacrifice.
Thank you, dear Lord, for the season of Advent, for the opportunity to be reminded of just how much I need you. All praise be to you, Amen.
My e-book, Discovering Advent: How to Experience the Power of Waiting on God at Christmastime, available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.