From the Depths/De Profundis: Finding Forgiveness When I Feel Sorrow for My Sin (Psalm 130:1-8)

Sermon by Daniel L. Sonnenberg | September 20, 2015

Our sermon text today is taken again from the psalms.

  • There are 5 major kinds of psalms – hymns of praise, thanksgiving psalms, royal psalms, wisdom psalms and laments which are also called psalms.
  • Psalm 130 is a lament or complaint psalm.
  • Did you know that it’s okay to complain to God? Happens a lot in Script.
  • Psalm 130 is similar to Psalm 23, but it begins very differently,
  • not with a confession of trust: the Lord is my shepherd –
  • but with a cry for help: Out of the depths I cry to you O LORD!
  • I included the Latin name for the psalm, De profundis, which means “out of the depths”
  • because this text is often used in traditional choral works, sometimes in Requiems.
  • So the next time you see the title, I want you to recognize that it comes from Psalm 130.
  • Hear the word of the Lord.

Psalm 130:1-8

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.

In this psalm there is both an explanation of the gospel and a description of the normal progression of the Christian life.

  • That progression goes like this: despairing of hope, finding hope, persevering in hope, and sharing hope with others.
  • A proper understanding of the gospel informs the way we live our lives.
  • And the way we live our lives testifies to the working of the gospel in them.

Despairing of hope (in sin) 1-3

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by life, as though you were underwater and gasping for breath?

  • That’s the picture here in verse 1.
  • The first word “from (or out of) the depths” is used elsewhere in the OT to refer to the sea.
  • When the psalms were written, the sea was not considered a place for a restful vacation, but a dangerous place of watery chaos.
  • Bad things often happened on or in the sea.
  • Remember how in the days of Noah “every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals were wiped from the earth” by the flood?
  • Remember how Jonah sank to the bottom of the sea after the sailors threw him overboard?
  • Remember how Jesus’ disciples were filled with fear when the storm arose on the Sea of Galilee?
  • Remember how Paul and the sailors barely survived the violent storm and shipwreck on the Mediterranean?
  • The sea represented death or potential death.
  • For them the sea was an overwhelmingly dangerous and fearful place.

However, the psalmist here is not overwhelmed by the trials of life, but by his own sin.

  • As the Puritan pastor and theologian John Owen said, “Sin is the disease, affliction is only a symptom of it.”
  • The psalmist sees beyond the circumstances of his life and understands the danger and chaos that his own sin has brought upon him.
  • He understands that he is sinking deeper and deeper under the crashing waves of his own sin.
  • I did a lot of SCUBA diving and snorkeling when I was young.
  • I learned that as you go deeper underwater the pressure of the water gets greater and greater.
  • Because water, like air, has weight. The column of water above you presses down on you.
  • The taller the column of water above you, the greater the pressure.
  • That’s why you have to keeping clearing your ears as you go down – to regulate the changing pressure.
  • If you go down too far without a submarine or bathysphere of some kind the pressure will literally crush you.
  • The same can be said of sin – the further you go down into it, the more you feel the weight or pressure of it on your own conscience.

But the purpose of that crushing is not to destroy you but to cause you to cry out to God for help.

  • Because when it comes to sin, God is the only one who can help.
  • The Bible says, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3.25);
  • “the wages of sin is death (Rom 6.23);
  • “there is none righteous, no, not one; no one seeks for God. (Rom. 3:10-11 ESV); and
  • 36 whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (Jn. 3:36 ESV)

So the proper response to the crushing, drowning experience of sin is to cry out to God for help.

  • And that’s what the psalmist does when he says,

1b 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!”

  • That’s what Jonah did from the belly of the fish when he said, “When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you…” (Jon. 2:7)
  • That’s what the Philippian jailer did when he said to Paul and Silas, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:27-30) 
  • That’s what the men on the day of Pentecost did when they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)
  • The proper response to acknowledging your own sinful condition is to cry out to God.

Someone has said, “Our problem today…is that many don’t have much awareness of sin.        

  • Where God has been abolished, an awareness of sin is abolished also, because sin is defined only in relationship to God.
  • As the Westminster Catechism says, “sin is disobeying or not conforming to God’s [instructions] in any way.”
  • We need to recover a sense of sin, to discover how desperate our condition is apart from God, to know that God’s wrath is a terrible impending reality.”
  • As the psalmist says in v. 3,

“If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?”

  • The answer is of course, “No one. No one could stand.”
  • Only by God’s grace are we lifted out of the mire and our feet set on a rock and given a firm place to stand.
  • Only by God’s grace was Jonah saved from drowning by the great fish and spit out on the land.
  • Only by God’s grace did Noah and his family pass through the waters in the safety of the ark and stand once again on dry ground.

Finding hope (through forgiveness)

Why is it that we are able to cry out to God for help?

  • Because, as it says in v. 4,

4 But with you there is forgiveness…

  • It’s because forgiveness is an attribute of God’s character.
  • He has always been true and always will be as He revealed himself to Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exo. 34:6-7) saying,

“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,  7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”

  • That’s the good news – that’s the gospel.
  • Though all people are born in sin, God has provided an atoning substitute so that his forgiveness of our sin might be just.
  • His name is Jesus of Nazareth of whom the angel said to his mother Mary’s betrothed, Joseph, “he will save his people from their sins.”
  • And of whom Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ…God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin…People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life [for them] shedding his blood.”

Notice four aspects to God’s forgiveness.

1) Forgiveness is inclusive.

  • V. 4 says “there is forgiveness” – period.
  • That includes every kind of sin and every kind of person.
  • You can’t be too sinful for God to forgive you.
  • There is no ocean too deep that God can’t rescue you from it.
  • “There is forgiveness – period.”

2) Forgiveness is for now.

  • “There is forgiveness” is in the present tense.
  • You don’t have to wait and wonder till you die whether or not you will be forgiven. “there is forgiveness” now.
  • You don’t have to wait till you’ve worked long enough for it or hard enough to earn it, and you couldn’t earn it no matter how long you tried.
  • It’s available to you right now.

3) Forgiveness is for those who want it.

  • You must personally respond to God’s offer of it – ask him for it, and receive it from him by faith, and trust him to give it to you.
  • We said earlier in the Creed, “I believe…in the forgiveness of sins.”
  • But have you actually asked God to forgive you of your sins?
  • But you have to actually want forgiveness and ask God for it.

4) Forgiveness leads to godly living.

  • V. 4 ends with “there is forgiveness that you may be feared.
  • Forgiveness is not given so that we can have a license to sin, but rather, so that we can develop a greater reverence for God.
  • What does it mean to fear or reverence God?
  • Someone has said it this way – that God may be loved and worshiped and served.
  • Those who receive mercy from God learn to love God by giving mercy to and serving others;
  • and they determine not to sin – though they still will do so – but they no longer, in their heart of hearts, delight in sin as they once did.

So far, we’ve described two components of the gospel message:

  • despairing of hope as we acknowledge our personal sin; and,
  • finding hope through God’s offer of forgiveness through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • But there’s more.

Persevering in hope  

God also enables those who accept his offer of forgiveness to persevere in hope even in the midst of despair. Look at vv. 5-6

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.

What does a person who knows they are forgiven hope and wait for?

  • We wait confidently, expectantly and hopefully for God himself, for intimate communion with God.
  • Why did Adam and Eve hide when they heard God walking in the garden?
  • Because of their sin.
  • They lost what they had enjoyed before, communion with God.
  • What we gain when we confess our sin and receive his forgiveness, is (renewed) communion with God.
  • As 1 John says, if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all sin. (1 Jn. 1:9 NLT), and “now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. 21 (1 Jn. 5:20)
  • Because we know we’re forgiven, we can confidently wait for God in the difficult times.
  • And that’s why we can expectantly wait for Christ’s second coming and say, “Come Lord Jesus.”
  • That’s why we can face our own death without fear.
  • Because we’re waiting for the promise of God to be fulfilled, longing for that face to face communion with God and Jesus Christ in the new heavens and the new earth.

I’ve often wondered why the psalmist repeats himself when he says in v. 6,

6 my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.

  • It seems like needless repetition.
  • But I discovered that it’s a poetic device to literally reproduce the effect of waiting.
  • It’s like saying wait – wait – wait – wait.
  • It’s a picture of sentinels standing guard on city walls…
  • or soldiers during times of war…
  • watching in the darkness of night for danger and waiting expectantly for the SAFETY that daylight brings.

In the same way, those who are in fellowship with God through Christ

  • during the darkest times are able to wait hopefully and expectantly for the light and safety of God’s presence whether in this life or the next.
  • That’s what some of you are doing right now.
  • Waiting for….
  • That’s what Beth and I are doing right now.
  • We’re waiting for our house to sell, waiting for a call to a new church, waiting for further instructions from the Lord, because we trust that it’s all in his hands.

Sharing hope with others.

The progression is despairing of hope, finding hope, persevering in hope, and finally, sharing hope with others.

Up to this point, the psalmist’s focus was on himself – his sorrow for sin, his repentance, his prayer and hope in God.

  • But In v. 7 his focus turns outward to those around him.
  • He shares his hope with others.
  • He encourages others to put their hope in the unchanging character of God.
  • He says in verse 7, 7 O Israel, hope in the LORD; For with the LORD there is lovingkindness, And with Him is abundant redemption.
  • In other words, Listen friends, God offers forgiveness, not just to me, but to all of you.
  • Therefore, put your hope in the Lord as I have done.
  • He will be faithful to you as well.

And finally, the psalm ends in verse 8 with the ancient promise of God to all repentant sinners –

 8 He himself will redeem Israel from every kind of sin.

  • At this point in redemptive history the psalmist wouldn’t have known how this promise would one day be fulfilled through Christ’s payment of sin’s penalty on the cross to justify those who trust in him by faith.
  • But he trusted in God’s unfailing love to provide a way in due time.

What about you?

  • Do you understand the message of the gospel?
  • That you must acknowledge and turn from your sin, that you must ask God for forgiveness, that you can know that you have received the gift of eternal life by faith in the substitutionary death and resurrection of Christ?
  • That you can persevere in the darkest times?
  • And that you can then offer it to others as well?

As a believer, do you see the pattern of the gospel repeated in our lives? by God’s grace we are enabled over and over

  • to despair of hope when we recognize our own sin;
  • to find hope again in God’s willing forgiveness;
  • to persevere in hope in spite of sin and trials;
  • and to share the hope of the gospel with others.

We’re like Paul who wrote in Rom 7 and 8

  • “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I can’t carry it out…
  • If I do what I don’t want to do, it’s no longer I who do it, but sin living in me that does it….
  • Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 7.24-25)
  • “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8.38-39)

Prayer: Thank you Lord for the promise of the gospel. O Lord we wait for you – more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Categories: 2015, Articles, Psalms

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