New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Psa 130:1

A Song of Ascents-
Or 'degrees'. Hezekiah’s response to being granted another 15 years of life was to edit and produce the Songs of Degrees, so named after the degrees of the sundial. Four of the 15 Psalms were by David, one by Solomon; and the other 10 it seems Hezekiah wrote himself but left anonymous. These ten Psalms would reflect the ten degrees by which the sun-dial went backwards. The point to note is that Hezekiah taught others in an anonymous way in response to the grace he had received. True preaching reflects a certain artless selflessness. These songs of ascents were presumably also intended to be sung by the exiles as they returned to Zion, and then every time they went up to Jerusalem to keep a feast. But there is no evidence this happened. For they didn't return in the kind of faith implied in these Psalms. The plural "ascents" would then be an intensive plural referring to the one great ascent, to Zion. Much of the language of these Psalms is typical of David's language when under persecution by Saul. But the Psalm was reapplied to Hezekiah, and then to the exiles on their return from Babylon, and then by extension to all God's people on their journey zionwards.

Out of the depths I have cried to You, Yahweh-
The feeling of being submerged beneath deep waters is common in David's Psalms; it was how he felt as a result of his sins with Bathsheba (Ps. 69:1,12,14). The same word is used about the "depths" of moral distance from God due to sin (Is. 29:15; 31:6; Hos. 9:9). This leads to the talk about forgiveness and asking God not to keep a record of sins (:3,4). David's path of repentance, forgiveness and restoration was that to be followed by the exiles. They were to go up to Zion in this spirit. However, they didn't- just as David seems to have cried out for the consequences of his sin to be removed, rather than continuing to be forthcoming in contrition and recognition of his sin. The waters were clearly representative of Gentile nations in the Bible; the figure naturally applies to the exiles in the "sea" of the Babylonian / Persian empire, which could have been 'dried up' to allow them to return, just as Egypt and the Red Sea had been (Is. 51:10 s.w.). But most of them preferred to remain there.

Psa 130:2

Lord, hear my voice. Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my petitions-
A voice crying from the depths (:1) recalls Jonah in his disobedience and arrogance. Whilst this Psalm is indeed concerned with forgiveness, there is a notable lack of any statement of repentance, guilt or contrition. There is a request for forgiveness to be granted and for God not to remember sin, to just wipe His records (:3). But there is no actual statement of repentance or guilt. Rather is the impression given that God should get on and fulfil His word of restoration (:6), and as it were not be so concerned about Israel's sins.

Psa 130:3

If You, Yah, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?- See on :2. This could be read as the Psalmist asking God not to keep remembering Judah's sins against them [for He does "keep a record of sins", s.w. Job 10:14], and to just get on and restore them. Or it could be read as a general statement of truth- that God does not "mark" sin but forgives it, as our love for our brethren should keep no record of their past sins (1 Cor. 13:5-7 N.I.V.). If we refuse fellowship people because of the effect of past sins for which they have repented, then we are 'marking' iniquity. God does not deal with us in a manner which is proportional to the type or amount of sin we commit (Ps. 103:7-12). David likewise was made to 'stand firm' despite his sin (s.w. 2 Sam. 22:34; Ps. 30:7; 31:8).

Psa 130:4

But there is forgiveness with You, therefore You are feared-
The fear of respect for God which He seeks therefore arises not from fear of condemnation, but rather from awe at the way He forgives.

Psa 130:5

I wait for Yahweh. My soul waits. I hope in His word-
David speaks of waiting and watching for the Lord in the context of asking for forgiveness (Ps. 130:5,6). Heb. 9:28 speaks of the faithful as waiting for Christ to "appear without sin unto salvation". This alludes to a humbled, repentant Israel on the Day of Atonement, having confessed their sins and afflicted their souls through fasting, waiting for their High Priest to appear and pronounce upon them the blessing of forgiveness. The Spirit is using this as a type of us expecting the second coming of our Lord; the motivation for our enthusiasm should be our earnest need of ultimate forgiveness and reconciliation with God. But "the word" hoped for was specifically the fulfilment of the word of restoration. We note that "the word" is put for "the fulfilment of the word", so certain is God's word of ultimate fulfilment. But the psalmist wanted it to come true immediately, when the preconditions were still not right.

Psa 130:6

My soul longs for the Lord more than watchmen long for the morning; more than watchmen for the morning-
Watching for the morning is the phrase used about the plot to slay David by morning (1 Sam. 19:2,11). Ps. 130:6 would therefore have originated with David's reflections that whatever the careful watchings of man to destroy him, his focus was upon longing for the Lord. This then became applied to Hezekiah, who prayed so intensely the night when he thought he would be dead by morning (Is. 38:13). And now it is the thought of the faithful exiles, desperately and intensely longing for dawn of Zion's glad morning in fulfilment of the restoration prophecies. 

Psa 130:7

Israel, hope in Yahweh, for with Yahweh there is grace, with Him is abundant redemption-
Israel were to be encouraged by David's experience that they could receive "abundant" redemption (s.w. "wash me thoroughly from my iniquity" in Ps. 51:2). The same "redemption" had been experienced at the Red Sea (s.w. Ps. 111:9). That redemption from Egypt and gift of the Kingdom to Israel was all an articulation of God's characteristics as memorialized in his Name; see on :2. The redemption promised and implied in the covenant with Abraham is ongoing to God's people of all generations. This verse could be read as an appeal to Israel to repent and believe in God's grace. But the specific appeal for repentance isn't there; rather it is an appeal to trust in God's grace, which was hoped to bring about the restoration prophecies with or without repentance.

Psa 130:8

He will redeem Israel from all their sins-
The redemption of Israel from Babylon was essentially dependent upon their being redeemed from their sins. But most preferred to remain in Babylon, and repentance just wasn't on their agenda. It was a redemption refused, even when that redemption was achieved through the ultimate redeemer, the Lord Jesus.