Dear Grace Church Family and Friends,
Sometimes the news is just plain grim, and we can lose hope. Sometimes, the condition of our own sinfulness is grim, and hope escapes us. But, losing hope in any circumstance is not what God wants for us. God wants us to always hope; to hope in his love for us that will never fail us no matter what. The lessons today contain a short Psalm that says all that in just eight short verses.
Psalm 130: De Profundis (Latin for “Out of the Depths”) It happened in a seminary preaching class. I had finished presenting what I thought had been a perfectly brilliant expositional sermon on an assigned passage. I loved the passage, its point was easy to grasp, and I had just spent twenty minutes filling the class in on it. Slowly breaking the deafening silence that followed, my very wise preaching professor said this, “Some Scripture passages need no explanation; they preach themselves. This was one of those. Our job, as preachers, is to let it speak for itself, and to keep our own commentary from getting in the way.”
It was a stinging rebuke, even though delivered with as much care for me personally as he could muster. His admonition has stayed with me for all these years since, and it is still present each time I compose a sermon or Bible Study. “Let it speak for itself.” Psalm 130 is one of those passages. So, I will try not to get in its way with what follows here.
Psalm 130 is one of the best known of all the Psalms. Those opening words, including the Latin words, are known widely even to many who may not know that they come from a Psalm, or know what a Psalm is. They speak so deeply, profoundly, from the human heart. This Psalm is part of a group that has been recognized from earliest Christian times as being especially powerful for speaking that human heart in search of repentance and restoration. The group is known as The Penitential Psalms, (I call them The Sorrowing Seven), Pss 6; 32; 38; 51; 102; 130; and 143.
Perhaps one reason this Psalm is so revered is that it delivers so much in just eight short verses. (Nearly as short as the 23rd Psalm.) In the first two verses the Psalmist states his/her condition and desire: “The deepest recesses of my inner most self are now open to you, O Lord; please be open to me!”
In the next two verses, the Psalmist speaks a truth that has clearly marked his/her relationship with God, s/he says, “Forgiveness is your nature, O Lord. You let my sins pass from your memory, so that I may come to you without fear.”
Then the Psalmist uses a truly full word over and over in the remaining verses. It’s two interchangeable verbs in English. They are wait and hope. In the Old Testament, they are inseparable. To hope is to look for, wait for, God’s action. To wait is to have hope that God will act. The Psalmist says, “My whole being waits for you, O Lord, for I have hope in your unshakable love.” (Hesed)
Whatever your condition this day, no matter the world’s condition this day, open the depths of your soul to God. Wait in confidence that your voice is heard. God will give you hope. And, as the Apostle Paul says it, “Hope does not disappoint us, for God’s love has been poured into our hearts. (Romans 5: 5)