Once Martin Luther was asked what are the best psalms. He replied ‘the psalms of Paul’, meaning psalms which set out most clearly the themes emphasised in Paul’s writings, the heart of the gospel. Among them Luther included Psalm 130, one of the ‘Songs of Ascents’. It is not a surprise to find the psalmists speaking of such things since there has only ever been one way of salvation. Consider Psalm 130 The riches of God’s grace.
1. The psalmist’s cry (v1-3)
The psalm begins with a heart-rending cry (v1), the vivid language of a man about to be overwhelmed in a sea of distress. Like Psalm 69:2 it conveys his sense of helplessness. Self-help will be no answer to these depths. Since the ‘depths’ are not specified, the reader can make this cry his own whenever he passes through deep waters. The only way to respond is to look away from self to the Lord – ‘O Lord, hear my voice’. Whatever the distress, it brings home to the psalmist in a powerful way his own sinfulness (v3). None can stand before a holy God. We all must confess the truth of Romans 3:23 ‘all have sinned’. We ought to be distressed when we realise our natural spiritual condition.
2. The psalmist’s hope (v4)
Recognition of sin does not drive the psalmist to despair. He has no hope in himself, but he has a sure hope in God – ‘with you there is forgiveness’. He is a gracious God. There is only one way of salvation, the one God has provided. All Scripture testifies that salvation is through ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). He has taken the burden of his people’s sin and has paid the price. It is essential to ‘believe in the Lord Jesus’ (Acts 16:31). He is the unique way of salvation. The ultimate goal is ‘that you may be feared’ – reverent living in fellowship with the Lord.
3. The psalmist’s confidence (v5-6)
The depth of the psalmist’s faith is evident in v5. It is God himself that he seeks. We are to wait for God patiently (Psalm 40:1), even if the answer does not come as quickly as desired. The reason for his confidence – ‘in his word I put my hope’, the word of God’s promise. We know he will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). The ‘watchman’ (v6) eagerly scans the horizon. In such a spirit the psalmist waits for God. However long the night, the dawn will come. God’s answer is similarly certain.
4. The psalmist’s exhortation (v7-8)
The psalmist does not want to keep this wonderful news to himself – his earnest desire is that others would likewise look to the Lord. He gives two powerful reasons:
(i). ‘with the Lord is unfailing love’, the special covenant love that can never fail. He is worthy of our entire trust. This love is rooted in eternity.
(ii). ‘with him is full redemption’ – a rich, full, complete salvation that deals with all our sins. His grace is always sufficient (Romans 5:20). It is joyful news.