Redemption in the modern world means going to the pawnbroker’s with some money and getting your things that you pawned back. With God it means exactly the same.
This is God’s world, and God is buying it back.
A song of ascents.
1 Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
2 Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
3 If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
6 I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
7 Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
8 He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.
The Songs of Ascents or Songs of Degrees are calls from the world to God. In the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, the Songs of Degrees make up the Eighteenth division of the Psalter and are read on Friday evenings at Vespers throughout the liturgical year.
Forgiveness is your habit
The songs of ascents can be read as the songs sung on the trip to Jerusalem by the Jews, they are more than just stand alone songs, there is a progression to them. These psalms are also in a section of the Psalter that was compiled after the exile in Babylon. The beginning of Psalm 130 is a personal call that echoes the laments of the people in exile, “Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord.” But this time it is said with hindsight.
The psalmist knows about the return to their lands, the psalmist has experienced the love of god for himself (I am assuming the psalmist is male, as is conventional, although Miriam was a musician and songwriter, there is no reason to assume that). The psalmist knows that it in the very nature of God to forgive, we do not deserve it, but without it we cannot serve God.
The psalm begins in pain, “Out of the depths I call to you, Lord.” To be human is often to be in trouble, This is a prayer of a man in anguish, the anguish is part of the prayer which must be allowed to speak, for the prayer does not exist without the anguish. Suffering is not something embarrassing, as it was with me when I used to stand for photographs with my elbow crutches behind my back. I was ashamed to be disabled. It was the same with God, I wanted to approach God as what I saw as a “real Christian” one who did not suffer. Ridiculous! Most of the world’s Christians are suffering. Persecution of Christians is now higher than at any time in the past.
There is an arrogance in 20th Century Western Christians. We act as if our way of worshipping God is the best way there is, be that contemporary or traditional. It embarrasses us to see those we see as less able among us. Be that physical disability, a mental health issue, a neuro-diversity such as autism, ADHD or dyslexia, or even being LGBTQ+. People in churches are being abusive and abused in all these areas. We can take comfort in this from a psalm prayed out of the depths. If we fail to live up to what they see as normative we are seen as a problem to be solved; well meaning people cue up to solve our problems, not realising how abusive their actions are. In the Bible it is the people who suffer and cry out of the depths of their suffering who are at the centre of things. In churches, not so much.
The suffering psalmist waits. It would be nice for there to be a quick fix, I really don’t want to live in pain, I’d like my diabetes gone too. This psalm does not say that suffering has to be endured, but it does not try to explain it away either. That this is a song of praise written by a suffering man says something of the difference that God makes in the lives of those who suffer. It is by living in the depths that we learn to appreciate the heights. Praise God.
There is full redemption in God. Full in the sense that it reaches into all parts of our lives. Full in that if we let God in to that part of our lives God will fill it, even those parts where we are suffering. Especially those parts where we are suffering.
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2 thoughts on “Unfailing love – Psalm 130”
Powerful. It is a tragedy that we fail at the very thing we are called to do, to love our fellow woman (and man). I am ashamed of my embarrassment, my naivety and my inability to empathise. God help us to grow together as family.
Thank you John.
Yup, I’m naIve too, my response is often, “Why wasn’t I told that?” The Social Media response is often. “Why didn’t you find it out?” There’s a lot of information out there.”
Empathy is a leaned not a natural phenomenon in any case, which can be observed in culture clash which is often when two cultures empathise differently, also known as double empathy.