Psalm 130 – When Drowning, Pray

Reading Time: 7 Minutes

Psalm 130 is one of the brief songs that pilgrims sang on their way to celebrate three festivals in Jerusalem.

It is worth noting that Martin Luther counted this Psalm as his favorite. Also, the most influential Puritan theologian of the 17th century, John Owen, wrote over 300 pages of commentary on this eight verse Psalm.

Owen noted how the depth of sin affects our thought life and draws us away from the truth. What he said centuries ago is still true today. Sin, iniquity and transgression does this to our inside condition.

— It fill us with pride and confidence in our own best thinking.

— It causes us to love the praise and admiration of people.

— It leads us to follow corrupt religious traditions and spiritual errors.

— It makes us lazy in our own personal time with God.

— It causes us to love sin, but hate the truths of God.

Out of the depths of our sin, this Psalm enables us to call on God for help.

A Cry for Mercy

As the people walked toward a meeting with God in Jerusalem, they were aware that they were literally drowning in the guilt of their sins.

How can people who have willingly turned away from God’s will prepare to meet him?

Without a doubt, they need God’s merciful assistance. Therefore, they pray.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!
(Psalm 130.1-2)

Jesus told a parable about a tax collector. He said, “[He] standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!'” (Luke 18.13).

This is the sentiment of the opening words of this Psalm. When we know the deception and guilt of sin as the Puritan Owen understood it, we will cry out to God for mercy.

With God is Forgiveness

The people who were singing on their way to meet God in Jerusalem, knew that God was merciful and willing to forgive.

If God kept close count of their sin and guilt, they would not be able to stand before his presence in the Temple. Only in God’s forgiveness was there hope.

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered.
(Psalm 130.3-4)

The list of John Owen’s five descriptions of how sin affects our inner self is worthy of thoughtful consideration. There is no way that we can enjoy a personal relationship with God when pride, spiritual error, and the love of sin fill our lives.

Only through God’s forgiveness can we expect to meet with God in any meaningful way.

The result of meeting with God is deep reverence. As we revere God we follow his command to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6.5).

Let’s keep in mind that the travelers to Jerusalem were engaged in a significant journey of quite a distance. It cost them money, time, energy, and placed them in potential danger.

The entire experience was undertaken for the purpose of meeting God.

As we imitate their energy and desire to personally meet with God, let’s keep in mind the need to have our sins forgiven by a merciful and gracious God.

Wait for God

Part of the effects of sin, as noted by John Owen, is to take self-reliance seriously and sin lightly.

The pilgrims made it clear in this Psalm that sin was not a light affair. Their whole being waited for an assurance of being forgiven.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.
(Psalm 130.5-6)

Notice the phrase: “in his word I hope.” Notice what Isaiah says about God’s “word.”

All these things my hand has made,
and so all these things are mine,
says the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look,
to the humble and contrite in spirit,
who trembles at my word.
(Isaiah 66.2)

People who do not take sin lightly, but who feel like they are drowning because of it, are the same people who are humble and broken or contrite in their inner self.

They study God’s word and his promises, and it causes them to tremble in awe.

It is to these people that God looks and gives them a personal meeting.

To “hope” in God’s word means the same thing as to “trust” his promises.

We can watch over our spiritual life, like a watchman on the wall of a city or a sentry for the band of pilgrims.

As we watch for the Lord, we await a personal meeting with the Greatest Being of All.

God’s Complete Redemption

True Israel obeyed the first phrase of verse 7. They placed their entire trust in the Lord, rather than just mouthing words about faith in God with no action to back them up.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities.
(Psalm 130.7-8)

We fully rely on God, because his love is steadfast. He will keep on caring for us even after we have been unfaithful to him.

The word “steadfast love,” is the closest Old Testament word to our New Testament term, “grace.” If there is any hope that our cry for mercy or forgiveness is to be received, it is because of God’s steadfast love or his grace.

We also trust God because of his “great power to redeem.” The word, “redeem,” refers to the payment made to purchase someone from the slave market.

Praise God, he paid a great price through his Son’s death on the cross, to remove us from the slave market of sin and set us free.

On The Way

Each day, we should be on the way to a personal meeting with God. In actual fact, there is no greater gift than being able to call God our friend.

As we consider our meeting with God, let’s also think about our sins. Review John Owen’s list of the effects of sin. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you if you have allowed this way of thinking to permeate your life.

Ask God for the mercy of forgiveness and for a restoration of a vibrant, personal relationship with him.

May We Pray for You?

The prayer team at Maywood Baptist Church is honored to pray for you. Please email me at or private message me on Facebook. I will pray for you and so will the prayer team.

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