Sycamore Presbyterian Church Friday Men’s Bible Study Psalm 130 (see notes)
Question 1. Verses 1-2 (a) What is the psalmist’s condition? (What kind of situation does the metaphor “the depths” evoke?) (b) What do verses 1-2 show us is the appropriate response to “the depths”?
(a) The Psalmist is in the pit (possibly meaning: mentally, emotionally or a combination). The depths is a metaphor implying the opposite of a close walk with God, in which a believer is blessed with God’s presence or is more aware of God’s presence – and receives, among other emotions, a feeling of being lifted up, flying on wings like eagles’, etc. The Psalmist is suffering from a type of separation from God. We know that sin causes a believing sinner to suffer not only the natural consequences of his sin, but also the emotional and cognitive pressure of having wronged the One who loves him the most. We should apprehend this as a blessing from God, in that disobedience, which is bad for us practically, makes us feel rotten emotionally. In fact, if a man is happy in his sin this is a very dangerous sign for his soul. (b) In his depths, the Psalmist cries out. He is so desperate to be heard that he uses the imperative mood to tell God “hear my voice,” and “Let your ears be attentive …” This language is so much at odds with the wimpy sort of prayer one normally hears among men in public, e.g. “Oh, Lord, we just ask,” or “Dear heavenly Father, we ask for your will,” etc. What a contrast to Martha, who, when distracted by preparations and coveting Mary’s help, prayed to Jesus, “Tell her then to help me.” When was the last time we demanded that our Father in heaven listen to us – especially when in the pit? That sounds like a good challenge for us.
Question 2. Verses 3-4 (a) What does the rhetorical question of verse 3 teach us about forgiveness? (See Psalm 1:5 and 5:5 to understand the question.) (b) What does the declaration of verse 4 teach us about forgiveness (How can forgiveness lead to fear?)
(a) If the question implies that the query in verse 3 is rhetorical, one assumes the answer, if one exists, is trivial. But it’s not trivial. The answer is, “nobody.” The example verses (Psa. 1:5 & 5:5) tell us that the wicked will not stand. If God did not blot out our sins, we would carry them to the grave and there die two deaths. Who could ask for help, especially when in the pit, with such a hopeless problem? But the Psalmist does, and it’s because of his faith in God’s forgiveness. There is much in the Old Testament that testifies to the truth that God cannot be approached except by faith in His goodness, righteousness and power. The fact that many things were mysterious before Christ does not make these things untrue in retrospect. So, a close walk with God is possible for those who trust Him to forgive. (b) Forgiveness leads to the type of reverent fear that is worshipful, faithful and loving. It is not the fear of a demon or Christ-hater. A man with faith in God would read verses 1-2 and his spiritual appetite will be whetted for the dramatic remainder of the Psalm; a man with no faith would struggle to understand why anyone would tolerate such a feeling, and look to yoga, “forgiving yourself”, spending money, or some other useless pseudo-escape. Forgiveness and faith are inseparable.
Question 3. Verses 5-8 (a) What is the goal of the psalmist’s repentance? (b) Why do we “wait” in repentance? How are we to “wait” in repentance?
5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; 6 my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. 7 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. 8 And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
(a) Psalm 130 moves; it has a story arc. The Psalmist has cried out in faith; he has felt the pain of separation from God; he knows that God’s forgiveness leads to a life of faith and worship. Now he waits for God’s answer. This ought to be seen as dramatic. This is a good time to remind ourselves that this is worship music, and the people of God are being invited by God to identify with the Psalmist, then in the Jewish church, now in the Christian church, by filling their mouths with these words and filling the room with music while it’s being sung. The Psalmist’s goal, and ours, is a renewed walk with God. (b) The Psalmist “waits” upon the Lord with positive expectation. Is there anything surer than that the sun will rise tomorrow? The watchmen wait on this event (so they could be relieved by the daywatch, presumably); the Psalmist waits on God’s redemption even more than they, because this redemption is surer. So we are to “wait” in repentance by waiting with positive hope, expecting God to keep His promise to be faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn 1:9).
Question 4. Verse 8 What hint does the psalmist get in this last verse about how God will be able to give us such a full forgiveness?
In verse 8 the Psalmist takes the individual nature of repentance and applies it to God’s elect people Israel, which we today should know to be the church, telling us that this redemption will happen. This positive statement concludes this Psalm – imagine these words being sung in church today as written, or a hymn with similar sentiments – which makes the effect of this divine guarantee linger in the mind of the worshipper. The arc is complete now – the Psalmist has told us, when we are in the pit, either as dead in our trespasses and sins, or as wandering sheep, to repent and believe, and we will be forgiven and redeemed. We will be out of the pit.
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