Prayer for Pardon and Peace
1 A song of ascents.
Out of the depths[b] I cry to you, O Lord;
2 O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cries of supplication.[c]
3 If you, O Lord, kept a record of our sins,
O Lord, who could stand[d] upright?
4 But with you there is forgiveness
so that you may be revered.[e]
5 I wait for the Lord[f] in anxious expectation;
I place my hope in his word.
6 My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the dawn.
More than watchmen wait for the dawn[g]
7 [h]let Israel wait for the Lord.
For with the Lord there is kindness,
as well as plenteous redemption.
8 He alone will redeem Israel
from all its sins.
- Psalm 130:1 This is the sixth of the seven Penitential Psalms (see Ps 6) and perhaps the psalm that has been most often recited down the centuries since the time when it became an invocation on behalf of the dead. It is both a prayer of sorrow and a hymn of hope. No other psalm reveals in so marvelous a way the mystery of God who forgives, reconciles, and redeems even those who abandon him. While wonderfully suitable for the deceased, it also befits anyone in the depths of sadness (e.g., Israel), for it makes hope rise for them like the dawn.
Because of the lofty plane on which it moves, this psalm does not need a transformation but only a greater profundity to become a Christian prayer. The parable of the Prodigal Son illustrates this perfectly (Lk 15).
- Psalm 130:1 Depths: a metaphor of adversity (see Ps 69:2f, 15; Isa 51:10; Ezek 27:34), connoting alienation from God (see Jon 2:2-5) and approaching death.
- Psalm 130:2 In his extremity, the psalmist appeals to the Lord, calling him by his proper name and so obliging him to answer his prayers and intervene. Although the reason for the distress is not indicated here, the petition implies that it is related to sin, and the next verse makes this point explicit.
- Psalm 130:3 The unfortunate psalmist is well aware that the nature of his trouble is different from the depression of illness, homesickness, or persecution seen in some other psalms (e.g., Pss 6; 42; 69). It is guilt for sin, an evil that can cease only if God puts an end to the sins that cause the evil. Unless God granted pardon, no one could stand, i.e., pass through his judgment (see Ps 1:5) or enjoy the benefits of his presence (see Ps 24:3).
- Psalm 130:4 God is full of forgiveness (see Dan 9:9; see also Pss 86:5; 103:3; Ex 34:7; 1 Jn 2:1f). And he is feared not only because of his great judgment and chastisement but also because of his great love in forgiving. The righteous respond with love and holy fear (see Deut 5:29; 1 Pet 1:17) as well as the desire not to offend him in the future (see Rom 2:4).
- Psalm 130:5 After noting that God liberally dispenses pardon, the psalmist expresses in splendid phrases his desire (indeed his certitude) of seeing God come close to him soon to grant him pardon. The words I wait for the Lord indicate that the psalmist ardently desires God and seeks to draw near to him with all his might. In patient waiting, faith looks up to the Lord to grant his grace (see Lam 3:25f). In anxious expectation: literally, “My soul waits”: see note on Ps 6:4. His word: especially his covenant promises (see Pss 119:25, 28, 37, 42, 49, 65, 74, 81, 107, 114, 147) and his word of pardon.
- Psalm 130:6 The psalmist waits for the Lord with much greater anticipation and certitude than watchmen wait for the dawn when they will be relieved of duty after guarding the city from night attacks (see Ps 127:1). More than watchmen wait for the dawn: by this twofold repetition after a fourfold expression of “hope” in the Lord, the psalmist succeeds in inculcating a true sense of longing, dependence, and assurance.
- Psalm 130:7 Like the psalmist, crushed by miseries, Israel must also hope and wait for the Lord. Rich in grace (compassionate and saving love) and redemption (pardon), God will redeem Israel from all temporal and spiritual miseries; he will deliver the people from all their misfortunes and sins as he delivered them from Egypt once before. The word redemption, at first applied to the deliverance from slavery in Egypt (see Ex 12:27), later designates every type of liberation, every form of salvation (see Pss 25:20; 31:5; 44:27; Isa 43:14); here it signifies the profound liberation effected by the forgiveness of sins. The New Testament uses the word in the same sense—the redemption wrought by Christ (see Lk 2:38; Rom 3:24; Eph 1:7; Col 1:14; Rev 5:9). Kindness: see note on Ps 6:5.