“MUSING WHILE IN THE HOLD”
The Cries Of A Jaded And Wearied Spirit
Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD. Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities. (Ps. 130).
Verses 1 & 2: “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.” The valleys, depths and spiritual dungeons are at times so very deep that the powerless believer can do nothing else but cry out to the Almighty God. The weakened believer is imprisoned by restraints which are not only inescapable, but multiply with strength and an all-consuming fright daily. So blistering are the infernal flames of our morbid evaluation that correct assessments are incinerated before they can materialize. The depths of anguish are ever enclosing, while the pleas for deliverance become more intense and frequent.
The depths are clearly those of trouble, distress, affliction. These are outward or inward. The outward consist of providential arrangements respecting our health, honor, property, family, and the state of the church and of the world around us; the inward relate to the state of men’s hearts, arising from a clear apprehension of the existence, guilt and virulence of sin, of the want of due love to God, of the hiding of the divine countenance, of spiritual insensibility, of a want of the tokens of God’s love to us, of a keen sense of the ill-desert of our own sins, of a discovery of the mischief, to ourselves and others, of our departures from God, of spiritual darkness generally, and of strange disinclination to devotion, accompanied by apprehensions of the divine wrath. There is no kind or degree of sin which may not lead us into the depths. (Psalms by William S. Plumer).
This was not the first cry of the Psalmist. He said: I have cried unto thee, I am crying now, I will continue to cry. “Lord hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.” Supplications: plural, he cried continually, for he understood that only the Lord could bring about the necessary and happy result. The depths were dark and gloomy, decked with sins of unbelief. Still, the crying supplicant had his tried faith anchored in the excellencies of God’s greatness.
The depths are not unique or rare for the children of God. They are always present to a greater or lesser degree in every saint. By a holy and sovereign decree, the lives of many of God’s chosen are full of deep places. Waiting is one thing, but waiting in the depths is altogether defined by different words.
One can name many heroes in the Bible that have betimes lived in these depths. We repeat many of the verses already noted in earlier chapters.
David: “SAVE me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God …Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth.” (Ps. 69:1-3, 71:20).
Jeremiah: “Mine enemies chased me sore, like a bird, without cause. They have cut off my life in the dungeon, and cast a stone upon me. Waters flowed over mine head; then I said, I am cut off. I called upon thy name, O LORD, out of the low dungeon. Thou hast heard my voice: hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry.” (Lam. 3:52-56).
Heman: “O LORD God of my salvation, I Have cried day and night before thee: Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry; For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave . . . Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Selah . . . But unto thee have I cried, O Lord; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee. Lord, why casteth thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me? I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted. Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off. They came round about me daily like water; they compassed me about together.” (Ps. 88:1-3, 6-7, 13-17). See also, Jer. 38:6; Hab. 1:1-3; Heb. 11:35-38.
In both the Old and New Testament, we see the favored of the Lord in the belly of hell. Jonah has a perfect commentary, without the flaws of men to distort the meaning. It takes the believer from the lowest depths to the Holy Temple.
Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish’s belly, and said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou hardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward they holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depths closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God. When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. (Jonah 2:1-7).
To this it can only be concluded that God did hear the voices, the cries, and the supplications of His precious elect. Praise God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, He has not changed.
Verses 3 & 4: “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.”
The depths are not only a place of crying unto God, it is also a time for searching and confessing. Troubles are divine instruments which cause believers to find out their sins; to delve into the heart and see what it is that has caused the Lord to withdraw His presence. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps. 139:23-24).
The believer knows that he is a sinner, and that he adds to his iniquities daily. If he denies his sins, he makes God a liar, and His word is not in him. (1 Jn. 1:10). Should we desire not to confess transgressions, God will not hear us. (Ps. 66:18). When by subterfuge, we seek to conceal the shortcomings of our lives, God will search this out. He knows the secrets of the heart. (Ps. 44:21). We may fool our fellow man, and deceive ourselves by a fair show of the flesh, but God looks on the heart. (1 Sam. 16:7). The truth of the matter is that only God knows the hearts of the children of men. (1 Kings 8:39; 2 Chron. 6:30). We should perceive by reading the scriptures that the hearts of men are deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. To this, however, we seem to be slow in admitting, and dull in comprehending, the reality of these truths. (Jer. 17:9). There is no exception — no man understands his own way by natural ability. (Prov. 20:24, 21:2).
There are sins of every kind and nature in our daily lives. They all may not be performed in actual deeds, but they are present nonetheless, and thoroughly known by our Father. Man sees them not, but God has found them out unto perfection. The sins of the heart are those that defile the man. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: . .” (Matt. 15:19-20A).
It is the duty of the redeemed to beseech God’s superintendence of the heart – cause us to keep it with all diligence. (Prov. 4:23). The greater the knowledge of God’s holiness, the more obvious will be our unholiness. We can find no justification for our sins. Man’s depravity does not diminish his guilt, but only aggravates the loathsome disease and enhances the deserved condemnation. The Bible clearly shows that all men are worthy of judgment. “And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Ps. 143:2; Rom 3:10).
The catalog of sins listed by Jesus in Matthew 15 not only reside with all the redeemed, but they are active in and captivating to our natural instinct. For in the believer, the flesh and spirit are at war, and will continue to be such until we leave this body of death.
“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not . . . I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me . . . I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Gal. 5:17; Rom. 7:18, 21, 25).
Joseph C. Philpot described the heart sins of the saved in such a way that none will fail to see a perfect reflection and realization of their own condition.
“. . . What! in that workshop within, no iniquitous suggestions, no evil workings? Oh, how ignorant must we be of ourselves, if we feel that we have no iniquity of thought! Iniquity of imaginations – does not fancy sometimes bring before you scenes of sensuality in which your carnal nature is vile enough to revel? Iniquity of memory – does not memory sometimes bring back sins you formerly committed, and your evil nature is perhaps base enough to desire they had been greater? Iniquity of feeling – no enmity against God’s people ever working? no pride of heart? no covetousness? no hypocrisy? no self-righteousness? no sensuality? no base thought that you cannot disclose even to your bosom friend?”
Oh! PRAISE Jesus Christ for becoming sin for the elect of God. He became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor. 5:21). Glory to His three times Holy name. All sins gone – yes, all gone forever. “What! all? Yes. Not one left? No, not a trace, not a shade, not the shadow of a shade; all buried, all gone, all swallowed up, all blotted out, all freely pardoned, all cast behind God’s back. (Joseph C. Philpot).
Is it not truly amazing how any of the redeemed can ever be puffed up and feel so wonderful about their goodness. The statement of the Psalmist is true to every one of God’s children. “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” Mark iniquities – “The word ‘denotes not only to mark, or observe diligently, so as to retain a perpetual memory of what is done amiss – a rigid and judicial observation of faults: see Job x. 14; xiv. 16, 17.” (Phillips).
“The purest man on earth ought to acknowledge his entire sinfulness and dependence on the mercy of God.” (Psalms by William S. Plumber). Man does not know the depth of the evil that dwells still in his heart. God, who is all wise, knows it perfectly. To argue against His knowledge is an abomination. True contrition receives these truths, and pleads with the Lord to reveal our many sins and rebellions to us. That He would give us grace to repent and grant mercy that we would turn from them and crucify our flesh daily. Our iniquities has God set before Him, Yea! our secret sins are in the light of His countenance. (Ps. 90:8).
Who could stand before the Lord if He withheld His grace and mercy. (Ps. 76:7; Nah. 1:6; Mal. 3:2). We are, everyone of us, guilty of breaking all the laws and commandments of God. “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10). There may be times when we feel that we have done things quite praiseworthy. Still, what have we done if we do some things well. “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Lk. 17:10). “In vain does any man persuade himself that he can by doing meet the precept, or by suffering satisfy the penalty of the law of God . . . Sinners never approach God in a becoming manner till they have the spirit of the publican. (Psalms by William S. Plumer).
Now surely, God is pleased with faithful obedience but He could not possibly be honored by the pride of men concerning spiritual callings and gifts of grace. May it ever be our prayer that He would work in and through us that which is pleasing to Him. May He be pleased to establish that work in us that would bring him honor and glory.
“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” “Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.” “Thy God hath commanded thy strength: strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us.” (Phil. 1:6, 2:13; Heb. 13:20-21; Ps. 90:16-17, 68:28).
Jehovah does not “mark iniquities” in the renewed, neither does He leave them to their own devices. He takes all our sins and casts them forever away – and remembers them no more. He gave us the righteousness of Christ Jesus, and laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Is. 43:25; Heb. 8:12, 10:17).
“But there is forgiveness with thee . . .” – without doubt, the greatest news man has ever heard. The eternal covenant eclipses all actions ever performed. Every counsel in the process of redemption is perfect and far beyond our ability to comprehend its divine purpose. In the smallest portion, we cannot even begin to appreciate the glorious value of God’s redeeming grace.
Who can explain the will of God? The love He has for such worthless worms of the earth, or His mercy and grace which endures forever? Man has never done anything in his entire history that would attract the benevolent affection of Jehovah. All men are sinful and unclean. By nature we reek and stink with wicked devices. We add sin unto sin, rebellion on top of more rebellion, and offenses which habitually deserve holy condemnation. Man at his best state is altogether vanity. (Ps. 39:5). His righteous acts are no more than filthy rags. (Is. 64:6). Yet, God so loved His elect, that even when they were dead in their sins, He had already ordained their adoption and took pleasure in them. When we were His active enemies and alienated from Him, God moved with eternal and divine power to redeem the dead and polluted stock of mankind.
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly . . . But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Rom. 5:6, 8-10).
“But there is forgiveness with thee . . .” Though we have rebelled against him; to our God belong mercies and forgiveness. (Dan. 9:9). The world cannot forgive with efficacy, be it ever so dear to the heart. It will fall miserably to the earth and have no atoning virtue. Only God by the sacrifice of His Son can forgive sins. God sent forth His Son to be a propitiation for us, and in Christ there is forgiveness, plenteous forgiveness. (Acts 5:31; Rom. 3:25; 1 Jn. 2:2).
Through Jesus Christ, His perfect and holy life, vicarious sufferings and death, and His triumphant resurrection, there is forgiveness. “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 13:38).
The marvelous God is not only the Father of forgiveness, He is the means to make that forgiveness efficacious and certain through Jesus Christ His Son. None of these redeeming doctrines, or the fruition of them, was ever left in the hands of man. Godly forgiveness is not the work of created beings. “But there is forgiveness with thee.”
By the grace of God the believer has his eyes opened, he is turned from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto the power of God, that he may receive forgiveness of sins. (Acts 26:18). The forgiveness of sins flows from the riches of God’s grace, through the blood of Emmanuel’s veins. (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14).
Men can only marvel and adore the unsearchable God and His Christ. In verse 3 of this Psalm, the writer said that sins were so numerous that none could stand if God were to reckon them up. In this present verse, the Psalmist beholds grace and forgiveness so superabundant that it swallows up not only the iniquities, but the very remembrance of them. “. . . But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” (Rom. 5:20.
“… that thou mayest be feared.” The chain of events is inspiring. Forgiveness comes from the mercies of God. Forgiveness begats wholesome fear. Fear is the beginning of wisdom. Wisdom is to hate evil, pride, and every false way.
Forgiving grace has never been the origin of loose, licentious, and reckless living as some charge. Real grace produces a confident, trusting, and holy life.
This fear is not slavish in nature, nor one of tyranny. It is rather one of reverential trust, awe, and the result of recognized mercies and unmerited favor from God.
In a later chapter, it will be noted that there is no fear in love. There is a fear spoken of in First John that is tyrannical and cruel, and in no way is it the offspring of spiritual attraction. The obedience rendered toward that fear is burdensome, and one of oppression and abject subjection – the type seen in evil taskmasters like Pharaoh and the Egyptian army. Fear of evil powers may receive conformity, but the motivation is never nurtured and expressed with actions of love. Such is not the case with the fear exposed in Psalm 130. This fear is the Godly sort and casts out the slavish terror. “Perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (1 Jn. 4:18).
God-granted redemption is the auspice of this fear. “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.” “Since the fear of God follows pardon, it cannot proceed from the fear of punishment.” (Lampe).
The relationship in this fear is family: Father and children. “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.” (Ps. 103:13). It is an emancipating fear. One that illustrates freedom from bondage. (Rom. 8:15). A fear that is laced with soundness of mind and the power of God. A worshipping trust that expels the spirit of carnal fear. (2 Tim. 1:7). This Godly fear is a covenant revealer and the entrance into the secrets of the Lord. (Ps. 25:14). It is a fear that God greets with great pleasure. (Ps. 147:11). Job declared that this holy fear was wisdom. The Psalmist said it was the beginning of wisdom, and that it was clean and would endure forever. (Job 28:28; Ps. 111:10, 19:9). See also Prov. 1:7, 9:10.
The fear described in verse 4 is holy and bears fruit of an acceptable kind. It hates vileness and all wicked actions, especially those that still proceed from our own depraved nature. “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.” (Prov. 8:13). Note also Proverbs 16:6. “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil.”
Reverential fear is the foundation of strong confidence. (Prov. 14:26). The fear of the Lord by miraculous grace is the provider of our wants. (Ps. 34:9). The fear defined by the Psalmist is one that is immersed in love and affection.
God-wrought forgiveness follows divine channels. One of those channels is Godly fear. “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.” (Ps. 130:4).