PSALM 130 OVERVIEW.
Title. A Song of Degrees. It would be hard to see any upward step from the preceding to the present Psalm, and therefore it is possible that the steps or ascents are in the song itself: certainly it does rise rapidly out of the depths of anguish to the heights of assurance. It follows well upon 129: when we have overcome the trials which arise from man we are the better prepared to meet those sharper sorrows which arise out of our matters towards God. He who has borne the scourges of the wicked is trained in all patience to wait the dealings of the Holy Lord. We name this the DE PROFUNDIS PSALM: "Out of the depths" is the leading word of it: out of those depths we cry, wait, watch, and hope. In this Psalm we hear of the pearl of redemption, Psalms 130:7 - 8: perhaps the sweet singer would never have found that precious thing had he not been cast into the depths. "Pearls lie deep."
Division. The first two verses ( Psalms 130:1-2 ) reveal an intense desire; and the next two are a humble confession of repentance and faith, Psalms 130:3-4 . In Psalms 130:5-6 waiting watchfulness is declared and resolved upon; and in Psalms 130:7-8 joyful expectation, both for himself and all Israel, finds expression.
Verse 1. Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD. This is the Psalmist's statement and plea: he had never ceased to pray even when brought into the lowest state. The depths usually silence all they engulf, but they could not close the mouth of this servant of the Lord; on the contrary, it was in the abyss itself that he cried unto Jehovah. Beneath the floods prayer lived and struggled; yea, above the roar of the billows rose the cry of faith. It little matters where we are if we can pray; but prayer is never more real and acceptable than when it rises out of the worst places. Deep places beget deep devotion. Depths of earnestness are stirred by depths of tribulation. Diamonds sparkle most amid the darkness. Prayer de profundis gives to God gloria in excelsis. The more distressed we are, the more excellent is the faith which trusts bravely in the Lord, and therefore appeals to him, and to him alone. Good men may be in the depths of temporal and spiritual trouble; but good men in such cases look only to their God, and they stir themselves up to be more instant and earnest in prayer than at other times. The depth of their distress moves the depths of their being; and from the bottom of their hearts an exceeding great and bitter cry rises unto the one living and true God. David had often been in the deep, and as often had he pleaded with Jehovah, his God, in whose hand are all deep places. He prayed, and remembered that he had prayed, and pleaded that he had prayed; hoping ere long to receive an answer. It would be dreadful to look back on trouble and feel forced to own that we did not cry unto the Lord in it; but it is most comforting to know that whatever we did not do, or could not do, yet we did pray, even in our worst times. He that prays in the depth will not sink out of his depth. He that cries out of the depths shall soon sing in the heights.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. The Psalm is the eleventh in the order of the gradual Psalms, and treats of the eleventh step in the spiritual ascent, viz., penitential prayer. --H. T. Armfield.
Whole Psalm. Of the Psalms which are called Penitential this is the chiefest. But, as it is the most excellent, so it has been perverted to the most disgraceful abuse in the Popedom: e.g., that it should be mumbled in the lowest voice by slow bellies, in the sepulchral vigils for their liberation of souls from purgatory: as if David were here treating of the dead, when he has not even spoken a word about them; but says that he himself, a living man, was calling upon God; and exhorts the Israelites, living men also, to do the same. But leaving the buffooneries of the Papists we will rather consider the true meaning and use of the Psalm. It contains the most ardent prayer of a man grievously distressed by a sense of the Divine anger against sin: by earnest turning to God and penitence, he is seeking the forgiveness of his iniquities. --Solomon Gesner.
Whole Psalm. The Holy Ghost layeth out here two opposite passions most plainly -- fear, in respect of evil deserving sins, and hope, in regard of undeserved mercies. --Alexander Roberts. 1610.
Whole Psalm. The passionate earnestness of the Psalm is enhanced by the repetition eight times in it of the Divine Name. --The Speaker's Commentary, 1873.
Whole Psalm. This Psalm, perhaps more than any other, is marked by its mountains: depth; prayer; conviction; light; hope; waiting; watching; longing; confidence; assurance; universal happiness and joy ... Just as the barometer marks the rising of the weather, so does this Psalm, sentence by sentence, record the progress of the soul. And you may test yourself by it, as by a rule or measure, and ask yourself at each line, "Have I reached to this? Have I reached to this?" and so take your spiritual gauge. --James Vaughan, in "Steps to Heaven", 1878.
Whole Psalm. Whosoever he was that wrote this Psalm, he maketh mention and rehearsal of that prayer that he made to his God in the time of his great danger, and this he doth to the fifth verse; then finding in experience a comfortable answer, and how good a thing it was to pray to God, and to wait on him, he professes, that, as before, he had awaited on him, so still in time coming he would await on him, and this he doeth to the seventh verse. In the third and last part, he turneth him to Israel, to the church, and exhorteth them to await on God, as he had done, promising them mercy and redemption from all their iniquities if they would await on him. --Robert Rollock, 1555-1599.
Whole Psalm. Luther being once asked which were the best Psalms, replied, Psalmi Paulini; and when his companions at table pressed him to say which these were, he answered: Psalms 32, 51, 130, and 143. --Franz Delitzsch.
Whole Psalm. Luther, when he was buffeted by the devil at Coburg, and in great affliction, said to those about him, Venite, in conternptum Disboll, Psalmnum, De Profundis, quatuor vocibus cantemus; "Come, let us sing that Psalm, `Out of the depths,' etc., in derision of the devil." --John Trapp.
Whole Psalm. The circumstances in which Dr. John Owen's Exposition of Psalm 130 originated are peculiarly interesting. Dr. Owen himself, in a statement made to Mr. Richard Davis, who ultimately became pastor of a church in Rowel, Northamptonshire, explains the occasion which led him to a very careful examination of the fourth verse in the Psalm. Mr. Davis, being under religious impressions, had sought a conference with Owen. In the course of the conversation, Dr. Owen put the question, "Young man, pray in what manner do you think to go to God?" "Through the Mediator, sir", answered Mr. Davis. "That is easily said", replied the doctor, "but I assure you it is another thing to go to God through the Mediator than many who make use of the expression are aware of. I myself preached Christ", he continued, "some years, when I had but very little, if any, experimental acquaintance with access to God through Christ; until the Lord was pleased to visit me with sore affliction, whereby I was brought to the mouth of the grave, and under which my soul was oppressed with horror and darkness; but God graciously relieved my spirit by a powerful application of Psalms 130:4 , But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared, from whence I received special instruction, peace and comfort, in drawing near to God through the Mediator, and preached thereupon immediately after my recovery." --William H. Goold, editor of Owen's Collected Works, 1851.
Verse 1. Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord. Is there not a depth of sin, and a depth of misery by reason Of sin, and a depth of sorrow by reason of misery? In all which, both David was, and I, God help me, am deeply plunged; and are not these depths enough out of which to cry? And vet, perhaps, none of these depths is that which David means; but there are depths of danger -- a danger of body and a danger of soul, and out of these it seems that David cried; for the danger of his body was so deep that it had brought him to death's door, and the danger of his soul so deep that it had almost brought him to the gates of despair; and had he not just cause then to say, "Out of the depths have cried to thee, O God"? And yet there is a depth besides these that must help to lift us out of these -- a depth of devotion, without which depth our crying out of other depths will never be heard. For devotion is a fire that puts a heat into out' crying, and carries it up into coelum empyroeum -- the heaven of fire, where God himself is. And now join all these depths together -- the depth of sin, of misery, of sorrow, the depth of danger, and the depth of devotion, -- and then tell me if David had not, if I have not, as just cause as ever Jonah had to say, "Out of the depths have I cried to thee, O God." Indeed, to cry out of the depths hath many considerable circumstances to move God to hear: it acknowledgeth his infinite power when no distance can hinder his assistance; it presents our own faith when no extremity can weaken our hope; it magnifies God's goodness when he, the Most High, regards the most low; it expresses our own earnestness, seeing crying out of depths must needs be a deep cry; and if each of these singly, and by itself, be motive sufficient to move God to hear, how strong must the motive needs be when they are all united? and united they are all in crying out of the depths; and therefore now that I cry to thee out of the depths, be moved, O God, in thy great mercy to "hear my voice."
It is cause enough for God not to hear some because they do not cry -- cause enough not to hear some that cry because not out of the depths; but when crying and out of the depths are joined together, it was never known that God refused to hear; and therefore now that I cry to thee out of the depths, be pleased, O God, in thy great mercy to hear my voice. --Sir Richard Baker, in "Meditations and Disquisitions upon the Three last Psalmes of David", 1639.
Verse 1. Out of the depths. By the deep places (as all the ancients consent) is meant the deep places of afflictions, and the deep places of the heart troubled for sin. Afflictions are compared to deep waters. Psalms 18:16 : "He drew me out of many waters." "Save me, O God, for the waters are come in unto my soul." And surely God's children are often cast into very desperate cases, and plunged into deep miseries, to the end that they may send out of a contrite and feeling heart such prayers as may mount aloft and pierce the heavens. When we are in prosperity our prayers come from our lips; and therefore the Lord is forced to cast us down, that our prayers may come from our hearts, and that our senses may be wakened from the security in which they are lying. Albeit the throne of God be most high, yet he delighteth to hear the petition of hearts that are most low, that are most cast down by the sight of sin. There is no affliction, neither any place so low (yea, if as low as the belly of the whale wherein Jonah lay) which can separate us from the love of the Lord, or stay our prayers from coming before him. Those that are farthest cast down are not farthest from God, but are nearest unto him. God is near to a contrite heart, and it is the proper seat where his Spirit dwelleth: Isaiah 66:2 . And thus God dealeth with us, as men do with such houses that they are minded to build sumptuously and on high; for then they dig deep grounds for the foundation. Thus God purposing to make a fair show of Daniel, and the three children in Babel; of Joseph in Egypt; of David in Israel; he first threw them into the deep waters of affliction. Daniel is cast into the den of lions; the three children are thrown into the fiery furnace; Joseph is imprisoned; David exiled. Yet all those he exalted and made glorious temples to himself. Mark hereby the dulness of our nature, that is such, that God is forced to use sharp remedies to awaken us. Jonah lay sleeping in the ship, when the tempest of God's wrath was pursuing him: God therefore threw him irate the belly of the whale, and the bottom of the deep, that from those deep places he might cry to him.
When, therefore, we are troubled by heavy sickness, or poverty, or oppressed by the tyranny of men, let us make profit and use thereof, considering that God hath cast his best children into such dangers for their profit; and that it is better to be in deep dangers praying, than on the high mountains of vanity playing. --Archibald Symson, in "A Sacred Septenarie", 1638.
Verse 1. Out of the depths. "Depths!" oh! into what "depths" men can sink! How far from happiness, glory, and goodness men can fall.
There is the depth of poverty. A man can become utterly stripped of all earthly possessions and worldly friends! Sometimes we come upon a man, still living, but in such abject circumstances, that it strikes us as a marvel that a human being can sink lower than the beasts of the field.
Then there is the depth of sorrow. Billow after billow breaks over the man, friend after friend departs, lover and friend are put into darkness. All the fountains of his nature are broken up. He is like a water logged ship, from the top waves plunging down as if into the bottom of the sea. So often in such depths, sometimes like Jonah in the whale's belly, the monster carrying him down, down, down, into darkness.
There are depths after depths of mental darkness, when the soul becomes more and more sorrowful, down to that very depth which is just this side of despair. Earth hollow, heaven empty, the air heavy, every form a deformity, all sounds discord, the past a gloom, the present a puzzle, the future a horror. One more step down, and the man will stand in the chamber of despair, the floor of which is blistering hot, while the air is biting cold as the polar atmosphere. To what depths the spirit of a man may fall!
But the most horrible depth into which a man's soul can descend is sin. Sometimes we begin on gradual slopes, and slide so swiftly that we soon reach great depths; depths in which there are horrors that are neither in poverty, nor sorrow, nor mental depression. It is sin, it is an outrage against God and ourselves. We feel that there is no bottom. Each opening depth reveals a greater deep. This is really tile bottomless pit, with everlasting accumulations of speed, and perpetual lacerations as we descend. Oh, depths below depths! Oh, falls from light to gloom, from gloom to darkness! Oh, the hell of sin!
What can we do? We can simply cry, CRY, CRY! But, let us cry to God. Useless, injurious are other cries. They are mere expressions of impotency, or protests against imaginary fate. But the cry of the spirit to the Most High is a manful cry. Out of the depths of all poverty, all sorrow, all mental depression, all sin, cry unto God! --From "The Study and the Pulpit", 1877.
Verse 1. Out of the depths have I cried.
Up from the deeps, O God, I cry to thee!
Hear my soul's prayer, hear thou her litany,
O thou who sayest, "Come, wanderer, home to me."
Up from the deeps of sorrow, wherein lie
Dark secrets veil'd from earth's unpitying eye,
My prayers, like star crown'd angels, Godward fly.
From the calm bosom when in quiet hour
God's Holy Spirit reigns with largest power,
Then shall each thought in prayer's white blossom flower.
Not from life's shallows, where the waters sleep,
A dull, low marsh where stagnant vapours creep,
But ocean voiced, deep calling unto deep.
As he of old, King David, call'd to thee,
As cries the heart of poor humanity,
"Clamavi, Domine, exaudi me!" --C. S. Fenner.
Verse 1. But when he crieth from the deep, he riseth from the deep, and his very cry suffereth him not to be long at the bottom. --Augustine.
Verse 1. It has been well said that the verse puts before us six conditions of true prayer: it is lowly, "out of the deep"; fervent, "have I called"; direct to God himself, "unto thee"; reverent, "O LORD"; awed, "LORD", a solemn title, is again used; one's very own, "hear my voice." --Neale and Littledale.
Verse 1. Have I cried. There are many kinds and degrees of prayer in the world; from the coldest form to the most intense agony. Every one prays; but very few "cry." But of those who do "cry to God", the majority would say, -- "I owe it to the depths. I learnt it there. I often prayed before; but never -- till I was carried down very deep -- did I cry." "Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord." It is well worth while to go down into any "depth" to be taught to "cry."
It is not too much to say that we do not know what prayer may be till we have "cried." And we seldom rise till we have gone very deep. "I die! I perish! I am lost! Help, Lord! Help me! Save me now! Do it now, Lord, or I am lost. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God!"
In mid day, if you are taken from the bright and sunny scenes of light, and go down into the bottom of a pit you may see the stars, which were invisible to you in the upper air. And how many could say that things they knew not in life's noon, they have found in life's midnight, and that they owe their glimpses of glory, and their best avenues of thought, and the importunacy of prayer, and the victories of faith, to seasons when they walked in very dark places. "Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord." --James Vaughan.
Verse 1. Have I cried unto thee, Jehovah. God gave out that name Jehovah to his people to confirm their faith in the stability of his promises: Exodus 3:1-22 He who is Being himself will assuredly give being and subsistence to his promises. Being to deal with God about the promises of grace, he makes his application to him under this name: "I call upon thee, Jehovah." --John Owen, in "A Practical Exposition upon Psalm 130."
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1. The assertion of an experienced believer.
Verse 1-2. Consider,