Lesson Focus Waiting isn’t easy. Amid our sin and brokenness, sometimes we must wait for God to act on our behalf. But there is always hope.
Through this lesson, students should:
Understand that God is not keeping score of our sins but is actively forgiving them.
Understand that sometimes we must wait for God’s deliverance.
Be encouraged to confess their sins because forgiveness is always available.
Catch Up on the Story As a Psalm of Ascents, pilgrims would have sung or recited this psalm as they made their way to the Temple in Jerusalem for one of the three annual Jewish festivals. The psalm is both a psalm of confession, calling to God for forgiveness, and a confident expression of hope in a God who doesn’t always act when we think he should.
The Text The psalm can be broken down into two segments, each with a different emphasis. Verses 1-4 make up the first segment, while verses 5-8 make up the second.
Out of the Depths: Psalm 130:1-4 The psalmist, expressing the feelings of an entire country, proclaims that from the depths of existence (the pit, the farthest away from God you can get), they cry out to God. The request is that God would be attentive and hear their voice. Throughout Israel’s history and testimony, there are times when Israel believes that God has turned a deaf ear to them. They have felt abandoned and left alone. Indeed, as Israel portrays him, God will remark that he has “heard and remembered” his people. God will come now and enact justice and redemption for his chosen people.
In verses 3-4, the psalmist pleads to God’s sense of forgiveness. If God should hold the people's sins against them, well, no one would be able to stand in the sight of God. In the text, the word “mark” means to keep count of or record of. Israel is confessing that God is not in the business of counting our sins so that punishment might be given. If that were the case, there would be no one who could stand before God as righteous. The weight of our sin would oppress us. We are guilty, and we know it. Mays states, “The error is to understand the Lord as a god whose principal way with human beings is to watch for iniquities. If that were the case, there would be no hope for anyone” (Mays, 406). Yet, the psalmist proclaims that God is a God of forgiveness. God is to be revered and worshiped because of his proclivity toward forgiveness.
Wait and Hope: Psalm 130:5-8 From the bottom of the pit, the psalmist waits for the Lord. The bottom of the pit is “not just guilt; it is the flood of wrong and its consequences that sweep life along and from which there is no escape apart from a liberating, rescuing redemption.” (Mays, 406) The psalmist is waiting for God’s coming salvation and redemption from the consequences of sin, his and his community’s. He is not just waiting for forgiveness but rescue from death itself. The word for waiting and the word for hope are synonyms. Its original meaning conveyed a sense of twisting, stretching from the tension of enduring the present situation while a new and better situation loomed in the future (Brown, Driver, and Briggs, 875). With bodies tight in anticipation, the psalmist tensely waits for God’s coming redemption.
The repeated line at the end of verse 6 emphasizes its importance. Night was always a time of danger for those in the ancient near east. The lack of light allowed for all kinds of nefarious behaviors. Traveling at night was almost unthinkable. If a person found themselves in a vulnerable place at night, their only hope would often be the coming of the light with the rising sun. Israel waits and hopes for God’s coming, like those who seek to escape the terrors of the night.
In verse 7, we have a change in voice from the first-person singular to a more cooperative tone. The psalmist now admonishes Israel to hope for the Lord, who will surely come because of his great steadfast love (hesed).
So What? From time to time, we find ourselves in the pit. It is a hole made not just of our guilt but of all the realities created by our wrongdoing. We can see no way out. The only possible outcome, aside from someone rescuing us, is death.
We are in the pit because of our sins, but God does not want us to stay there. God is not standing by a cosmic scoreboard, making tallies every time we step out of line. If that were the case, no one could stand in a relationship with God. No, God’s character is one of forgiveness.
With this confident knowledge, we can wait, amid the pit of our own making, for God to rescue us, to deliver us. We have this confident knowledge because God has proven himself to be a God of steadfast love with the power to lift us up out of our pits.
As you know, Lent is a time of introspection and self-evaluation. This psalm gives us permission to confess and own our sinfulness in a way that places quiet confidence in the fact that God is not out to hold our sins against us but to rescue us from those sins. It may even be the case that sometimes, but not always, we are rescued from the consequence of those sins. So, we hope and wait, twisting with anticipation, for the God whose character is steadfast love and faithfulness to redeem us.
Discussion Questions Read the text aloud. Then, read the text to yourself quietly. Read it slowly, as if you were very unfamiliar with the story.
The “depths” from which the Psalmist cries out indicate the chaos of life. It also represented the farthest away from God that one can get, either as a result of your sin or the sins of others. As a group, take a few moments to contemplate times when you have felt very far away from God and in complete and utter distress. After a few moments, share with your group regarding that time.
If someone from your group is currently going through one of those times, spend some time in group prayer for that person or situation. Or, if no one shares, think of friends, relatives, and coworkers who might be in those situations. Call out to God that he might hear your voice of supplication.
How do we, as a church, “wait” with people in the depths?
Spend some time thinking about all of the sins for which you have been forgiven. Offer up prayers of thanksgiving for the fact that “there is forgiveness” with God and that he does not “mark our iniquities.”
If you are comfortable, confess some of those sins to your group. It might be advisable to divide your group by gender. Encourage each other to wait for the Lord’s redemption from those things.
What is God saying to you through this passage?
What are you going to do about it?
Works Cited Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown- Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 2000).
James Luther Mays, Psalms (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1994).