On Various Subjects
By Pastor Ron Thomas
Rodgers Baptist Church
801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040
Text: Psalm 130. "Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O LORD.
2 Lord, hear my voice: let Thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
3 If Thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?
4 But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared.
5 I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in His word do I hope.
6 My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.
7 Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption.
8 And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities."
Introduction: This psalm has been regarded as a penitential psalm, that is, a psalm in which the psalmist is expressing godly sorrow for sins committed. One thing is obvious, the psalmist is suffering. He is in the midst of some hardship, some difficulty.
Some believe this psalm was written during the Babylonian exile. The children of Israel were taken captive because of their idiolatry and rebellion against God. Nebuchadnezar destroyed their beloved Jerusalem and their beautiful Temple. This was a difficult time in the history of Israel. They were suffering under the cruel hand of a tyrannical oppressor who spoke in another language and worshiped another god!
A biblical world view teaches us that human suffering is the result of a sin cursed world. This world is rocking and reeling under the curse of sin. In Romans 8, the apostle Paul describes creation as "groaning" to be redeemed or renewed. Mankind is also "groaning" under the burden of sin and it's consequences. As a senior citizen standing before Pharaoh, Jacob summarized his life in Genesis 47:9b by saying, "....few and evil have the days of the years of my life been."
To be human, is to be troubled and experience your share of trials. The morning and evening news is mostly filled with stories of people in trouble. There are stories of scandal, illness, accidents, murder, thefts, vandalism, death, disease, marital strife and divorce, broken homes, scattered families, deserted children, rip off schemes, unemployment, inflation, floods, fires, earthquakes, and tsunamis. All of these and more can rock our lives at any time.
Hard times can weigh heavy upon us, and get us down! We sometimes hear the phrase, "down in the dumps." There are days when we are "up in the clouds," and other days when we are "down in the dumps." The psalmist begins this psalm by saying, "Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O LORD." The phrase, "out of the depths," is an expression that describes a very low point in life, a time of extreme distress and trouble.
This psalm however, is not a "down in the dumps" psalm. Actually, I would call it an "on the way up" psalm. The true measure of life is not what comes our way, but how we respond to what comes our way. The psalmist teaches us a vital lesson here as he cries out to God in the midst of hard times. Rather than drown in self pity, or look around for someone to blame, he takes responsibility for his present situation, and looks to God in hope! With God in your life, there is always hope! Someone has said, "To know God, is to suffer with God." Our God is with us in the valley of suffering, and wherever there's God, there's hope!
Hope has been defined as to look forward with confidence and expectation. There are so many people in the world who have lost all hope. Apart from God, this is a hopeless place! This psalm begins and ends with God. In verse 1, the psalmist cries out to the Lord with the confident expectation of hope, and in verse 7a, the psalmist says, "Let Israel hope in the LORD." When we choose God, we choose hope! When we turn to God, we turn to hope! What we expect from God, is going to have a critical effect on how we respond to life and hard times. Hope elevates our expectations and leads us up and out of despair.
In this psalm, we are given four steps up and out of despair, fueled by Hope For Hard Times.
Step one: Pray. Hope in hard times, expects God to actively listen to our personal concerns. The psalmist cries in verses 1-2, "Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O LORD.
2 Lord, hear my voice: let Thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications." A little boy was saying his prayers at bedtime. He prayed, "Lord, bless mommy and daddy," and then really loud he would shout, "AND GOD, GIVE ME A NEW BICYCLE!!!" Alarmed, his mother popped her head in and said, "Son, don't pray so loud. God is not deaf!" The boy said, "I know, but grandma is in the next room and she is."
The psalmist realizes that he needs help, if he is ever to escape from his troubles and despair. The help he needs is not self help. He doesn't need a friend, grandma, a pill, or a therapist. He doesn't cry out for Dr. Phil. We can be guilty of looking to the wrong people, and going to the wrong places for the solutions to our problems. The psalmist cries out for the Lord! The psalmist realizes that the way up and out, is prayer rather than despair. When life gets hard, remember, "...prayer not despair."
Dr. Gardner Taylor, who was pastor of Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn, New York for 42 years, often spoke of his days as a young preacher in Louisiana during the Depression. Electricity was just coming into that part of the country, and he was out in a rural, black church that had just one little light bulb hanging down from the ceiling to light up the whole sanctuary. He was preaching away, and in the middle of his sermon, all of a sudden, the electricity went out. The building went pitch black, and Dr. Taylor didn't know what to say, being a young preacher. He stumbled around until one of the elderly deacons sitting in the back of the church cried out, "Preach on, preacher! We can still see Jesus in the dark!" Sometimes that's the only time we can see Jesus, is when we are in the dark. The good news is that whether we can see Jesus in the dark or not, He can see us and we can be confident that He hears our prayers!
In Luke 18:1, Jesus said, "...men ought always to pray, and not to faint." In the garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus anticipated drinking the bitter cup of our sin, and experiencing the dregs of God's wrath while upon the cross, what did He do? In the long night of His spiritual struggle, Jesus prayed! What an example Jesus set for us! In our hard times, we must pray and not faint!
Step two: Confess. Hope in hard times, expects God to be forgiving, not condemning. The psalmist continues in verses 3-4, "If Thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared." It is said that the early Christian theologian Augustine, wrote the words of verse 4 on the wall of the room where he lay dying. Facing death, reading those words, "there is forgiveness with God," gave him comfort to know that He was soon to meet a God who was gracious and forgiving, in Jesus Christ. Even when facing death, especially when facing death, there is hope because of a forgiving God!
Verse 3 reveals that our God does not delight in making a list of our sins, and then focusing on that list! The psalmist said, "If Thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?" If God was of this disposition, who could stand before Him? John tells us that "God is love." In I Corinthians 13, Paul tells us that love, "thinketh no evil," that is, love does not keep a list of offenses. It does not store up a memory of offenses. Instead, our God desires to forgive. God is not eager to condemn. He is eager to forgive! We see the forgiving heart of God in the father of the prodigal son, recorded in Luke 15. When the rebellious son returned home, broken and repentant, the father did not pull out a list of offenses to throw in his son's face. No. Instead, the father embraced his son, kissed him, and threw a welcome home party!
During the Babylonian captivity, the children of Israel had plenty of time to reflect on what got them there. This is the ministry of hard times and suffering. It forces us to get real with sin, and get real with God! Before there can be forgiveness, there must be confession. The sin of a bad attitude, a critical spirit, or self focus, needs to be acknowledged, confessed and forgiven. To know to do good and not do it, is sin! Why is it we view confession as a negative thing? Confession is not a downer, it is a lifter! It is the way up and out of hard times. If anyone knew this, it was David. Listen to him in Psalm 32:1. "Blessed (happy, relieved) is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered." He continues in verses 5-6, "I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah. 6 For this shall every one that is godly pray unto Thee in a time when Thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him." Confession is the activity of the godly! It is the proud, sinful heart, that will not make confession to God!
Why live life riddled with guilt, driven by shame, running in fear? With confession comes forgiveness, which rids us of the weight of needless guilt, shame, and fear. Who needs those things when God is gracious to forgive? We are motivated out of grace, ...not guilt. There is no optimism in guilt, ...only despair. It is the weight of our guilt that keeps us in the depths of despair!
Perhaps, what we need to confess is our reluctance or refusal to forgive others. When we refuse to forgive, we are left with resentment, anger, bitterness, and hate! All of these will hold you down in the dungeon of despair! Confession is good for the soul! Tell God what He already knows. Confess the truth about your need, and it will set you free!
Step three: Patiently wait. Hope in hard times, expects God to move in His own time, ...not ours. Hope makes us willing to wait. The psalmist says in verses 5-6, "I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in His word do I hope. 6 My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning." The psalmist is leaning forward and looking up! This is the posture of hope! His expectations are set on the Lord Himself! One good thing about being at a low point in your life, the only way to look is up! Why not look up? Why not lean forward? The psalmist says, "....my soul waits for the Lord."
The word "wait" means more than standing still! Waiting does not mean you are idle. The psalmist is waiting in hope! In verse 6, the psalmist gives us a picture of a watchman. The watchman patrolled the city through the night hours. There were no street lights back then. The nights were dark, giving opportunity for evil people to accomplish their evil purposes. A watchman is fully employed to watch for something unusual that might happen. One thing was certain, the dawn was coming. A watchman looked for the light of dawn.
Today, we call watchmen, night security. Night security constantly checks doors, walks halls, watches monitors, and responds to anything out of the ordinary. Night security anticipates the morning. The night shift is a long and lonely shift that ends with daybreak!
What is the psalmist telling us? Waiting is not resignation. It is not collapse. Waiting has to do with doing what we can do right now! Doing what we can, we wait in hope for God to do what we cannot do! You keep looking for the morning of His return!
One thing we can do as we wait on the Lord's timing in our lives, is to Read and rehearse God's Word! Verse 5 says, "I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in His word do I hope." In my lifetime, I witnessed the collapse and failure of the Soviet Union. Seventy years of secularism, humanism, socialism, atheism came crashing down! Atheism has failed, and will fail. Secular humanism has failed, and will fail! The philosophy and the psychology that comes from secular humanism cannot feed us. It cannot sustain us. Where can we go? We go back to the Holy Bible. We find strength and power in God's Word because it connects us with our Creator who created us to be spiritual beings on a human journey. II Timothy 1:7 says, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." The Holy Bible gives the emotional strength and power of encouragement and optimism we desperately need! It takes simple human beings and empowers them to attempt the impossible. That's the spirit we receive from reading and reflecting on the Word of God. It doesn't flatter us when we read it, and that's one way we know it's telling the truth! It informs us that we are sinners, but it also says, "God loves you anyway, and with Him all things are possible!"
The Bible is packed full of hope. It's pages are soaked with hope. They are rich with promises that always come true! If we are not reading our Bibles, we are not feeding our hope. If we are not feeding our hope, we are in danger of losing hope and slipping down into despair! It is as we claim God's eternal promises and weave them into the fabric of our souls and life, that hope brightens our horizon.
Waiting can be a dark place, but seeds need the dark, cool, dampness of the earth, so to spring up in new life. Babies need a warm, dark place to grow. Our bodies need the dark night to rest and renew themselves. Waiting can be a time of growth and preparation, which leads us to our fourth and final step.
Step four: Believe. Hope in hard times, expects God to respond in love. Verses 7-8 continue, "Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption. 8 And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities." As the children of Israel were in Babylon, their confidence in God's prophets and promises, grew. Long before the Assyrians and Babylonians came, the prophets warned the people of their coming. They told them to repent and turn back to God or else! Looking back, they saw that the prophets were right. If they had only listened and believed, they would still be living in Jerusalem and worshiping in the Temple! The prophets continued to prophecy. Jeremiah told the people that their captivity would last seventy years, at which time they would begin to return to their homeland. The prophets spoke of a time in the future, when Israel would be gathered in their land from the four corners of the earth, restored and redeemed by God! They prophesied of a coming Savior, a suffering servant, who would suffer, bleed, and die in their place for their sins! They must believe! John 1:11-12 reads, "He (Jesus) came unto His own, and His own received Him not. 12 But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name."
I have always been perplexed at a teen's refusal to listen to and believe people of experience, like say, their parents. They will listen to their inexperienced peers, over their parents. Then I heard a quote from 18th century English author Samuel Johnson that said, "We are inclined to believe those whom we do not know, because they have never deceived us." Perhaps teens refuse to believe their parents, because in the past, they have been deceived, or at least have been led to believe that they have been deceived. One thing is certain, it matters who and what you believe! God has never lied to us. We can believe His Word and embrace His truth. Believe that God works all things together for your good and His glory. Believe that God can turn your present misery into future ministry! Believe that there is a way up and out of your hard times!
It is time to pray, to confess, to look up and lean forward as we patiently wait, and to believe in a bright future. God did not abandon His people in exile. God did not abandon Jesus. God will not abandon you! No matter what you are going through, God is the answer and your only real hope.