How is the psalmist able to have assurance of mercy and abundant redemption, when crying out to the Lord from the depths? This is both a song of ascents and a penitential psalm which speaks of personal supplication and also national redemption. It speaks of the Redeemer and some of its redemptive fulfilment is still future when all Israel shall be saved. The psalmist is assured since there is hope in His word and in the Lord there is forgiveness, hope, mercy and abundant redemption.
Calling on the Lord
Although the psalmist is not named and neither is the context defined, the experience of the psalmist parallels particular points of Israel’s history. This psalm mirrors Lamentations 3:55-59 when Judah was in exile. Similarly, Jeremiah called to the Lord from the lowest pit, recognised the Lord had heard his voice, appealed to Him as the righteous Judge and had a fear of the Lord who had redeemed his life.
Solomon’s prayer dedicating the temple to the Lord also shares a distinct likeness especially in 1 Kings 8:30, 38-40). The word ‘supplication’ is employed in verse 30 and 38, asking the Lord to hear the prayers made in the temple, that they might fear the Lord. Significantly prayers were also made for foreigners, not of Your people Israel, coming from a far country for His name’s sake (1 Kings 8:41).
A rhetorical question exposing our utter dependency on the Lord for forgiveness is given. If You, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord who could stand (cf. Psalm 143:7; Nahum 1:6)? If our deeds were measured by the Law of Moses we would all stand guilty as charged! But there is forgiveness in the Lord that He may be feared.
Do you call out to the Lord? In the beginning, at the point when Seth, whose son Enosh was born, men began to call on the name of the Lord (Genesis 4:26). Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13). Do you approach the Lord in the humble manner of a supplicant? The psalmist asked the Lord to be attentive to the voice of his supplications. Do you plead your own righteousness? Isaiah taught that our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). The psalmist did not protest his innocence but was assured that in the Lord there is forgiveness that He may be feared.
Hope in the Lord and His Word
The author waited on the Lord and had hope in his word. In Israel’s history they have at times, trusted in themselves, made temporary alliances with other nations and wavered with false gods. Sometimes we seek all other options available to hand rather than going to the Lord first and foremost and that never produces any blessings.
Isaiah 40 compares people with grass that withers and fades and it states, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of the Lord stands forever (Isaiah 40:8).” David spoke of the constancy and preservation of God’s word. “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. You shall keep them O Lord, You shall preserve them from this generation forever.” Three millennia later the word of God still stands, it is the world’s bestseller and the most influential and sacred book of all time, past, present and future.
Do you value God’s word? Do you mediate on the Book of the Law day and night and are you careful to obey what is written in it (Joshua 1:8)? Do you have a high view of Scripture and recognise it as written by men but inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-21)? Is the word of God a lamp to your feet and a light to your path (Psalm 119:105)? Are you like David who meditated on the excellencies of the Scriptures (Psalm 119)? Have you set your hope in the Lord and in His word (Psalm 130:5,7)?
The psalmist waited for the Lord much like those who watch for the morning. The morning light brings hope and dispels the darkness and so does the Messiah, the Star out of Jacob, the Sun of Righteousness, the Dayspring, the Bright and Morning Star (Numbers 24:7; Malachi 4:2; Luke 1:78; 2 Peter 1:19; Revelation 22:16). Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah has come as the light of the world and He is coming again (John 8:12; 9:5; Revelation 2:20). The first time He came as Saviour and on His return He shall come as the Judge.
In the Lord there is mercy and abundant redemption. No doubt, on their way to the Feasts, the godly pilgrims singing this psalm would confess their iniquities to the Lord who is abundant in mercy. [i]If our iniquities were marked none of us could stand. Redemption is needed because we will all stand before a holy and righteous God and in thought, word or deed, we have all broken God’s Law and we all possess an inherited sinful nature (Psalm 51). The Lord redeemed the Israelites from Egypt. The blood of the lamb at Passover foreshadowed the Messiah whose blood would atone for sin and in Him is mercy and abundant redemption. Have you been redeemed by the Lord? Do you have peace (shalom) with the Lord Most High?
Certainty was given at the close of the psalm regarding the redemption of Israel from all their iniquities. MacDonald concludes, “The Psalm opened in the depths of gloom. It closes with a vibrant call to trust in the God for whom no problem is too mountainous, no dilemma too complex.”[ii] The good news and abiding hope is that atonement has been made through Messiah’s sacrifice. Paul spoke of the time when “all Israel shall be saved” (Romans 11:26), a time still future; though in the Lord’s providence, there will be a great ingathering of Jewish believers trusting in Jesus the Messiah.
[i] J Flanigan Psalms What the Bible Teaches (John Ritchie, 2001; Kilmarnock), p566
[ii] William MacDonald Believer’s Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 1995; Nashville), p759