“LORD, lift me up from the depths.”
A Prayer Psalm
Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD; Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning--I say, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the LORD; for with the LORD there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
This is one of the seven so-called “penitential psalms” (the others are 6, 32, 38, 51, 106, and 143). The psalmist bares his soul before the Lord, imploring Him to hear his prayer for forgiveness. He knows that if Jehovah kept a record of his iniquities, his situation would be quite hopeless. He would remain in “the woeful deep of sin,” separated from his God forever. At the same time he knows that Jehovah–though He is a holy and just God who hates sin and must punish it with death–is also a merciful and gracious God who forgives sin and pardons it for Christ’s sake.
Concerning this psalm the commentator H. C. Leupold says: “The unique feature of (it) over against the others that are in a special way designated as penitential . . . is, perhaps, the fact that it centers attention on sin itself, not so much on its results and consequences. No other psalm expresses quite so well what an evil sin itself is. At the same time . . . the psalm has a distinct gospel emphasis.”
Why was it included in the Songs of Ascents collection? What more appropriate way could the Jewish pilgrims have chosen to prepare themselves for the worship of Jehovah during those three festivals than by confessing their sins and seeking God’s forgiveness? Today we prepare our hearts for the worship of the Lord the same way. At the beginning of the service we join together in making confession of our sins, acknowledging our transgressions of thought, word, and deed, and hearing the good news of our Lord’s forgiveness. We know it is through the Lord’s mercy alone that we can be lifted up from the depths of our sin and draw near to worship Him, our holy God. Washing our robes and making them white in the blood of the Lamb is important each and every day because we daily sin much. And this is our daily comfort: “With the LORD there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption, and He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” When the days of our pilgrimage come to an end, we shall find the gates of the New Jerusalem flung wide open for us. Praise the Lord!