Psalm 130 – With You Is Found Forgiveness
Numbered among the seven Penitential Psalms (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143), Psalm 130 is familiar both for its striking imagery and its frequent use in the liturgy. The Penitential Psalms, designated thus by the Christian Church from the time of St. Augustine, are powerful expressions of contrition, in which the speaker resolves to reject the ways of sin in order to follow the paths of God with greater constancy. Christian culture often refers to Psalm 130 as De Profundis, the Latin title formed from the opening phrase of the psalm. And while these words may indeed symbolize the deadly waters of chaos and destruction, the image also evokes the destructive power of sin in the life of the Psalmist. Sin has brought the speaker to the depth of misery and anguish, and escape is quite beyond his own power. Three times the Psalmist reiterates his supplication: “I cry to you,” “hear my voice,” “be attentive to my pleadings.” In utter humility, the Psalmist acknowledges his complete inability to free himself from the influence of sin. The Hebrew word translated here as “iniquities” (v. 3) is understood to imply the mysterious inclination of the human heart to seek out paths that separate us from God and neighbor. The Psalmist immediately acknowledges that ours is a God of forgiveness, and it is in the apparent hopelessness of our situation that we come to know the love and compassion of God most surely. Even in these earliest expressions of Israel’s faith, forgiveness is recognized as a characteristic attribute of God, for which we must revere him. The old adage, “To err is human, to forgive divine,” is a folksy expression of this profound theological insight. Longing and waiting (vv. 5-7a) mark the posture of faith assumed by the one who knows this. The Psalmist waits for the word of the Lord that will signal the end of his desolation and the beginning of a renewed relationship with God. Here the image of the “watchmen” creates an expectant tone. Some scholars see these watchmen as representing the priestly guardians of the temple precincts: after long night watches over the holy places, their exultant joy at the first signs of dawn signaled the coming day and the new beginning it meant. Forgiveness is the foundation of God’s covenant love, always offering the hope of redemption, freedom from past failings and anticipation of a new beginning. Who can fail to feel a surge of joy at the parable of the Father who welcomes with prodigal love his wayward son?“Quickly,” he says, “ bring out a robe— the best one— and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” (Lk 15:22-24). For your forgiving love, O Lord, we revere you.
1 A Song of Ascents.
Out of the dépths I crý to you, O Lórd;
2 Lórd, hear my vóice!
O lét your éars be atténtive
to the sóund of my pléadings.
3 If you, O Lórd, should márk iníquities,
Lórd, who could stánd?
4 But with yóu is fóund forgíveness,
that yóu may be revéred.
5 I lóng for yóu, O Lórd,
my soul lóngs for his wórd.
6 My sóul hópes in the Lórd
more than wátchmen for dáybreak.
Móre than wátchmen for dáybreak,
7 let Ísrael hópe for the Lórd.
For wíth the Lórd there is mércy,
in hím is pléntiful redémption.
8 It is hé who will redéem Ísrael
from áll its iníquities.
Prayer for Psalm 130
Almighty and ever-living God, in your boundless forgiveness hear our pleas and bestow on us your reconciling love; for without your pardon, our journey is aimless, and only by your grace may we come to know the true meaning of our life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.