George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 5

Psalm 130

1. Structure

An earlier prayer for forgiveness
A renewed prayer for redemption,

a. For self — vv. 5,6.

b. For Israel — vv. 7,8.

2. A psalm of Hezekiah

This psalm is a compendium of the prayers of Hezekiah when faced with the prospect of an early death, coupled with the greatest threat imaginable to his nation, in the person of the Assyrian. Would God not only allow His faithful servant to die, but also extinguish the light of Judah as well, burying in the dust the royal house of David?

Points of comparison with Hezekiah:

Hezekiah’s sore weeping (Isa. 38:3; 2 Kings 20:3), as from out of a grave or pit (Isa. 38:18).
“Remember now, O Lord..” (Isa. 38:3; 2 Kings 20:3). “Bow down thine ear and hear” (2 Kings 19:16).
“For thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back” (Isa. 38:17).
The certainty in Hezekiah’s mind that, unless God intervene, his life will end by the morning (Isa. 38:12,13, RSV).
Hezekiah’s personal hope is the nation’s hope as well. “Deliver thou us out of his hand” (2 Kings 19:19).
“The Lord was ready to save me” (Isa. 38:20) and “the remnant that are left” (2 Kings 19:4).

Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord. So much of the spiritual life of the devout Jew is couched in Exodus imagery:

"Was it not thou that didst dry up the sea, the waters of the great deep: that didst make the depths of the sea a way for the redeemed to pass over?” (Isa. 51:10, RSV).

The newly-freed slaves of Egypt were led by the fiery cloud through the depths of the sea, and no doubt many a prayer ascended to heaven during that awe-inspiring passage. The depths symbolized death and the grave, and thus the passage of the Red Sea was a “baptism” (1 Cor. 10:2) — there the Israelite died to his old way of life and was born again, being redeemed out of “Egypt”.

The depths here mentioned are Hezekiah’s sorrows at the specter of death, for himself and for his people. The impending disaster is obviously caused by sins (vv. 3,4), perhaps those of Hezekiah but certainly those of the nation, which in any case were far worse.
Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. Hezekiah seems to be appropriating the formal language of Solomon in his prayer at the dedication of the Temple (1 Kings 8). The salient features of that prayer were God’s choice of David’s house and of Jerusalem, the supremacy of Israel’s God over any pretenders, and the forgiveness and redemption held out to those who repent. Hezekiah is now “calling in” the promise which has been outstanding for 300 years.
If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? The word “mark” is shamar, to watch (as in v. 6), to observe, or to keep, as in a record book. God’s eye can discern, and His mind record, enough even in the best of men upon which to base a condemnation (Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 3:23; James 3:2). “Stand” is used here in the sense of “to be justified” or acquitted in a legal proceeding. If any of us were brought to a court, or judgment seat, and judged strictly by the commandments, we could not possibly be judged righteous (Psa. 143:2). “Stand” is here the opposite of “fall”, i.e., “to be condemned” (Psa. 1:5; 18:38; 20:8; Mal. 3:2; Rom. 14:4).
But there is forgiveness (‘the forgiveness’, referring to that of Isa. 38:17) with thee, that thou mightest be feared. God is merciful (Exod. 34:7) to those who cry unto Him in sincere repentance (1 Kings 8:47), with the loving reverence and fear of the child, not the dread of the slave.
These verses read like something out of Psalm 119. The repetition here suggests that this literary device is Hezekiah’s own. Then should it not be inferred that the same evident characteristic in all the preceding Songs of Degrees stamps them also as his personal compositions?
I will wait for the Lord (Psa. 27:4; 33:20; 40:1), my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope (131:3). This might be paraphrased: ‘I have been waiting, and I still wait.’ As the faithful dog waits for his master, so does the true servant for his lord, even long past the limits of reasonableness.

The word “wait” is qavah, from a root signifying to bind together or entwine. Hope is a cord which binds in unity our hearts with God’s. Our waiting is one of outward and inward qualities: ‘I wait’ as a public profession, for all to see; and ‘my soul (my inner being) waits’ in true sincerity which only God may see.

The “word” in which Hezekiah hopes is specifically the divine message brought by Isaiah to his death-bed:

“Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer. I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years. And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city” (Isa. 38:5,6).
My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. Another example of the fine parallelism and step-by-step progressions that characterize the Songs of Degrees. ‘I have waited for Yahweh,’ says Hezekiah, ‘longer and more faithfully than the best of the watchmen on the city walls have waited for the morning’ (cp. Isa. 21:5,6,8,11). The king is alluding to the state of siege in which God’s holy city found herself. All of Isa. 62, but especially vv. 6 and 7, is an obvious link with this verse. The watchmen upon the walls of Jerusalem cry continually, and the most faithful of all them is the watchman-king confined to his bed of sickness. Their cries are heard and the city is delivered. No more will it be termed Forsaken or Desolate; God has renewed His covenant of marriage with Jerusalem His bride. His delight is in her (“Hephzibah”) and she shall be married (“Beulah”). The subsequent royal marriage (or renewal of vows?) of Hezekiah and Hephzibah (2 Kings 21:1) was a pattern of God’s love and final marriage to Israel (Psalms Studies, Psa. 45).

These themes — the watchman, the gates, and the glory of God in manifestation for His people’s salvation — have been taken from Psalm 24, a song of David commemorating the bringing of the ark to a conquered Zion. Again, we see that Isaiah and Hezekiah have looked back to the glories of a previous age in their celebration of Zion’s glad morning. God will not forsake His city and the city of David the great king (122:5-7; 125:1,2; 128:5; Matt. 5:35). The weeping of the night of the Assyrian, when the watchers strained their eyes for a sight of the enemy, has given way to the joy of a new morning for Israel — her attackers having now been destroyed.
Let Israel hope in the Lord (v. 5): for with the Lord there is mercy (forgiveness and fulfillment of the covenant promises!), and with him is plenteous redemption, and he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities. Hezekiah’s implicit trust in Yahweh is the first thing Scripture records of him:

“He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him” (2 Kings 18:5).

This trust was the basis of Sennacherib’s taunting (2 Kings 18:28,31); and it is mentioned again and again (Isa. 36:18; 37:10). It is the cause of all that God accomplished through this wise and righteous man. The formula may be simple, but it still works:

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:5,6).

3. Messianic reference

The picture of Hezekiah sharing in the sin of his people and, by his intercession (Jer. 26:19), saving them from the judgment pronounced, presents an admirable type of Christ sharing the burden of the sins of men and bringing God’s forgiveness through his intercession (Psa. 80, Par. 4). The entire psalm is to be read against the background of Gethsemane.

Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord. It is in keeping with Scriptural precedent, and also especially prophetic of the Messiah’s mission, that even a righteous leader cannot, and will not, disavow the sins of his community (Exod. 32:32; 2 Sam. 24:17; Dan. 9:5-15; Ezra 9:6). The effects of our sins have attached themselves to Jesus, the antitypical Hezekiah; he has sunk in the depths (Psa. 40:2; 69:2,14; Lam. 3:53-55). He has borne our iniquities and by his prayers and actions made intercession for us, the transgressors (Isa. 53:11,12). The redemption Jesus has brought, even the righteous Hezekiah could not accomplish.
That thou mightest be feared — a worthy consequence of the assurance of forgiveness in Christ.
They that watch for the morning looks forward to the morning of the Resurrection, the guarantee of the completeness of God’s redemption in Christ (cp. Mal. 4:2; 2 Sam. 23:4). Therefore...
Let (the New) Israel hope in the Lord.

Mercy and redemption come in very powerfully here.
And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities. A comprehensive salvation to be manifested ultimately in the blessings of the Kingdom (cp. Mic. 7:18,19). With God there is plenteous redemption (v. 7) — it is more than enough for any possible difficulty. The Lord’s arm is never shortened that it cannot save those who come unto Him.

In this psalm we set out minds firmly upon the forgiveness (v. 4) and the redemption (vv. 7,8) of God. The salvation He offers through Psalm 130 is not that provided by the blood of animals. It is instead that salvation of which Paul speaks so eloquently to the brethren in Rome — the free gift of the grace and lovingkindness of God. In the life of Hezekiah we have seen a beautiful parable and type of the other king who suffered for the sins of his people, and suffers yet as their intercessor. Verse 8 finds its grandest fulfillment, an echo for all eternity, in the words of Gabriel:

“Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
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