Week of September 25

What To Do When You Tip the Spiritual Scales

Daniel 5-6; Psalm 130; Luke 3

“O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.”
Psalm 130:7, ESV


Billy Graham once said, “No matter how dark and hopeless a situation might seem, never stop praying.” Dr. Graham hit the nail squarely on the head. Keep praying when all seems hopeless— especially when we have sinned and are experiencing the consequences. If you are like me, then you will feel drawn to this psalm the moment that you begin to read it. It provides us with hope today. Let’s look closely at the word that God has for our hearts.

Understanding the Bible Context

The psalm’s genre and structure
The psalm has been termed “penitential” because of its confessional nature and its use within Christian communities throughout church history. Overall, the hymn is classified as one of the seven penitential psalms in the psalter (6; 32; 38; 51; 102; 130; and 143).
I also believe that the hymn impacts our hearts because of its direct simplicity. There are three familiar phases to the psalm: the weight of sin, confession of guilt, and confidence in God. We find that we have common ground with all other penitent sinners when we apply this psalm to our lives. For example, there are elements of the psalm in Solomon’s prayer, which indicates a pattern that we may also replicate when we seek God’s forgiveness in our lives (cf. Psalm 130:2; 132:8-9, 10b, and 16 with 2 Chronicles 6:40-42). There is a simple division of the hymn: a lament (vv. 1-2), the confession of sin (vv. 3-4), waiting for the Lord (vv. 5-6), and confidence in redemption (vv. 7-8) (EBC).
Ways the psalm touches our lives
First, we instantly identify with our focal psalm today because it rings true with our own experience. Jonah’s great trial in the belly of the fish comes to my mind as soon as I read the psalmist’s cry from the depths (v. 1; see Jonah 2:2, 5). The writer used the metaphor of the “depths of the sea” to describe adversity and trouble that comes when we sin, carry guilt, and receive God’s fatherly discipline (vs. 1; see Isaiah 51:10; Ezekiel 27:34; EBC).
It occurs to me that we can cry out to God in life and death because He holds the keys to both. The psalmist knows that he is guilty of sin and that rebellion has caused his adversity (vs. 2). Notice, unlike many of us, he does not hide from God. He instead cries out to the Father, which should encourage our hearts to run to God when we fail Him too.
Secondly, how wonderful it is to read of forgiveness as a Divine attribute. Our world is filled with so much bitterness and resentments that fester within the souls of people. A physician in our area allegedly contaminated saline bags with a drug that caused patients to suffer severe respiratory trauma or cardiac arrests. It is speculated that he was angry with some situation in his life. Many of us are drowning in our own bitternesses and maliciousness. We have amassed an enormous amount of moral failure.
Gloriously, the psalmist writes that God does not store up our sins, like some supercomputer that accumulates trillions of bits of information, because even the godliest person would not be able to stand before Him (cf. 1:5).

The phrase “who could stand?” may also be interpreted as being deprived of the benefit of God’s presence (cf. 24:3). Either way, when we sin, we are kept from God’s presence and this separation weighed heavily upon the psalmist’s heart (vv. 3-4). God is feared not only for His judgment but also because of His great love in forgiving us (Deuteronomy 5:29; 1 Peter 1:17). Jeremiah writes, “For they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (31:34).

Applying the Passage to Our Lives

One of my favorite childhood songs was “Dem Bones.” Simply penning the title has caused that tune to pop up into my head. “Dem bones, dem bones gonna rise again.” The skeletal structure of the human body is a masterful creation. Each bone is linked to the next one: the thigh bone to the knee bone, the knee bone to the leg bone, and so on.

One body “part,” our weight, is connected virtually to all of the other bones in the body. Excess weight, especially when we are obese, diminishes “almost every aspect of health” (Harvard School of Public Health).

I know. You are thinking, “Ashlock, I don't need this reminder today!” OK. Let’s point the finger at me! I know from personal experience how burdened I feel when I carry too much body weight. Ah! There is a spiritual application when we consider the weight of our sin. Our psalm has a remedy!
How are we to respond to the psalm? First, we need to patiently wait on the Lord. We can sense the anticipation that the psalmist holds in his heart as he waits on the Lord (v. 5). We often say things like “this situation has weighed me down” to indicate the burden of our moral failure. We all know that feeling, don’t we? However, if our weighty sin is on one side of the coin, then there is gladly the other side to consider. The nineteenth century evangelist D. L. Moody once said, “The voice of sin is loud, but the voice of forgiveness is louder.”
Secondly, we may be buoyed by our hope in the Lord! The psalmist submits to the Lord’s sovereignty over his life and waits expectantly for God to grant His grace (v. 6; cf. Lamentations 3:25-26). We, like the hymn writer, may be so confident in God’s promise to forgive that we call on all others to renew their commitment to the Lord (v. 7-8). Our cry to our people is really a testimony of a God who loves His children enough to confront us in our sin, correct it, then cover it with His redemptive grace. What an amazing God we serve!

Reflecting Upon and Discussing the Passage

1. You know the sins that you have hidden in your heart (Psalm 32:5, “My bones wasted away”), so write them down, acknowledge them, and seek God’s forgiveness (Psalm 30:5, 8).
2. An important part of receiving God’s mercy is to become a man and woman of the same (Matthew 6:14; “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you”).

3. For Families: This is such an important passage for all of God’s children–building into our lives the reassurance that, when we sin (and we do), God will forgive us. Our children may need this reminder too. Their own path to joy, and a peaceful heart, is dependent upon this small but essential spiritual skill set.

They can learn to keep themselves attuned to God’s ways, to confess their sin when they are disobedient, and to receive His forgiveness. Perhaps this week, there will come a time when each of your children will find themselves becoming angry, or pestering, or speaking in ways that are hurtful, or disrespectful, or disregarding God’s teachings.

It is at this moment of rebellion, when the Holy Spirit convicts them, that you may whisper to them the next best steps. They can learn to stop, and go someplace quiet, and deal with their rebellion before God. He promises that if they will confess and ask for His forgiveness, they will receive it. Encourage them to practice keeping their lives clean before God this week. What marvelous grace He shows us all!
May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock