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Friends in Christ,
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

The Word of the Lord from Psalm 130.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

Psalm 130 is known as one of the seven penitential (confession of sin) psalms. It is also a psalm of lament cried out by the psalmist from the "depths." The depths are the deep waters, the place where one is overwhelmed and drowning, the place of chaos and utter distress, the place where death prevails, the place where one cries out in agony for God to help! The psalmist cries out from the depths, “O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

The psalmist is bold to cry out even though he knows his sins are before him, maybe even the reason he is in the depths. He is bold to cry out the prayer of God's people, "Lord have mercy"! The godly can cry out for mercy because they know that Yahweh their God is "a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Exodus 34:6), they know that God does not keep a record of His people's iniquities (v. 3). Yahweh’s forgiveness and mercy are the grounds for such a bold prayer.

Not only does Yahweh's mercy and forgiveness give the psalmist boldness in prayer, but it gives him a confident hope that God will act in mercy and deliver him from the depths! He will wait with eager expectation, watching like watchmen for the morning, for the Lord because his hope is in Yahweh and His Word.

We might not be in the dire straits of the psalmist, but we know what it is to be in the "depths." We know what it is to cry out from the depths of uncertainty, the depths of fear, the depths of worry and anxiety, even the depths of sin and death. And like the psalmist, we are waiting earnestly, watching like watchmen for the morning, for the first glimpse of light, the first glimpse of hope on the horizon!

I'm guessing that most of us are waiting more these days than we ever have in our lives. We are waiting for a time when it is safe to go out of our homes. We are waiting in longer lines to get into a grocery store than to get out. We are waiting to get back to work. We are waiting for the day we won't have to wear a mask in public or worry about "social distancing". We are waiting to see our family, our friends, our neighbors. We are waiting to be able to be back in the Lord's house. We are waiting for our lives to get back to some sense of normal. I don't know about you, but I'll be honest, I'm not very good at waiting.

"Waiting" seems to be a reoccurring theme in the Scriptures, especially in the Old Testament. There are so many references to "waiting," even in the Psalter alone, one might wonder if God was doing anything for His people!

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!Psalm 27:14

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!Psalm 31:24

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!Psalm 37:7

Over and over again, the psalmist is content to wait for the Lord. But what exactly is it to wait for the Lord? Luther, in his commentary on Psalm 130, 1 put it this way;

The psalmist says: “I wait for the Lord; that is, in this crying and cross-bearing I did not retreat or despair; nor did I trust in my own merit. I trusted in God's grace alone, which I desire, and I wait for God to help me when it pleases Him.” Now there are some who want to set the goal, appoint the hour and measure, and prescribe to God how they are to be helped. And if they do not experience this, they despair; or, if possible, they seek help elsewhere. These do not tarry and wait for the Lord. God is supposed to wait from them, be ready at once, and help exactly as they themselves have designed. Those who wait for the Lord, however, ask for mercy; but they leave it to God's gracious will when, how, where, and by what means He helps them. They have no doubt about His aid, but they do not give it a name. They let God christen and name it, even if it is delayed immeasurably long.

God does not work according to our calendars or by our ways. Contrary to the notion that He doesn't do anything, the psalmist waits for the Lord because he knows that the Lord is faithful and will act according to His grace and mercy. This is why he can wait in expectant hope for the Lord like watchmen for the morning. In fact, wait and hope are synonyms in the Old Testament both closely related to faith and trust. The faithful wait in hope, they hope while they wait, like watchmen for the morning eager, confident, and expectant that relief from God will come when morning dawns.

God has indeed answered the prayer of His people, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down” (Isaiah 64:1) in the incarnation of His Son, Jesus Christ. He has answered His people's plea for mercy in the One who is the very “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29b). He has answered His people's plea for salvation and redemption in the One “who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25).

In Jesus, God has answered every prayer of the psalmist and every prayer of His people. In Jesus, God's mercies are new every morning. In Jesus, God's yes to life resounds over death's no. In Jesus, there is always hope on the horizon. In Jesus, God has come, is coming again, and is present even now. And those who wait, who trust, who hope in Him will never be put to shame (Psalm 25:3; Romans 4:5).

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

O Lord, You are merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. You always hear the cries of Your people for help and Your grace and mercy in Jesus is new this day. Grant Your people patience and confident hope as the wait for you like watchmen for the morning; through Jesus Christ, Your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit ever one God, world without end. Amen.

The almighty and merciful Lord, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, bless and preserve you. Amen

Serving you in Christ,
Pastor Shawn Nettleton

  1. Martin Luther, “The Seven Penitential Psalms (1525)” in Luther's Works, Vol. 14, 191–192.

Rev. Shawn Nettleton is Senior Pastor at Saint John’s Lutheran Church. You can reach him in the church office, by email at or at 970-305-2420.