Out of the depths I cry to you, Yahweh.1
It is so easy to rush through a psalm without imagining the tone of voice. Even the phrase, “tearful prayers”, might significantly miss the depth of this person’s distress.
Again, out of the many names for God, the writer of Psalm 130 has chosen the name God suggested to Moses – when Moses was struggling to accept the task of bringing hope to a group of people who had been trapped in slavery. Trapped, for generations. These were people who suffered ongoing systemic, physical, financial, reproductive, and emotional abuse. Probably more, and from people who had vastly more power. Moses also felt powerless and unequipped. Yet the God of the universe disclosed to him – gave a name that described who he was, shared his plans, and illustrated his capacity to help.
God used his power to help, not to harm
God’s use of his position of privilege to help those in need speaks volumes and is an important model for us.
The Hebrews were in an impossible situation, and the themes of despair, hope, and false hope run through the story of the exodus and the wilderness years. At the start of that journey, God told them he cared, could be trusted, and was able.
And that’s the person this psalmist is calling on. For the pilgrims who sang this song together on their way to celebrate the Passover, who were also leaving an unsafe place and heading for safe ground, the exodus story was the one they were celebrating.
God’s people in the Old Testament seem to have been much better at lament than much of the modern Western church. The Psalms encourage us to cry out to God with vigour. He cares, and he listens.
God is trustworthy
The picture of God in this psalm is incredibly safe. It’s not like the psalmist was unaware of their own failings – but there is a huge contrast between God’s response to their sins and that of an abuser. An effective abuse tactic is to insinuate oneself into God’s place and twist it: to be absolute. To never be wrong, (blame-shift, gaslight2, victim blame, deny), to be in control, to keep a lasting record of real and imagined sins while denying one’s own guilt. So for a victim of abuse to relate to God, who actually is never wrong, and does have absolute power, can trigger experiences of abuse.
Yet here is the contrast: God is quick to forgive, and then the past is history. And he uses his power to help those in need, not to abuse or take advantage.
No wonder this psalmist leans into and longs for closeness with God. It’s a place of safety and warmth. And they yearn for his presence and help with their whole being:
I wait for Yahweh, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.3
The pilgrimage is not yet over at this time of this psalm, and there are limits to the comparison between this pilgrimage to the temple and an exodus from abuse: a journey of days compared to a journey of years. Yet the focus of that annual pilgrimage was a reminder of God’s impossible provision of rescue from a situation that had endured for centuries.
I wait for Yahweh, my whole being waits
We are invited here to throw our hope onto him. There is plenty of space here to struggle, but there is still that invitation to trust and hope. Yahweh is the opposite of abusers, and in that, there is hope.
Out of the depths I cry to you, Yahweh;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
If you, Yahweh, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I wait for Yahweh, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Israel, put your hope in Yahweh,
for with Yahweh is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.4
Steve WadeGod’s use of his position of privilege to help those in need speaks volumes, and is an important model for us. Click To Tweet
- Psalm 130:1
- Gaslighting: the action of tricking or controlling someone by making them believe things that are not true, especially by suggesting that they may be mentally ill. Cambridge Dictionary
- Psalm 130:5
- Psalm 130