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Quotes for the Soul on Psalm 130

15 May

Quotes for the Soul on Psalm 130[1]

The Psalm is the eleventh in the order of the gradual Psalms, and treats of the eleventh step in the spiritual ascent, viz., penitential prayer.—H. T. Armfield.

The passionate earnestness of the Psalm is enhanced by the repetition eight times in it of the Divine Name.—The Speaker’s Commentary, 1873.

This Psalm, perhaps more than any other, is marked by its mountings: depth; prayer; conviction; light; hope; waiting; watching: longing; confidence; assurance; universal happiness and joy.… Just as the barometer marks the rising of the weather, so does this Psalm, sentence by sentence, record the progress of the soul. —James Vaughan, in “Steps to Heaven,” 1878.

I myself preached Christ,” he continued, “some years, when I had but very little, if any, experimental acquaintance with access to God through Christ; until the Lord was pleased to visit me with sore affliction, whereby I was brought to the mouth of the grave, and under which my soul was oppressed with horror and darkness; but God graciously relieved my spirit by a powerful application of Psalm 130:4, ‘But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared,’ from whence I received special instruction, peace and comfort, in drawing near to God through the Mediator, and preached thereupon immediately after my recovery.”—William H. Goold, editor of Owen’s Collected Works, 1851.

Verse 1: (A Song of Ascents. Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!)

It would be dreadful to look back on trouble and feel forced to own that we did not cry unto the Lord in it; but it is most comforting to know that whatever we did not do, or could not do, yet we did pray, even in our worst times. He that prays in the depth will not sink out of his depth. He that cries out of the depths shall soon sing in the heights.

And surely God’s children are often cast into very desperate cases, and plunged into deep miseries, to the end that they may send out of a contrite and feeling heart such prayers as may mount aloft and pierce the heavens… When, therefore, we are troubled by heavy sickness, or poverty, or oppressed by the tyranny of men, let us make profit and use thereof, considering that God hath cast his best children into such dangers for their profit; and that it is better to be in deep dangers praying, than on high mountains of vanity playing.—Archibald Symson, in “A Sacred Septenarie.” 1638.

There are depths after depths of mental darkness, when the soul becomes more and more sorrowful, down to that very depth which is just this side of despair. Earth hollow, heaven empty, the air heavy, every form a deformity, all sounds discord, the past a gloom, the present a puzzle, the future a horror. One more step down, and the man will stand in the chamber of despair, the floor of which is blisteringly hot, while the air is biting cold as the polar atmosphere. To what depths the spirit of a man may fall!… But the most horrible depth into which a man’s soul can descend is sin. Sometimes we begin on gradual slopes, and slide so swiftly that we soon reach great depths; depths in which there are horrors that are neither in poverty, nor sorrow, nor mental depression. It is sin, it is an outrage against God and ourselves. We feel that there is no bottom. Each opening depth reveals a greater deep. This is really the bottomless pit, with everlasting accumulations of speed, and perpetual lacerations as we descend. Oh, depths below depths! Oh, falls from light to gloom, from gloom to darkness! Oh, the hell of sin! – From “The Study and the Pulpit,” 1877.

I often prayed before; but never—-till I was carried down very deep—did I cry. James Vaughan.

Verse 2: (O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!)

When we have already prayed over our troubles it is well to pray over our prayers.

for well he knew that the Lord’s keeping his promise depends upon his own character and not upon that of his erring creatures.

Never think little of that part of your prayer: never omit, never hurry over the opening address. Do not go into his presence without a pause, or some devout ascription. —James Vaughan.

Verse 3: (If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?)

If men were to be judged upon no system but that of works, who among us could answer for himself at the Lord’s bar, and hope to stand clear and accepted?

Were it not for the Lord Jesus, could we hope to stand?

’Tis true, the Lord marks all iniquity to know it, but he doth not mark any iniquity in his children to condemn them for it: so the meaning of the Psalm is, that if the Lord should mark sin with a strict and severe eye, as a judge, to charge it upon the person sinning, no man could bear it… —Joseph Caryl.

Therefore, mark not anything in me, O God, that I have done, but mark that only in me which thou hast done thyself. Mark in me thine own image – Sir Richard Baker.

although he be Adonai, yet if he be not also Jah we are undone.—Archibald Symson.

If God should determine to deal with them according to justice, and call them to his tribunal, not one would be able to stand; but would be compelled to fly for refuge to the mercy of God. – —D. H. Mollerus.

Verse 4: (But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.)

Blessed but.

Because his nature is mercy, and because he has provided a sacrifice for sin, therefore forgiveness is with him for all that come to him confessing their sins.

None fear the Lord like those who have experienced his forgiving love.

it is grace which leads the way to a holy regard of God, and a fear of grieving him.

These two verses contain the sum of all the Scriptures. In the third is the form of repentance, and in the fourth the mercies of the Lord. —Archibald Symson.

One would think that punishment should procure fear, and forgiveness love; but nemo majus diligit, quam qui maxime veretur offendere—no man more truly loves God than he that is most fearful to offend him… Lord, who can know thee and not love thee, know thee and not fear thee? We fear thee for thy justice, and love thee for thy mercy; yea, fear thee for thy mercy, and love thee for thy justice; for thou art infinitely good in both.—Thomas Adams.

There is a common error in the world, to think we may be the bolder to sin because God is merciful; but, O my soul, take heed of this error, for God’s mercy is to no such purpose; it is not to make us bold, but to make us fear: the greater his mercy is, the greater ought our fear to be, for there is mercy with him that he may be feared… Oh, therefore, most gracious God, make me to fear thee; for as thou wilt not be merciful to me unless I fear thee, so I cannot fear thee unless thou first be merciful unto me.—Sir Richard Baker.

Even so it is with the sinner; it is not terrors and threatenings that chiefly will move him to come to God, but the consideration of his manifold and great mercies.—Robert Rollock.

But.” How significant is that word “but!” As if you heard justice clamouring, “Let the sinner die,” and the fiends in hell howling, “Cast, him down into the fires,” and conscience shrieking, “Let him perish,” and nature itself groaning beneath his weight, the earth weary with carrying him, and the sun tired with shining upon the traitor, the very air sick with finding breath for one who only spends it in disobedience to God. The man is about to be destroyed, to be swallowed up quick, when suddenly there comes this thrice-blessed “but,” which stops the reckless course of ruin, puts forth its strong arm bearing a golden shield between the sinner and destruction, and pronounces these words, “But there is forgiveness with God, that he may be feared.”—C. H. S.

Verse 5: (I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;)

Expecting him to come to me in love, I quietly wait for his appearing; I wait upon him in service, and for him in faith.

If the Lord Jehovah makes us wait, let us do so with our whole hearts; for blessed are all they that wait for him. He is worth waiting for. The waiting itself is beneficial to us: it tries faith, exercises patience, trains submission, and endears the blessing when it comes.

Those who do not hope cannot wail; but if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. God’s word is a true word, but at times it tarries; if ours is true faith it will wait the Lord’s time.

Waiting, we study the word, believe the word, hope in the word, and live on the word

We pronounce this a most blessed posture of the believer. It runs counter to everything that is natural, and, therefore, it is all the more a supernatural grace of the gracious soul. In the first place it is the posture of faith. Here is the gracious soul hanging in faith upon God in Christ Jesus; upon the veracity of God to fulfil his promise, upon the power of God to help him in difficulty, upon the wisdom of God to counsel him in perplexity, upon the omniscience of God to guide him with his eye, and upon the omnipresence of God to cheer him with his presence, at all times and in all places, his sun and shield. Oh, have faith in God. –  from “Soul-Depths and soul-heights,” by Octavius Winslow, 1874.

Waiting has four purposes. It practises the patience of faith. It gives time for preparation for the coming gift. It makes the blessing the sweeter when it arrives. And it shows the sovereignty of God,—to give just when and just as he pleases. —James Vaughan.

No man will wait at all for that which he hath no hope of, and he who hath hope will wait always. He gives not over waiting, till be gives over hoping. —Joseph Caryl.

That is the ultimate object of faith, wherein the essence of our happiness consists, and that is God. God himself is the true and full portion of the soul.—Stephen Charnock, 1628–1680.

Verse 6: (my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.)

Men who guard a city, and women who wait by the sick, long for daylight.

He was not afraid of the great Adonai before whom none can stand in their own righteousness, for he had put on the righteousness of faith, and therefore longed for gracious audience with the Holy One. God was no more dreaded by him than light is dreaded by those engaged in a lawful calling. He pined and yearned after his God.

They that watch for the morning wait but for the rising of the sun to free them from darkness, that hinders their sight; but I wait for the rising of the Sun of righteousness to dispel the horrors of darkness that affright my soul. —Sir Richard Baker

In the year 1830, on the night preceding the 1st of August, the day the slaves in our West Indian Colonies were to come into possession of the freedom promised them, many of them, we are told, never went to bed at all. Thousands, and tens of thousands of them, assembled in their places of worship, engaging in devotional duties, and singing praises to God, waiting for the first streak of the light of the morning of that day on which they were to be made free. Some of their number were sent to the hills, from which they might obtain the first view of the coming day, and, by a signal, intimate to their brethren down in the valley the dawn of the day that was to make them men, and no longer, as they had hitherto been, mere goods and chattels,—men with souls that God had created to live for ever. How eagerly must these men have watched for the morning.—T. W. Aveling, in “The Biblical Museum,” 1872.

Verse 7: (O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.)

That man has a just right to exhort others who is himself setting the example.

God has great things in store for his people; they ought to have large expectations.

Is it not better to be in the deeps with David, hoping in God’s mercy, than up on the mountain-tops, boasting in our own fancied righteousness?

Whereas, in all preceding verses of the Psalm, the thoughts, the sorrows, the prayer, the penitence, the awe, the waiting, the watching, were all personal and confined to himself; here a great change has taken place, and it is no longer “I,” but “Israel”; all Israel. —James Vaughan

Here is mercy that receives sinners, mercy that restores backsliders, mercy that keeps believers. Here is the mercy that pardons sin, that introduces to the enjoyment of all gospel privileges, and that blesses the praying soul far beyond its expectations. With the Lord there is mercy, and he loves to display it, he is ready to impart it, he has determined to exalt and glorify it. – —James Smith.

Verse 8: (And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.)

Our iniquities are our worst dangers: if saved from these, we are saved altogether; but there is no salvation from them except by redemption.

Truly, our Psalm has ascended to a great height in this verse: this is no cry out of the depths, but a chorale in the heights.

The redemption includes the forgiveness of sins, the breaking of the power and dominion of sin, and the setting free from all the consequences of sin.—J. J. Stewart Perowne.

What a graceful and appropriate conclusion of this comprehensive and instructive Psalm! Like the sun, it dawns veiled in cloud, it sets bathed in splendour; it opens with soul-depth, it closes with soul-height. Redemption from all iniquity! It baffles the most descriptive language, and distances the highest measurement. The most vivid imagination faints in conceiving it, the most glowing image fails in portraying it, and faith droops her wing in the bold attempt to scale its summit. “He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” The verse is a word-painting of man restored, and of Paradise regained.—Octavius Winslow.


[1] All quotes from: C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Volume 6: Psalms 120-150 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009).

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