Summary: The focus of this sermon is how God not only keeps no record of sins, but he actually forgives all our sins and gives us full redemption in Jesus Christ.
Good morning. If I can, I would like to start with a confession. The only confession is that I am a sinner. Any other sinners in the room? I confess that sometimes I have a misguided understanding of how God deals with sinners, particularly how he deals with them when they die and when they go to heaven. I don’t know about you, but occasionally I have this idea that when I die and go to heaven and I am standing at the pearly gates, God is going to say just a minute. He is going to pull a file from a file cabinet with my name on it. He is going to list my sins one by one ever since the day I was born. Anybody afraid of that? I do get afraid of it occasionally, but then I realize this would be impossible because the line would be too long as God reads off all of the sins of all the people. Then I realize he has all of eternity to do it, so he could do it. The good news is that, as we look at Psalm 130 today, God not only keeps no record of sins, but he actually forgives all our sins and gives us full redemption in Jesus Christ. We are going through this series called The Psalms of Ascents, which are basically psalms that were believed to be sung by the Jews as they would ascend up to Jerusalem for the three annual pilgrimages of the year. Some believe these are also a metaphor for the spiritual life and how we ascend up to God. Consequently, as we try to become disciples, people who are learning to live everyday life like Jesus, these psalms and really all the psalms are a helpful guide for how we can move towards Christ-likeness.
Today, what I would like to do, since the psalm is only eight verses long, is read through it together. (Scripture read here.) If you were reading along and paying attention, you might have picked up that this is a psalm of despair. Somebody who is in deep, deep trouble. We know that by the opening verse that says “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.” The idea of depths is often used in the Old Testament to speak of how somebody is really in deep trouble. Up to their neck in trouble. We see in the story of Jonah we actually see Jonah making the statement “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.” We also see in Psalm 69 where David says “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold.” I like how Eugene Peterson says the opening line in The Message when he says “Help God – the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cry for help! Listen hard! Open your ears! Listen to my cries for mercy.” I am sure there are people in this room, including myself, that have had times where you feel like you are in the depths. You are in a sinkhole. You are sinking. You can’t get out. You are in deep, deep trouble of some sort. Although we are not sure exactly where these things come from, a lot of them come from outside influences. A lot of the reasons that we get thrown into a pit could be that we all of a sudden find ourselves in a financial situation or a broken relationship, a broken marriage, or even the loss of a loved one. All of those things can throw us into a pit of despair. Although we don’t know exactly what caused this psalmist to go into the pits of despair and into the depths, some would suggest by his words and the way he expresses himself that really the reason he is in this deep, deep trouble is become of some sort of sin. Some sort of moral failure in life. So much so that he cries out again “Open your ears! Listen to my cries for mercy.” Although this is not one of the psalms that are more the happy psalms, the psalms we like to meditate on and think about, really it is a psalm that has some good lessons in it.
The first is that when we do find ourselves, for whatever reason, in that pit of despair, we are not alone. God is with us. God is attentive to our cries for help. This is good news. What often happens is, especially if we are caught up in some sort of a moral sin, a failure, what do we do? We tend to want to isolate ourselves. We tend to want to bury ourselves in our shame. We want to hide from people. We don’t want to face the questions of people. Questions like what happened to that person that you used to be with? I haven’t seen your wife in a while? I haven’t seen you at work for a while. What was going on? We just don’t want to answer those types of questions. Although we can hide from our neighbors and friends, we really can’t hide from God. Psalm 139 pretty much makes it clear that there is nowhere we can hide from God. David writes “Where can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” You are everywhere. Now when I read this verse about not being able to flee from God, I think like some of you, you probably find it discouraging or a little bit discomforting and at the same time kind of comforting. It is discomforting in the sense that you think about every sin that you commit in word, thought, deed, whether in the privacy of your own home or the privacy of your own mind that you really can’t hide from God. He sees all. That is kind of discomforting. It is comforting in the sense that the God who sees all is also the God who can forgive all. The God who sees all of your sins is also the same God who can forgive all your sins.