Lord, if you kept a record

Today’s readings: Amos 4:1-6:14, Revelation 2:18-3:6, Psalm 130:1-8, Proverbs 29:21-22

I have loved Psalm 130 for more than thirty years. It is such an honest plea for forgiveness and a stark recognition of what we are up against.

From the depths of despair, O Lord,
    I call for your help.
Hear my cry, O Lord.
    Pay attention to my prayer.

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,
    who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
    that we might learn to fear you.

Have you ever truly despaired over the grip of sin on your life? I know I have. In this Advent season, one of my greatest reasons for looking forward to the second coming of Christ is that sin will no longer have power over me. I referred to the seven deadly sins a few days ago in this blog. In the promised New Jerusalem that we will read about soon in Revelation, the Lamb will be the light and sin will have no place.

Psalm 130:3 presents some beautiful logic. If God, who is perfect, decided to hold us accountable for all of our sins and did not offer forgiveness, then we would not survive. But God does forgive and then teaches us His paths.

If the Psalm ended after verse 4, it would still be wonderful, but I don’t think it would ring so true in my heart. The sentry (or watchman in the New International Version) waiting and hoping for the dawn is a powerful image to me. I can almost feel the combination of the sentry’s desperation for the dawn and his certain hope that it was coming, because it had happened every day of his life. Soon he will experience relief from the dread of who might be coming, along with the struggle against the desire to sleep. In this setting, perhaps the night represents the darkness of sin and the dawn represents the coming of Christ to forgive sin (initially) and remove sin (finally).

I am counting on the Lord;
    yes, I am counting on him.
    I have put my hope in his word.
I long for the Lord
    more than sentries long for the dawn,
    yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

The Psalm ends with assurance of God’s love and the promise of forgiveness. It is a perfect and simple prayer of confession.  I think I’ll use it the next time I lead worship at my church.

O Israel, hope in the Lord;
    for with the Lord there is unfailing love.
    His redemption overflows.
He himself will redeem Israel
    from every kind of sin.


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