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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:Learning to Lament 3: Yahweh Will Act
Text:Psalms 130 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2021-09-20
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Isaiah 6

Text: Psalm 130

 

LEARNING TO LAMENT: YAHWEH WILL ACT

 

  1. Psalm 48: 1, 3, 4

  2. Psalm 130: 1-2

  3. Psalm 40:1, 5, 6, 7

  4. Psalm 130:3-4

  5. Hymn 83:1-2

 

Words to Listen For: spit, physician, mystery, proclamation, forlorn

 

Questions For Understanding:

  1. What is the difference between LORD and Lord?  How is that shown here?

  2. What is the psalmist’s problem?  Why can’t he solve it himself?

  3. Does God forget sins?

  4. Why don’t we believe we are forgiven?  What lesson can we learn from Corrie ten Boom about this?

  5. Do you fear God?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Jesus Christ,

This morning I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  A little pastor secret.  Because there’s something interesting that happens with pastors.  At least...it happens to some pastors...okay...well, at least it happens with me.

Let’s start again.

This morning I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  A little Pastor Segstro secret.

Each week I am excited to dive into the text that I will be preaching on because of one simple fact - I will be getting a new favorite text.  As I dive into the original language, as I search out what other theologians and pastors have said about the text, Christians far wiser than I am...when I search for Jesus Christ in every verse, and He comes out so powerfully in the text that I am about to preach...the excitement and joy is like nothing else.  For me, and perhaps for many other pastors, the text you work on becomes your new favorite text.  I fall in love with the text during the week, and then I have the opportunity to share that joy and love with you on Sunday.  It is truly a wonderful thing that I can do.  I can stand back and display the text for what it is.

LOOK AT HOW AMAZING THIS IS!!!!!

IS THIS NOT /THE/ BEST CHAPTER IN THE WHOLE BIBLE??

And this has perhaps never been stronger than with our text for this morning.  Psalm 130.

There is, perhaps, no clearer picture of our need and no clearer picture of God’s answer than in Psalm 130.  The psalmists ascends, as it were, from the depths to the heights.

So as we continue

LEARNING TO LAMENT: rejoice this morning in the truth that YAHWEH WILL ACT

You may have noticed in your liturgy sheet that there is only a theme and no points this morning.  There is just so much in this amazing psalm that it is hard to split up into three points.  But we will be going through this psalm, verse by verse, so I encourage you to have it open in front of you while we go through it.

In Psalm 130, we see Yahweh act in response to the Psalmist’s cry...and what a cry it is.  There is true sorrow in this psalm.  Look at how it starts:

Out of the depths I cry

And lets pause there.

The psalmist starts in the depths.  And this metaphor is used often in Scripture:

Think of Psalm 40 that we sung earlier in the service: 

    From the pit He lifted me // From clay and mire He set me free

Or hear the words of Psalm 69:

    Save me, O God! // For the waters have come up to my neck // I sink in deep mire…the flood sweeps over me

Or Lamentations 3:

    I called on your name, O LORD,

    From the depths of the pit

We can even think of this literally with the story of Jonah, when he was cast into the sea.  He describes it this way:

Out of the belly of Sheol I cried.  You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me;

all your waves and your billows passed over me. 

That feeling is what the psalmist is describing ...sinking down to a watery grave…

    No light...

    No air...

    Growing weaker...

    No hope…

This is the start of Psalm 130.  It is, after all, a lament.  And the psalmist starts so very low.

But Pastor Segstro, you might be thinking...I thought this was your new favorite text!  How can this be if it is so dark and dismal?  So hopeless and downcast?

It is because the psalm does not stay in the depths, but consistently rises throughout, going from despair to praise and declaration to all Israel of the faithful love of God.  The psalmist begins in the depths, but, given no information about the author or his situation, we have to do a little digging to see exactly what the Psalmist was lamenting over.

And this we see in verse 2 and 3.

But first, let’s see the quick shift from despair.

For the despair of the psalmist does not even last for a full verse.  Did you see that?  Earlier I had to stop in the middle of verse 1, because the second half of the verse already contains hope.

Out of the depths I cry..to you, O LORD!

Whether this psalmist is Asaph or not, he learned the same lesson as Asaph did in Psalm 77, our first step of lament: KEEP PRAYING.  Do not give God the silent treatment, because that is a soul-killer.

If Jonah had kept silent in the fish, he would not have been spit back up on land.  He would have died there.  Jonah had to humble himself before the Lord.  He had to ask for mercy.

If Isaiah had kept silent in God’s throne room, we do not know that he would have survived an encounter with the Most Holy God. Isaiah had to humble himself before the Lord.  He had to ask for mercy.

The Christian life is one, not only of God’s promise, but of our obligation.

You see, although God is the one who acts FIRST

Although God is the one who acts BEST

That doesn’t mean that our response is unnecessary.  That doesn’t mean our response is useless.  On the contrary - our response, in some ways, is EVERYTHING.

And the psalmist’s response is truly inspiring.  If he simply said: Out of the depths I cry...we would say: Been there, done that.  We all have cried may tears of pain over the years.  If not with our eyes, at least with our hearts.  

Our natural inclination is to feel sorry for ourselves.  To compare what we are going through with what we think we deserve.

Our natural inclination is to CRY rather than to LAMENT.

As I’ve said before, crying is natural.  This is the first noise we make when we enter this world.

Crying is human...but lamenting is uniquely Christian.  And what the Psalmist does here is lament.  And it’s beautiful.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!

O Lord, hear my voice!

Look closely at these words here.  Look at them, don’t just listen to them.  For I want to bring something to your attention.  This is something that I regularly bring up, but it is important that I do this again.  Look at how the psalmist addresses his God.

In verse 1, the psalmist has addressed his lament to Yahweh - his covenant God.

I cry out to you Yahweh, the God of the promise.

But in verse 2, though it sounds the same, we see that Lord is not in all capitals now.  The psalmist is not appealing to God’s covenant nature, but rather to His power.

The Lord - Adonai.  Master of the Universe.  Master of all.  King of Creation.

I bring this up because the psalmist is appealing to God’s love and faithfulness in verse 1 - YAHWEH will hear me because His love is infinite.  And in verse 2, the psalmist is appealing to God’s power and might - ADONAI will do something because His power is infinite.

If you’re going to call out, make sure you call out to the One who will hear you and will care.

If you’re going to call out, make sure you call out to the One who can do something about it.

 

And isn’t it a truly awe-inspiring thing that our God is both of these?

That our God is Yahweh - and He will hear us.

That our God is Adonai - and He will act for us.

 

It makes you want to call out with the Apostle:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever!

 

But so far, we have only examined the first two verses together, and we are already crying out in wonder.  Let’s continue to marvel over this poetic masterpiece, shall we?

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!

 

And here, we see a hint of the identity of the depths that the psalmist is sinking down into.  We see this through the little word at the end of the verse: mercy.

For who is the one who needs mercy?  Who needs mercy?

 

A sinner is the one who needs mercy.  An innocent person needs JUSTICE done, but a sinner, someone who is guilty...this is the one who needs mercy.

And so we see that the psalmist’s problem is not from outside visible enemies, but rather from inside invisible ones.  The psalmist is in the depths because he is deeply conscious of his sin.  The psalmist knows the real problem.  Not the only problem, but the real problem.  For there are other problems in this life, none of us escapes this world unscathed.  We can be hurt so deeply by so many things.  We heard that last time, didn’t we?

There are so many things that we can call out “WHY” because of.  So many wounds that we suffer in this world...but the wounds aren’t the biggest problem.  The wounds are, to use a medical analogy, just the symptoms of an underlying condition.

And so the psalmist, after having been diagnosed by God’s Word, comes to the Great Physician, in search of the cure. In search of mercy.

When we look anywhere else...we will come up empty.

The world will tell you to look within for strength.  To take a deep breath, and talk yourself out of the problem.

But what does this do?  When we look inside for a solution to what is inside, our problems only increase.  Things get far worse when you look inside and see the depths of your sin.

Darkness cannot cure darkness - only light can do that.

Sin cannot cure sin - only grace can do that.

A sinful human being cannot cure a sinful human being - only God can do that.

Think of it like this - your problem is that you are in a deep pit.  Looking inside you for help is like digging down to go up.  Or what about this - your problem is that you are dying of thirst.  Looking inside you for help is like downing a glass of salt water.  IT JUST DOESN’T WORK!

But going to God?  He is the only one who CAN deal with sin, and He will do so decisively.

The Psalmist knows the seriousness of his request.  He knows the sheer size of it is overwhelming, which is why he continues:

If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?

Again, notice the very intentional shift in title

-If you, YHWH, Covenant God of mercy would write down my sins…

-Then who could stand before you, ADONAI, Master, and Judge?

 

And this brings up an interesting point.

Doesn't God keep a record of our sins?

After all, He knows everything!

After all, on the last day, don’t we read in 2 Corinthians 5 that there

will be judgement for what we do - good or evil?

After all, do we not read in Revelation 20 that the books will be opened?

 

I know, with fear in my heart, that I personally have given God a lot to record.

I know that I personally would like it if He forgot.

But God does not forget.  God cannot forget for the very reason that He is God.  God cannot forget for the very reason that He is JUST.

Sins cannot be FORGOTTEN, they must be paid for.

And here we see the overflowing, overwhelming grace that our God lavishes upon us.  God gives us more than we could ever ask or imagine.  Because, instead of FORGETTING our sins, He FORGIVES them.  We see our God respond to the Psalmist’s confession in verse 4 - But with you there is forgiveness.

It is not that God simply passes over all our sins.  It is not that they are hidden under a rock somewhere, or temporarily out of sight.  But instead, far better, far more permanent, they are BLOTTED OUT.

And here is the mystery of the Old Testament.  Here is the riddle that can only be solved by Christ.

If our God is, as we heard in our call to worship...a God who is merciful and gracious.  If He forgives iniquity and transgression and sin (saying it three times to cover all the nuances)...how can He also not clear the guilty, but punishing them severely?  Or...put more simply...how can God be both just and merciful?

Without Christ, this is a paradox.  Without Christ this is an unsolvable riddle.  God will FORGIVE sins, but also not relent from punishing those who sin?

The psalmist did not know how it all worked, but he knew that God had promised it, and this was enough for him.  How wonderful that would be if we were like the psalmist, wouldn’t it beloved?  GOD HAS PROMISED, THEREFORE I BELIEVE.  I don’t understand...but that’s not the most important thing.

 

And though we know more than the psalmist did, even though we know that Justice and Mercy met at the cross of Christ - justice that sins were paid for, mercy that it was Jesus Christ, and not us who suffered there, going through all of God’s righteous wrath...though we know more, we still seem to trust less, don’t we?  We are confronted with Christ, and we still doubt God’s promises, don’t we?

We especially doubt God’s promise of forgiveness, though it is right there in black and white.

1 John 1:9 - If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  Do we believe this?

Hebrews 8:12 - I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.  Do we accept this in the pit?

Psalm 103 - As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.  Is this our experience when we are sinking down in the depths of guilt? 

 

We are all too familiar with the promise of sins being punished, and this one we do not doubt.  But why?  Why do we believe one promise and not the other?

 

We believe one promise and not the other because of our enemy, the Devil.  He encourages us to believe in punishment, and he discourages us to remember forgiveness.  He is the one to accuse the saints - his very name means accuser.  But he does not only accuse YOU.  For what does he do?  He accuses you for your sins, and at the same time accuses God for having no mercy.

Satan whispers the lie to you - Your sins are bigger than your God.

Satan whispers the lie to you - God’s justice is bigger than His mercy.  Why would He have mercy on you anyways?

These were the lies that Satan whispered to Corrie ten Boom, one of the most inspiring women to have ever lived, well acquainted with the difficulty of forgiveness, after living through the horrors of a concentration camp.  She writes about her inward struggle with Satan powerfully:  The Devil accuses us of being debtors.  That God’s bank account has been frozen.  You are a debtor he tells me.  But the promises of God are checks made out to you and signed by Jesus.  When the Devil tells me I am a debtor, I use God’s promises like a check to pay that debt.  I was a debtor, but my debt has been paid.  There it is.  It has been paid.  That’s all there is to it.

We used to be debtors, but no longer.

 

Though Satan may have the first word, Jesus Christ has the last.  Satan is rendered speechless in his accusations by our Advocate and Saviour.

If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.

There are iniquities that are marked, but not for those who cling to the cross of Jesus Christ.  Not for those who depend on the promises of God.  Because for us, when those books are opened, there will be something written there, but it will not be our sins.  There will be something written there, not in black and white, but written in red.  Written in the blood of Christ, these 3 words: PAID IN FULL.

For God does not only mark the sins of the wicked, as with tears of sorrow in His divine eyes...but He also marks the forgiveness of His people, as with tears of joy in His divine eyes.

When the books are opened, there will be these words - not of righteous condemnation, but of righteous forgiveness.  Written in red: PAID IN FULL.

 

It seems strange then, after this wonderful proclamation of forgiveness and mercy, that the psalmist would speak of fear.

And so I will ask you, congregation, do you fear God?

No!  you will say.  How could I fear the One who is so loving, who would write these 3 words in the book?  How could I fear the One who is so gracious and merciful and majestic?  The One whose ultimate power is always used for the ultimate good?

No!  I do not fear God...because I am forgiven!

And yet...look at what verse 4 says - But with You there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.  The order here is forgiveness and then fear.  Clearly this must be a different kind of fear then.  For why would we be terrified of a God who loves us...no matter how great He is?

He should not frighten us by His greatness, for there is no creature in heaven or on earth who loves us more than our God.

This movement from fear to forgiveness to fear is perfectly shown in our reading

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of His robe filled the temple.  Above Him stood the seraphim.  Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called to another and said:

Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;

The whole earth is full of His glory!

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.  And I said: “Woe is me!  For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

 

This is a certain kind of fear of the Lord.  Isaiah, having seen the holiness of God face-to-face, feared for his life!  But the fear of the Lord has more to it than that.  This is not the fear that the psalmist is talking about.  Isaiah 6 goes on from here to forgiving, and then to the other kind of fear.

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.

Here we see that with the LORD, there is forgiveness.  Isaiah’s iniquity is not marked, but rather blotted out.  And when his sin was taken away, Isaiah was empowered!

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”  Then I (that is Isaiah) said, “Here I am!  Send me!”  Isaiah is no longer paralyzed by terror, but begs to be the Lord’s servant for this special task.   You see, Isaiah had moved from fear to fear.

There is that first kind of fear.  A real and true fear.  A fear that...if forgiveness would not exist...then we could not stand.  If our SINS wouldn’t be blotted out...WE would be.  If our SINS wouldn’t be blotted out...WE would be.  We need to know that none of us could stand before the throne of God on judgement day in our own strength.

But God says “Fear not!  Your sins have been atoned for!”  For Isaiah it was a coal from the heavenly altar.  But for us, it is the Heavenly Son who died on the earthly cross.  The earthly cross that served as the divine altar where our sins were forgiven, once for all.

And it is because of this forgiveness that our terror is transformed into the other kind of fear - that of reverence and respect.  That of being endlessly in awe of who this God is who loves us so much.

The end result of forgiveness is worship.  A restoration to that relationship between humanity and our God - He loves us endlessly, and blesses us lavishly and abundantly, and every blessing we receive, we are to turn back to praise.  He restores this reality where God loves to love us and we love to love Him back.  This is what forgiveness accomplishes.

 

But, despite the continuing love of God, despite His radical forgiveness and relentless pursuit, despite His lavish grace and bountiful mercy...there is still a longing in the psalmist’s heart.

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.

The psalmist is waiting, the psalmist is longing.  And why?  Because he has been given only a taste of the salvation promised by our God, and is waiting for it to come in its fullness.

What is the Psalmist waiting for?

In a word, He is waiting for JESUS.  For what promise is there that is greater than the promise of a Saviour?  The promise of the descendant of Eve who would crush the head of the serpent?  If the ultimate problem is SIN, then the ultimate solution would be the permanent defeat of sin.  It didn’t happen in the psalmist’s day, and so this is why he was waiting.

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, And in His word I hope

The psalmist is waiting on God’s promises.  He recognizes that God’s promises are worth waiting for.  Even in this darkness, even when I am crying to you out of the depths, no matter how desperate my situation...because of these promises I can still have hope, and I can still have joy.  Because joy, beloved, joy is not just intense happiness, but rather something different altogether.  For happiness comes to us because of our circumstances.  There is no happiness to be found in the depths.  Jonah was not happy in the fish, Jesus was not happy on the cross.

And yet, there was hope for Jonah that he would once again look upon God’s holy temple.

And our Saviour, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross and despised its shame.

And so, while we wait, there is hope.

God’s promises are worth waiting for.

God’s promises are sure, even if I have to wait on them.  They ARE COMING, even if I can’t see it yet.  It’s just like waiting for the dawn to break.

My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning,

More than watchmen for the morning.

The night is a frightening time, not simply because of the darkness, but because enemies prowl around in that darkness, protected by the cover of night.  The watchmen would wait for the morning, long for the morning, pray for the morning because with light, there was protection.  This wasn’t just a forlorn hope, but a real hope.  A REALIZED hope.  Every morning the sun DID come up.  The night came with enemies, but the sun came every morning with protection.

The psalmist longed for the light to come into the world.  And we know that it did come.  The true light, which gives light to everyone, came into the world.  At that point, so many of the watchmen had given up their post, and embraced the darkness as their reality.  So many had lost sight of who they were truly waiting for.

But today, now, 2021 years after the light first came into the world, we wait again.  We long again.  We long for the light to return.  For evil not only to be defeated, but to be forever vanquished when our Saviour comes again, not as our Saviour, not as the lamb of God, sacrificed for sin, but as our conquering hero, as the Lion of Judah, who will ride out of His steed of justice, and forever slay the great accuser.  The one who wants to trap us in darkness and the depths forever.

And so we too must eagerly and longingly wait for God - to rescue us from our temporary affliction, and to bring about a new world, a world with no more night.  And so, the psalmist’s final two verses are not instructions only for the nation of Israel, but for us, the spiritual Israel

O Israel

We could say, O church.  O congregation.  O Cloverdale…

O Cloverdale, hope in the LORD!  For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with Him is plentiful redemption.

His well will not run dry for you.  If our sins be like the mountains, rising to the sky, then His mercy, His grace, His forgiveness shall be as Noah’s flood, covering every mountain peak.

He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

THIS is our true salvation.  Because iniquity is our true enemy.  It is the true reason for lament.  Not our circumstances, but our sins.  But remember...there is hope.  Your sins, though they may be as high as the mountains...they will be covered and taken away, blotted out so that all is left standing are those 3 words - PAID IN FULL.

Our sins are many, His mercy is more.  And so, your lament will be met with His saving, all-powerful love, and your tears will be dried for all time.  The darkness will flee, and all with be His glorious light.

This, beloved, is the chapter that shines above all the others in my heart.  When I am grieved by my sins, when I feel as though I am sinking into the depths, drowning under their weight, Psalm 130 proclaims to me that His mercy is more.  Though my sins may be many, His mercy is more.  Our God pardons all our iniquities fully and freely, redeeming us from all our transgressions.

This is the gospel beauty of Psalm 130.  How can we not rejoice in it with our whole heart?

AMEN

 



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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