Mornings at the Mission: Psalms of Ascent

Each morning I offer a short devotion to the men under my care in the dorm. This is the spot where I share them with you, and keep a record of them for myself on the off chance I ever need them again.

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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!
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
    O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
    that you may be feared.
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.
O Israel, hope in the Lord!
    For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
    and with him is plentiful redemption.
And he will redeem Israel
    from all his iniquities.

(Psalm 130)

Three times a year, the people of God were required to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem. As they went, they would sing Psalms such as this one. Since Jerusalem was situated on a hill, regardless of where you were traveling from, you would always go “up” to Jerusalem, thus Psalms sung as pilgrims ascended to the holy city were given the name “Psalms of ascent.” Their purpose was to help pilgrims prepare their hearts for worship.

This particular psalm traces a movement in the singer’s heart that begins with despair over sin, moves to joy in the mercy of God, and then blossoms into genuine longing for communion with God.  Verse 3 is worth considerable meditation: “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” As the Psalmist approaches to worship, he is reminded of God’s holiness… if He gave us what we deserved (justice) we would be completely undone! But instead (in Christ) he lavishes His mercy upon us, even going so far as to adopt those whom He draws to himself into His family (John 6:44, 1:12). We closed with an exhortation: Just as the psalmist recognized that his only hope to stand in the presence of a holy God was to throw himself upon Yahweh’s mercy, so we too must recognize that our only hope in life and in death lies in the mercy of God shown to us in Christ. For those of us who belong to Christ we rejoice in his mercy, that “with the LORD is unfailing love. His redemption overflows” (Ps 130:7, NLT)!

Friend in Christ, be confident that His grace is fully sufficient to cover all of your iniquities, heal all of your wounds, and instill in you enduring peace and joy. The blood is applied; Christ is enough.

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