Out of the depths


Psalm 130

File:Collantes, Francisco - The Vision of Ezekiel - 1630.jpg

Francisco Collantes, The Vision of Ezekiel

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
2 Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!

De profundis. Those are the opening words of this psalm in the Latin. From the depths. From the surging waters of the great deep. From the hidden recesses of the earth that draw near to the realm of the dead. From the valley of the shadow of death. From all those fearful places that life sometimes carries us. The poet cries for God to hear.

It is a fairly universal human experience. From the depths there is nowhere else to cry. But the poet is not crying out into the void. There is a rock upon which he stands: “There is forgiveness with you.”

Somehow that phrase doesn’t sound quite as profound as the form I memorized in the year I was carried down into the depths in the grief of my brother’s death. Then the psalms still spoke to God with the elegant language of the old English: “There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.”

Jesus worked hard to get us to pray to God as our Father. And the “thee” in the old English was the familiar form, used with family, unlike the ‘you’ that was used when speaking to your betters. ‘Thee’ now sounds like the formal to us, but somehow, in this prayer, in that time, it seemed right. It was a language used only with God. It was a private language. An intimate language. The speech of a desperate child and his father. “There is forgiveness with you,” sounds to me too much like a statement of fact rather than the confession of the broken heart to the one who is nearer than my own breath.

“Thee” seemed to connect my prayer with the ages. This had been prayed by generations before me, prayed by Jesus and David and Luther in his cell. Prayed by others who stood at a graveside or wept upon their bed. Prayed by the nameless and the named. My cry was my own, yet shared, in words were given to me when I had none of my own – words that both expressed my heart and lifted it.

These words are far more than a lone cry of desperation; they are words rooted in a community and a story that rise up and take a stand, watching expectantly for God’s mercy to come: “My soul waits for the LORD more than watchmen for the morning.”

These are words born of God’s steadfast love. Words that know God has the power to redeem. Words that know God will redeem.

God will rescue his fallen world. God will call it back from the realm of shadows into the full light of his eternal day. God will call it back from the depths to the heights. God will call us back. God will call me back.

“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.”

We are not abandoned to the depths. God will call us back. It is his promise, his solemn oath, his covenant vow. His word is our hope. His word is our bread and living water and water turned to wine. His word our shepherd and gate, our light and our life. Already, he is our resurrection. Already, we are gathered to his table. Already, he has redeemed us from all our iniquities – and he will redeem us.

And so we wait, wait not as those who do not know if ever the darkness ends, but as those who know that morning’s light will shine. Will triumph. Will reign.


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