The Penitential Psalms

7 Out of The Depths Psalm 130

In these busy days, it would be greatly to the spiritual profit of Christian men if they were more familiar with the Book of Psalms, in which they would find a complete armoury for life’s battles, and a perfect supply for life’s needs. Here we have both delight and usefulness, consolation and instruction. For every condition there is a Psalm, suitable and elevating. The Book supplies the babe in grace with penitent cries, and the perfected saint with triumphant songs. Its breadth of experience stretches from the jaws of hell to the gate of heaven. He who is acquainted with the marches of the Psalm-country knows that the land floweth with milk and honey, and he delights to travel therein.” [1]

Charles Spurgeon

The Penitential Psalms (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143 some include 25)

 Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD. Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. 

I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him isplenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities. (Ps 130)

This Psalm, perhaps more than any other, is marked by its mountings: depth; prayer; conviction; light; hope; waiting; watching: longing; confidence; assurance; universal happiness and joy.… Just as the barometer marks the rising of the weather, so does this Psalm, sentence by sentence, record the progress of the soul. And you may test yourself by it, as by a rule or measure, and ask yourself at each line, “Have I reached to this? Have I reached to this?” and so take your spiritual gauge.—James Vaughan, in “Steps to Heaven,”1878.[2]


 Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD. Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. 

There are times in our lives when we find ourselves in the greatest of trouble, they are some of the greatest of burdens and some of the most difficult of periods in our life. At times these are the trials that come upon us unawares, at other times they are the direct result of things we have done, nevertheless these are the deepest of waters in which we find ourselves crying unto the Lord.

Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD

Too many are the depths into which we have sunk from which we cry unto the Lord. They are as varied as there are people who experience them, but each and every one of us are aware when we are in those depths in which even Jonah cried out, 

… I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. (Jon 2:2-3)

How often has that been the most urgent of our prayers before God?

Deep places beget deep devotion. Depths of earnestness are stirred by depths of tribulation. Writes Spurgeon

And we find this so true in our own lives, this is the place in which we are most earnest before God, it is not the prayers of our lips but the prayers that cry from deep in our hearts that he hears. Some honour him with their lips but their hearts are far from him. So it is out of the depths we cry.

What is strange is how precious those times also are when you know the Lord. When those times reduce you to tears because such is the burden of the soul, and the Lord wraps his loving arms around you to comfort you.

Precious are those times, precious both for their value, but sadly also for their rarity. 

Even those who do not know the Lord find themselves on their knees when they are in the depths, out of the depths they too cry unto the Lord, yet to those who know the Lord those times when “deep calleth unto deep” seem the most precious times of all.

You feel as if having the Lord so near you have no need of anything else, he is your comfort and your stay, he is your hope and your joy and his Rod and Staff, they comfort you.

Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORDLord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. 

There is an indication that the prayer of the penitent man is an audible prayer here; many there be also that take this occasion to consider the audible prayer takes precedent over the silent, and the reading in this Psalm certainly gives the impression of the audible nature of the deepest prayers.

Personally, I rarely ever pray silently. Indeed, the more private I am, the more closeted my supplications, the more audible is my prayer before the Lord.

But we should take great care before we considering it prescriptive rather than descriptive, and there may be a challenge that this is even descriptive!

Turn to 1 Samuel 1:11-16

Now Hannah was in deep bitterness of soul when she was praying to the Lord, one might say with certainty that the text tells us that it was “Out of the depths” that she cried unto the LORD

 11 And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head. 12 And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth. 13 Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips movedbut her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken. 14 And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee. 15 And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD. 16 Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto.

Indeed, her prayer was out of the depths and yet the voice that the Lord evidently heard was silent to men.

Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. 

Then there are those who might consider a “voice” needs to be audible to be described as a voice! Not necessarily.

Turn to Exodus 4:6-8

Now the Lord had just revealed himself to Moses at the Burning bush and commanded he cast down his rod which became a serpent, now he shows Moses another sign;

And the LORD said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow. And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as hisother flesh. And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign.

Signs have a voice that communicate a message

So too even the silent prayer communicates a petition

Nevertheless, the great and deep petition of the penitent man is let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. 


If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there isforgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. 

Here we have the demonstration of penitence by the Psalmist, here we have the demonstration of shame, repentance, sorrow, regret by the Psalmist; This penitent man recognizes and understands that he cannot stand before God, his iniquities would indeed carry him away, and if they should be marked, he could not hope for an aquittal.

God is the ultimate judge of all, and 

“If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?”

Indeed, who?

For all our self-glorying and all our self-righteousness and our comparing of ourselves among ourselves, which one of us could truly hope to stand if the Lord was to mark our iniquities?

When she was caught in adultery and bought before Christ, who was it that was without sin that could cast the first stone at her? None, from the eldest even unto the last; and Jesus was left alone and the woman standing in the midst (Jn 8:7-9).

If at each moment in our Life the Lord should mark each time we break his commandments, each time we sin, how many of us might be able to stand before God?

Our conscience is seared as with a hot iron, we too often think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, we see ourselves in the light of how we prefer to see ourselves and never from the perspective of the Holy One of Israel.

Moses, to whom God spoke directly, desired to see the Glory of the Lord and was pressed into the cleft of the rock with the hand of God covering his eyes, and only given to see the back of the Lord, why? Because there is no man who can see the face of God and live.

If the rear of the Lord imparted a heavenly glow to Moses face so bright that the people “were afraid to come nigh him” (Ex 34:30), how much more if he had seen the Holy face of God?

Beloved, my heart breaks in sorrow simply when I read the words of truly Godly men who give their account before God. I could not stand before them, how much more God?

When I was looking for a Psalm to preach and dove into the Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon, I found this statement by him regarding the Penitent Psalm of David, that heart breaking 51st Psalm.

Listen and consider how Spurgeon feared the Lord, and how much more you and I;

In commenting upon some of them, I have been overwhelmed with awe, and said with Jacob, “How dreadful is this place, it is none other than the house of God.” Especially was this case with the fifty-first; I postponed expounding it week after week, feeling more and more my inability for the work. Often I sat down to it, and rose up again without having penned a line. It is a bush burning with fire yet not consumed, and out of it a voice seemed to cry to me, “Draw not nigh hither, put off thy shoes from off thy feet.” 

The Psalm is very human, its cries and sobs are of one born of woman; but it is freighted with an inspiration all divine, as if the Great Father were putting words into his child’s mouth. Such a Psalm may be wept over, absorbed into the soul, and exhaled again in devotion; but, commented on—ah! where is he who having attempted it can do other than blush at his defeat?[3]

Nothing places you in the depth before God when you have a right accounting of your iniquities before him. When comparison is justly made.

Our failure to do so is evidenced by the quickness in which we try to ascribe iniquity to God. 

We look for HIS shortcomings in order to justify our own.

We say in our hearts, if God is good why did he …….And so we infer he is NOT perfectly Good.

What evil is in the heart that presumes iniquity in GOD?

Do you desire to pray out of the depth? See yourself as you are apart from God and you will indeed find yourself on your knees crying out of the Depth.

Turn to Romans 3:10

Solomon wrote “for there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good and sinneth not” (Eccle 7:20)

Rom 3:10-18

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: 14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: 15 Their feet are swift to shed blood: 16 Destruction and misery are in their ways: 17 And the way of peace have they not known: 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Job wrote: “…how should man be just with God?” (Jb 9:2)

And this is the dilemma of mankind. 

How then can Man be with God in heaven if his iniquities separate him from God here?

If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there isforgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. 

It the penitent man that finds himself on his knees before a holy God, that finds forgiveness with God, and that through Christ.

Before I came to the Lord I recall that I attended a conference and there was speaking on the stage and stern and hard farmer who was talking about God.

He pointed up at the stalls where I was sitting in the dark and said, “all you men up the back there, you think your so tuff and yet you’re too gutless to walk down here and commit your life to what you know is true about God”.

At least that’s what I heard him say.

I read in a book somewhere that “a man never stands taller than when he is on his knees before God”.

That was my challenge: I saw myself as a man, I was toughened by my business and had gone through the hard yards early and I knew what he said was true.

But I was a sinner in the eyes of God and I needed his forgiveness, I just did not know how.

That was when I heard about Jesus Christ.

I knew the name, I heard it before, but I never really knew who he really was or why he came.

Well, he is “God manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim 3:16)

And he came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk 19:10)

And so “whosever believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:15)

God made a way for man that the justice of the law of God can be upheld, and yet forgiveness for the sin of man can be legally obtained.

Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sin, he died so that the penitent man and woman and child, might be forgiven

If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there isforgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. 



I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. 

Waiting is that work that is considered as “the blessed posture of the believer”, it is that state that is contrary to our natural desires, it is the complete opposite of what we want to do. 

All the desires of the heart we want fulfilled immediately. When we ask for a thing its benevolence is measured by its early attainment, not by its value. 

People don’t purchase McDonalds hamburgers because they are good but because they are quickly received. If McDonalds burgers took as long as that from the Old Fashioned fish and chip shop, they never would have left the US.

No, our natural tendency is to receive that which is petitioned quickly, but that is not the blessed joy and hope of the believer. There is joy in the patient and expectant waiting to see the Lord perform that which is cried out of the depth.

Here is the gracious soul hanging in faith upon God in Christ Jesus

upon the veracity of God to fulfil his promise, 

upon the power of God to help him in difficulty, 

upon the wisdom of God to counsel him in perplexity, 

upon the omniscience of God to guide him with his eye, 

and upon the omnipresence of God to cheer him with his presence, at all times and in all places, his sun and shield

Soul-Depths and soul-heights,” by Octavius Winslow, 1874.[4]

We have all heard the expression, “Good things come to those who wait”, and when it comes to that which is to be expected from God, that “good” is multiplied many times over.

We wait for the Lord because we trust his words;

I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.

As a child waits patiently for the fulfilled promise of a parent, they rejoice in the hope of its coming to pass and they believe with all their heart it will come to pass, because the one who had given them life promised it.

If you are a parent, you be sure to fulfill those things you promised your children, as it is the perfect representation of the trust we have in God.

When we break our promise to our children, we do to them a greater disservice than you know. 

I recall promises made to me by my father that were broken, and I am sure I have done so also, and it is heartbreaking for the child

But if the experience of the Child is that the promise is always fulfilled, they wait for it and they do so in hope.

and in his word do I hope.

It is the wonderful words of the Bible that we trust with all our heart.

And what a contrast to everything else in this world it is. 

Deception is the rule of the day;

  • you cannot trust your media, 
  • you cannot trust those who you have elected to govern over you, 
  • you cannot trust the integrity of the courts, 
  • of the teachers, 
  • of the medical establishment, in fact, 
  • you can no longer completely trust any organization to be truthful in all their words;

But you can trust the Bible, “and in his word do I hope”, that it what brings us the patience we need, that we may wait for the Lord

My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more thanthey that watch for the morning. 

This is the glorious expectation we have, the watchman waits for the morning, the guard stands sentinel knowing that when the morning light comes his time of duty comes to a close;

 and we too are in just such a state, we wait for the Lord, we look for the “blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit 2:13).

Any moment, any time, according to his wonderful promise to keep his church “from the hour of temptation that will come upon all the world, to try them that dwell on the earth” (Rev 3:10), the Lord will come for his Church, and incredibly, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed”.

This is our waiting, and how long have we waited so far?

Well almost two thousand years ago, Jesus said “Surely I come quickly. Amen.”, and how enthusiastically does the apostle John respond in that second last verse of the entire Bible? “Even so, come, Lord Jesus”, beloved, 

God chastised those who looked forward to the “day of the Lord” in Amos 5:18 saying  “Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light”

That is more than enough for us to understand that John did not himself desire that coming, but the coming of the blessed and imminent return of Christ for his Church beforehand.

It is a fool’s errand to think that any person would look forward to the day of vengeance and wrath of God, yet this is the distorted madness of some today.

John waited as Titus did, as Timothy did, as the Thessalonian Church did, as the Corinthians did, as Peter and Paul and all the early Church waited, so he waited, looking for, longing for.

And how have we all waited till now?

We have waited patiently and expectantly and joyfully, each and everyday longing for and loving his appearing, and incredibly to those who do so, Paul speaks of a crown given them in 2 Tim 4:8.

The petitions that we cry to the Lord out of the depths, we know he hears the voice of our supplications, and because we trust in his word, we wait for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning. 



Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

There simply is no justification for despondency in the Christian life if his trust is in the Lord. In fact, it is the shame of shames for those who know their Saviour to think for a moment he is not worthy of their patience and endurance. 

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

“Let Israel hope in the LORD”, yes indeed, let all those who know the Lord hope in him, why? for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption

There is a wonderful structure to this Psalm;

The first two verses bring out the intensity of the desire through that heartfelt supplication to the Lord;

 The next two verse are the humble confession of repentance and faith, 

We consider verses 5 and 6 that speak of the waiting and watchfulness that those who trust in his words joyfully wait; 

And it is in these last two verses that we have the joyful expectation, THE PRISE OF REDEMPTION, both for the Psalmist and all Israel and indeed all who wait for the Lord.

There is redemption to look forward to which, when it comes will be the most glorious of all joys we can receive. 

Isaiah writes “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.” (Isa 64:4)

Paul employs it when he says; “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor 2:9)

Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

The Psalmist knows that God is faithful and he waits patiently for that final redemption that will remove from Israel all his iniquities.

We likewise wait for the Lord, and as we wait we rejoice.

Like the Child that looks forward to Christmas and all the wonder his imagination considers, he is sure it will come and it will be wonderful.

Well, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (2 Pet 1:19)

There come times when the greatest hope stems from the depths of the greatest need, and the greatest need we have is the forgiveness of sin.

The Bible says that the “wages of sin is death”, it is the cost and merit of sin in life. And it is the most expensive indulgent of all, for there will be literally hell to pay and none of us can afford it.

God will indeed mark iniquities, there is a record of all people have done, and no person would otherwise stand, Solomon wrote 

“ For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whetherit be good, or whether it be evil.” (Eccl 12:14)

there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. Said Christ (Mt 10:26)

Turn to Hebrews 9:27 

27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 

That is the state of all those who have their iniquities marked by the Lord,

28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.


But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. 

If you are as the penitent man, and will put your trust in Christ, whom God had made as an offering for sin ONCE, you ARE saved.

The penitent man is the most exalted man in the Bible. 

He is the one who, in abasing himself, the Lord lifts up and exalts.

Never has a man stood taller than when he is on his knees before The LORD.

[1] C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David: Psalms 120-150, (London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers), 6:vi.

[2] C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David: Psalms 120-150, (London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers), 6:121.

[3] C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David: Psalms 27-57, (London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers), 2:v.

[4] C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David: Psalms 120-150, (London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers), 6:129.


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