Unlike the jolly tone of much of this collection of 15 pilgrim psalms of ascent to Jerusalem, this one is deeply emotional.
It reminded me of the sort of scenario you get into as a teenager, where you get in a pickle and need help and forgiveness at the same time. I recall on a couple of occasions making phone calls along the lines of “dad, I’ve smashed the car, and I need you to pick me up”. And you then are waiting for dad to come, contemplating his loving patience and his practical capacity to help you. It’s that sort of prayer.
It’s one of the most naked expressions of grace in the old testament. Forget blood sacrifices, scapegoats, trying to live by levitical laws and all: “IfLord But .”
The author is confident of forgiveness, but is also crying from the depths, and waiting for God to respond, his whole being waits. There is a striking repetition of the phrase “…” We are aware of every second ’til God helps.
I wondered, have I ever been this much in the depths? And counting the seconds, like a watchman waiting for morning?
Now it’s my turn to be a father, I wait for my children, I wait for God to bless them.
I’m also taken back to the time my business failed. I’m still traumatised by the sense of responsibility, needing to produce as the debts mounted up, but frozen, dysfunctional, unequal to the task.
I still get a bit freaked out by deadlines and responsibility. I feel like it’s a mixture of me being shaped by that event, and me being simply built that way, so the event was shaped by me. Therein lies my stress I suppose.
But this psalm is about hope. In the last verse, the lesson for Israel is not connected to how the disaster turns out. During the psalm, we aren’t told if God comes, we’re left waiting on that score.
But the covenant promise of God’s love spans and blurs the distinction between practical help and spiritual forgiveness. In the end, it doesn’t matter as much as it seemed to at the start of the psalm.
It’s been a stressful week, lots of opportunities to struggle with my sense of inadequacy.
Lord, give me hope that is bigger than my immediate problems, lift me out of the depths, to be aware of your loving kindness.