1 December 2011

Psalm 130

"I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning." (vv. 5-6)


Psalm 130 is one of fifteen psalms to be given the title 'A song of ascents' (which includes Psalms 120-134). Many believed that these were so named because they would be sung by people going up to Jerusalem on pilgrim festivals or by priests as they ascended steps to minister at the temple in Jerusalem.

This psalm itself also carefully moves the pray-ers (or singers) from one spiritual place to another. The psalmist begins by crying out to God, desperate in a place of trouble. It's the psalm equivalent of "Wake up, God! Listen to what's going on in my life! Hear my troubles! Pay attention!"

Then, in verses 3-4 he affirms God's identity as the one who has the power and authority to hold our sins against us, but whose mercy and forgiveness can be relied upon. This is followed by waiting for God to shape up in verses 5-6 - even though the psalmist has heard nothing from God in this dire situation, he knows who God is and, because of that, he trusts that God will come through for him. He yearns to see God "more than those who watch for the morning" and God's word sustains him in that place of uncertainty.

In the final verses, even though help has not yet reached our faithful psalmist, we see his hope dawn like a new day. Not only does he believe that God will rescue him from his predicament, he knows it and he calls on the whole of Israel to trust in God's power and unfailing love.

This passage beautifully illustrates (as many psalms do) the way in which prayer can transport us spiritually, even when our worldly circumstances remain unchanged. When we open ourselves to God's presence, we walk away from that encounter changed.

To Ponder

What do you think prayer is for? Where does it take you?

Are you the same person at the end of prayer than you are at the beginning? Or how have you changed? Why?

When God seems silent, to what extent do you find reading the Bible comforting?

How patient are you? Are you good at waiting?

Bible notes author

Anna Drew

Anna Drew is Director of Communications for the Diocese of Canterbury. She is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4's Daily Service and Prayer for the Day and a freelance writer on faith issues.