Guilt is something we all deal with. We may feel guilty for not spending enough time with our spouse. We may feel guilty for how we have treated our children when they disobeyed us. We may feel guilty for a habitual sin that we just can’t shake. We may not even know why we experience these feelings of guilt, but they are there. This guilt haunts us. It never lets us sleep. And maybe we even get to the point where we are crippled by this guilt. How do we come to grips with these overwhelming feelings of guilt?
Psalm 130 gives us the antidote and is summed up with this idea: Whenever you experience deep feelings of guilt, hope in God’s abundant forgiveness.
In verses 1-2, we see a CRY of desperation. Psalm 130:1–2: “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!” The Psalmist is crying out to the LORD out of the depths. The word “depths” means a flooding river or being cast out to the chaotic ocean. Have you ever been overwhelmed with intense guilt over sin? Have you wrestled deeply in your soul with feelings of shame? And this could be due to actual sins that you’ve committed or it could be condemnation coming from the devil or it could just be that you don’t have a firm grip on the gospel of grace. Whenever you are overcome by feelings of intense guilt and shame over your sin, you have permission to go directly to God with cries for help. God does not want you to run from Him or try to cover it up or to try to excuse it. He wants you to pray to Him in honesty.
In verses 3-4, we see A CONFESSION of sin. Psalm 130:3–4: “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” The word for “mark” carries the idea that God is a Judge who marks down every single sin and keeps a detailed record of every wrong. He closely scrutinizes every single sin and is sure to make a record of it. God as the Judge in the eternal courtroom has a rigid inflexibility and will not bend on sin. He sees every sin. He meticulously marks down every sin so that they are recorded in His perpetual memory.
As a result, who can stand? Who can endure this scrutiny? Who can stand there innocent in God’s sight? Who could ever get off scot-free? And the answer is NOBODY. Yet, verse 4 gives us great hope in the gospel. No matter how much we are drowning in despair over our sin, no matter how guilty we feel, and no matter how desperate we are over our sinful condition, there is forgiveness.
Here lies the problem for the doubter or the guilty conscience. Do you truly believe that you can be forgiven? Are you struggling with the very thought that God can forgive you? Are you fluctuating right now in doubt wondering if you’ve sinned so grievously that God could never forgive you? And this only leads to the depths despair, not gospel assurance. Gospel assurance is the truth that we are indeed outrageous sinners but that God is an outrageous forgiver. We can rest in the confidence that He will indeed forgive when we confess our sin and own up to our sin.
In verses 5-6, we see A CONVICTION to wait. Psalm 130:5–6: “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.” When overcome with sin and despair it can become easy to get impatient with God or bargain with God or make demands upon God, instead of quietly waiting upon God. The Psalmist is eagerly waiting and hoping for the presence of the Lord and the promise of His Word.
The final section is in verses 7-8 where the Psalms expresses a CONFIDENCE in redemption. Psalm 130:7–8: “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.” Verse 7 is beautiful. With the Lord is there is “hesed”—steadfast love. That tenacious, covenant loyal love that God shows His people where He promises to remain faithful to them even when they sin. Why is God’s redemption of us so plentiful and abundant? Because it cost Him His one and only Son Jesus. The cross of Christ is the greatest display of generosity and abundance of grace and plentiful redemption that there ever was or could be.
Think about the greatest sin you’ve committed. Think about the most guilt you’ve ever felt. Think about the lowest point spiritually you’ve ever been. None of that compares to the depths that Christ endured while hanging on the cross for us. In those dark moments, He experienced the depths of alienation from God. He was forsaken by His Father. He was bearing our wrath. He was experiencing the wickedness of our sin. He was overwhelmed with our guilt and experienced the greatest depths of loneliness, isolation, guilt and shame. And it was not because of His sin because Jesus never once sinned. He was the perfect, sinless Lamb of God. He did all of this for us. The innocent became guilty so that the guilty could become innocent.
Whenever you experience deep feelings of guilt, hope in God’s abundant forgiveness. An abundant forgiveness that was proved on the cross when Jesus died. There is no sin that can keep you from Christ. There is no sinner who has sinned beyond the loving grasp of a sovereign God who can pull you out of your depth of despair and put you on the solid rock of salvation.