Welcome: It is so good to see you back in our church building, only the second time since Sunday March 15th 2020.
Opening Scripture verses:
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
2 Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
3 If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,Psalm 130:1-4
Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
Opening praise: ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’
Thank you Lord once more for the privilege of coming into Your house to worship You. We are so thankful that we are living in a part of the country where we have so many blessings to enjoy. We thank You for the ease with which many of us can walk on the beach or walk in the countryside which is so close to our community. We rejoice in all Your goodness to us at this time. Supremely, we thank you for Jesus in whose name we come today, through whose sacrifice on the cross we have been saved. Thank You Lord for dying in our place not only to give us eternal life beyond the grave, but also through the aid of the Holy Spirit to live for You in the here and now of the present day. We ask that You would speak into our hearts and lives today through the blessed Holy Spirit, for Jesus’ name’s sake Amen.
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
2 Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
3 If You, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
4 But with You there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve You.
5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in His word I put my hope.
6 I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
7 Israel, put your hope in the Lord,Psalm 130
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with Him is full redemption.
8 He Himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.
Intercessory prayer using Psalm 130:
Heavenly Father, once more we come with deep gratitude knowing that You both hear and answer our prayers. We confess that we are concerned with the growing numbers of cases of the covid-19 virus around not only the United Kingdom, but also many other countries in Europe and in the wider world. We pray for governments and health care professionals to be able to address this challenging situation and for the finding of a vaccine from the many clinical trials taking place around the world at the present time.
We continue to remember those with ongoing health issues, people confined to their own homes or residential homes and seeing few if any visitors at this time. We ask that they may have a sense of Your presence with them at this time. We pray too for those struggling with pressures at work or the challenge of having lost their jobs in recent weeks, that each one may get a sense of peace and assurance from You concerning the future.
As we come to pray for ourselves and others we will use the words of Psalm 130 to assist us in our silent prayers:
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; 2 Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. Thank you Lord that there are no circumstances too difficult for me to bring to You. There are things on my heart today that I want to bring to You … [private prayer]
3 If You, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? 4 But with You there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve You. Thank You Lord for Your amazing grace; I come to confess my sins of thought and words and deed… [private prayer]
I come deeply grateful to You as my heavenly Father knowing that my sins are forgiven. Your Word declares in I John 1:9: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Thank You for answering my prayers, in particular I want to thank You for … [private prayer]
5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope. 6 I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Thank You Lord that You are a promise-keeping God. Thank You that I can have complete confidence in You concerning my (humanly-speaking) uncertain future. Thank You that nothing takes You by surprise. In particular, I want to trust You for … [private prayer]
Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption. 8 He Himself will redeem Israel from all their sins. Thank You Lord that Hezekiah could confidently share His faith in You with other people in Israel. Help me to be faithful in prayer for other people who have yet to put their trust in You as Lord and Saviour, or who are currently away from the Lord and need to come back to following You. In particular, I name before You … for whom I am praying at this time….[private prayer]
Thank you Lord that You will hear and answer our prayers, in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen
Message from Psalm 130
Psalm 130 Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord
When do you and I pray most earnestly and consistently? The honest answer for the vast majority of us as Christians is when we are in the greatest need of divine assistance. Is it not sometimes true that we cry out in desperation because we have run out of other options and have no other place to turn? At other times when our circumstances are comfortable and we can see our essential needs being met we still pray but there is less of a sense of urgency in our prayers.
Of course this is not always the case, especially when we are praying for the needs of other people known to us. Yet in our better moments we know that we need the Lord’s presence with us and help for us when all is going well, not just in times of crisis. After all at the human level, if you or I only got in touch with close family or friends when we were in urgent need of assistance then there would be something improper about this relationship. We are meant to journey together through good times at tough, both with one another as well as with the Lord.
The Bible commentators on this anonymous Psalm appear to be fairly confident that it can be attributed to King Hezekiah, the King of Judah. The context of the Psalm relates to events described in Isaiah 38. Isaiah 38:1-3 states: In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, ‘This is what the Lord says: put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.’ 2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3 ‘Remember, Lord, how I have walked before You faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in Your eyes.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
Hezekiah was one of the great kings referred to in the Old Testament, in both his personal relationship with God and in the context of his leadership of the nation. Like everyone else there had been tough times and good in his life, and indeed the miraculous survival of the nation when the pagan Assyrian Army swept through the country was utterly remarkable and an amazing answer to prayer (see Isaiah 36-37).
He must have thought what a year we have had, next year must be so much better! I know in our church in Broughty Ferry that many of us would have thought that about the ending of 2019 and the start of 2020. Last year was a hard one, but surely the next year looks so good with no obvious clouds on the horizon. We were aware vaguely of a new virus being a problem in a province in China, but little were we to know that the world would be changed just a few months later as the covid-19 virus pandemic spread around the world.
Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord were Hezekiah’s words in Psalm 130:1, maybe similar words might be on the lips or heart of some of those who hear or read this message at this time. Let us look briefly at this song included in the Bible for the praise and prayers of God’s people. Here we see:
1. An earnest request (Psalm 130:1-2)
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; 2 Lord, hear my voice. Let Your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy (Psalm 130:1-2). The psalm was deliberately written in general terms so that the hearers and readers of it might more easily identify with the author in their own times of crisis or great need. It is likely that for Hezekiah it was the unexpected arrival of a serious health condition that was the cause of his initial cries to God.
The primitive medical services available to him at that time in history could provide no hope of restoring his health and strength. Isaiah 38:1 is blunt in its description of Hezekiah’s condition. In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. This statement could not be clearer. Had his doctor said to him, Hezekiah, this is very serious you know, but we do have medicine that over time could improve your health or even contribute to a full recovery, then it would have been a very different matter altogether.
However, it was not so and the air of despondency in the palace in Jerusalem would have been very clear. Reading between the lines of the story at the start of Isaiah 38, it is clear that this news has focused Hezekiah’s mind to resolve to pray and keep on praying for the miraculous intervention of God. He, like us, knows that we have no right to demand miracles from God, but the God to whom we come is our heavenly Father, who loves and cares for us.
God desires us to have a living relationship with Him by prayer and Bible reading. He wants us to be in contact regularly with Him not just when we are having a crisis. We ought, for example, to praise and thank Him for all the blessings we have in our daily lives. There are so many good things we have received, in the United Kingdom we would be extremely unfortunate to have been without the basics of food, clothing and shelter.
For many of us we have been blessed with reasonably good health. In locations like ours here we are fortunate to live in a beautiful part of the country and have the opportunity to walk in the hills or on the beach by the sea. The tragic unexpected death of a family member or friend or an extremely serious medical diagnosis is far less common here than in many other less well-resourced countries. The verb in verse one is in the perfect tense to explain to us that the psalmist repeatedly cries out to God for some time before he sees the answer to his prayer that he has sought. Obviously the psalm was composed after his prayer had been answered in the way Hezekiah had wanted.
It is possible that the words of Psalm 130:2 hint at a measure of doubt about the outcome, after all God never promises that we will always receive the answers we wish in prayer. Lord, hear my voice. Let Your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. God promises to answer our prayers, but we remember how Jesus wanted us to express our prayers in His response to His disciples’ request for guidance about how to pray. Matthew 6:10b states: Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. We have to trust our heavenly Father to do what He believes is best in response to our requests to Him.
2. A joyful acknowledgement (Psalm 130:3-4)
3 If You, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? 4 But with You there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve You. There is a change of direction here with the thoughts expressed in these verses. Hezekiah reminds himself in God’s presence that he is speaking to the holy Almighty One who created the heavens and the earth, who upholds all things by His amazing power. This being is absolutely perfect in all He does. The prophet Habakkuk at a later date expressed a similar sentiment. Habakkuk 1:13 states: Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; You cannot tolerate wrongdoing. This creates a huge problem because only similarly perfect sinless people have a right to enter His presence. But who qualifies to do that? I know that I don’t. This is every bit as much a New Testament issue as in the Old Testament. In Romans 3, the culmination of the Apostle Paul’s teaching about human sinfulness and our need of a saviour from sin, it declares in Romans 3:10-12:
‘There is no one righteous, not even one; 11there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.
In cases anyone has missed the point about how inclusive this problem is, Romans 3:23 states: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We are all in this predicament together. Are you aware of your own sinfulness that at times can be revealed in inappropriate attitudes towards others, ill-considered words towards others and either a neglect of things we ought to have done or actions that we may later regret? When we are aware of our own shortcomings and know our own hearts, we are less prone to judge others harshly for their own failings.
However, Psalm 130:4 highlights the good news here. But with You there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve You. Our past need never define our future. God loves us and wants the very best for us. Hezekiah could easily have thought at this point of King David’s joyful declaration of the forgiveness of sins in Psalm 32:1-2a:
Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2 Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them. We might just as easily turn to I John 1:9: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Understanding what Hezekiah is saying here ensures that we never think of ourselves as better than other people. Every one of us needs to receive the underserved love or grace of God to be welcomed into His presence. We can go beyond this psalm and say that this love of God was revealed to us by Jesus and through Him we are welcomed into God’s family when we trust Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. Have you taken that step of faith? I hope each one of us has done so.
3. Eager anticipation (Psalm 130:5-6)
5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope. 6 I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. Something I struggle with at times is patience. Do you have that same problem? It has been a problem for most of us over the years. Remember King David’s exhortation to his readers in the last verse of Psalm 27? Psalm 27:14 states: Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Notice the pattern here of David in Psalm 27 and Hezekiah in Psalm 130 of repeating the need to wait for the Lord.
Then, when life was lived at a much slower pace as well as in our generation, we find it very difficult to living with waiting for thing, especially if it is about something very important to us. These two individuals were known for being close to God in the Old Testament era. The message communicated to us loud and clear is that life is very hard sometimes and we can seriously struggle to handle the things we have to face.
We can be a woman or man of faith and find it hard. Never assume that because someone else has been a Christian longer that they find the challenges of life easier. Relationships with God and with other people take effort and a commitment to invest in the necessary time to make them work as well as they can. This is known to us all of course. But relationships require trust and spending time with the other to be as fulfilling as they potentially can be. Even in the best of friendships or marriages or families there are issues we have to talk through that are not easy to address. It is part of the human experience. We are fallible creatures who sometimes disappoint one another by our wrong attitudes, words or actions or our neglect of doing things we ought to have done. Likewise, we were created by God for fellowship with Him and through the choices we make to bring glory to Him.
Yet too often we fail to be the best we can be for Him and we need to admit that to Him in prayer. Does your relationship with God matter enough to you today? For Hezekiah, he uses the example of the night watchmen who were on duty at the city walls of Jerusalem keeping alert for dangers from outside the city. When morning came they were delighted as their shifts at work were over and they could go home to sleep or have some food.
We have highlighted the waiting in these verses, but also need to draw attention to the hope. Here Hezekiah states: and in His word I put my hope (Psalm 130:5b). Biblical ‘hope’ is not the same as the wishful thinking of popular culture in our country. In the latter context you might hear someone say: ‘I hope to win the National Lottery tonight’, or ‘I hope my football team wins their match today’. A statistician would point out that the football supporter’s hope is more likely to be realised! But neither statement uses the word ‘hope’ as it is used in the Bible.
Remember Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. And these words from Romans 5:1-2: Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, wehave peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
Biblical hope is a well-founded confidence that God will do what He has promised in the future for the good of His people, for His own glory. We cannot see the proof of what God has planned, but because God has kept His promises in the past, most notably with reference to the promised Messiah in the Old Testament who came in the person of Jesus 2,000 years ago, we know that He will keep His promises regarding the second coming of Jesus and His eternal reign. It is reasonable, therefore, that we can trust His promises on other smaller matters as well. Many of us have personal experience of this faithful God who has helped us keep going through the storms of life prior to today. We can, therefore, go forward with confidence in Him for the future.
4. A strong appeal (Psalm 130:7-8)
7 Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption. 8 He Himself will redeem Israel from all their sins. Here is a personal testimony of a man of faith encouraging others to trust in God as he has done. This is the best witness that can be offered. Your testimony and mine about what God has done for us. A colleague in your workplace may have no interest in Christian doctrine, likewise an unsaved friend or family member.
However, if what you believe makes a positive difference in your life in a way they find attractive or appealing then they may be very interested in why the change has happened. We believe in a God of redemption or transformation. No-one is beyond hope. The focus here is on redemption from past sins. There are people who think their mistakes are so bad that God or other people could not forgive them and give them a second chance.
Hezekiah has good news for individuals then and now who think this way. God is a God of grace and mercy. Because of His amazing love for us, He sees us as we can be living our lives to the full, rather than how we may be at any particular moment in time. Have you put your faith and trust in God? In John 10:10 Jesus explained His mission and why He came to earth. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. Are you missing out on the life God has for you to live? Put your full trust in Him as Lord and Saviour and receive all the blessings He has for you today, in Jesus’ name Amen.
Closing song: ‘And can it be’
Lord we thank You for the blessing of being in Your house today. Most of all we praise You for the joy of recalling Your love and faithfulness to us as we read and reflected on Your Holy Word. Please go with us as we continue in this week, in both the enjoyable and the difficult circumstances we may be experiencing. We ask our prayer in the all-powerful name of Jesus, Amen.
Benediction: The Grace
May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God
and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore, Amen
Our next service is planned for the same time on Wednesday 7th October at 11am.