Editor’s Note: This is part two in a series. Part one may be found here.
Not every “fix-it” project turns out well. Last year CNN published an article about art restoration projects that turned out less than ideal, like the repairs made to a fresco of Jesus in Borja, Spain:
In 2012, the efforts of an elderly parishioner to restore a 120-year-old fresco titled “Ecce Homo (Behold the Man)”, depicting Jesus Christ with a crown of thorns, initially drew scorn.
The work was so amateurish that people began calling the image the “Monkey Jesus.”
When a restorer fixes a painting, it should look like it originally did, prior to its degradation. It shouldn’t look worse, and it certainly shouldn’t look like an 8-year-old attempted the repair.
God also is a restorer — the Master Restorer — transforming people into what they were designed to be in creation and enabling them to live in ways that please Him and reflect His glory.
In Psalm 130, the psalmist reminds the singers of that song that even sin does not preclude God from accomplishing His purposes with His people. The psalmist sinned, lamented over that sin, and then went to the Lord in confession. In the final verses of that psalm, he points to the joy of restoration that comes from the Lord after confession.
This psalm is an encouragement to our counselees that are repentant: it points to the necessity of grief over their sin, the process of confession of their sin, and the hope of restoration from their sin. We need to exhort our counselees with the seriousness of sin and the importance of full and complete confession of that sin, but we should also affirm the fullness of forgiveness and the joy of restoration that comes from confession and forgiveness. If your counselee persists in lament and does not experience confidence in restored fellowship with the Lord, then this is the kind of passage to which you should direct him — giving him hope of a life that is repaired to make him useful in service.
The Sinner’s Restoration
We need to remember as we read verses 5-6 that forgiveness was granted in verse 4, so, when the psalmist says in these verses that he is waiting (I wait…soul does wait…I hope), he is referring to a kind of patience, but it is not a patience that is waiting for forgiveness.
In these verses the psalmist speaks about something that he is eagerly anticipating; he has been looking forward to something and he’s continuing to look for it. That he repeats the word waits indicates the totality of his dependence on God. He then pictures himself waiting as a watchman (v. 6). The watchman might refer to the watchman on the wall of the city who is standing guard and is waiting for the morning, eagerly watching for the first hint of dawn so that he can be relieved of his duty by the daytime sentry. It might also refer to the Levitical priest who is waiting for the morning so that he can make the first sacrifice of the day — he is eager to see blood applied to the guilty sins of men. Either way, the psalmist says, “I am more eager even than those watchmen who are looking for a new day.” He has engaged in a “protracted, painful waiting” [Delitzsch].
For what is the psalmist so eagerly waiting? Since his sin has been forgiven (v. 4), it means that he is waiting for what comes after forgiveness — the restoration of fellowship, joy, and ministry. This is akin to another lament psalm — David’s confession in Psalm 51:12-13 —
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners will be converted to You.
Here is a reality that is overwhelming about our forgiveness: when we sin, God restores us to Himself and pulls us out of our spiritual despair and misery, even granting to us the privilege of serving Him. In verse one, the psalmist felt alienated from God and now he waits expectantly for relief from that alienation and for the hope of ministry.
This restoration is particularly experienced in the New Testament after Christ’s fulfillment of the Law — those who are in Christ are always in Christ, and our union with God through adoption into the family can never be removed. We are His and He is ours. These verses are a reminder that “God is deeper than the deepest depth in man. He is holier than our deepest sin is deep. There is no depth so deep to us as when God reveals his holiness in dealing with our sin.…[And so] think more of the depth of God than the depth of your cry. The worst thing that can happen to a man is to have no God to cry to out of the depth.” [P. T. Forsyth]
The believer’s hope and your counselee’s hope is that God can and does restore people to Himself after they have sinned, confessed, and been forgiven. And the news is even better for us, as the final verses instruct us.
The Sinner’s Confidence
There is a significant shift in verse seven. The first six verses are all individual and personal: “I.” Now the lamenting and forgiven sinner makes an application: O Israel…. The psalmist is moving from a personal application to a corporate application, calling the entire nation of Israel to repent of her sin. He reminds Israel that with the Lord there is lovingkindness (chesed, the Old Testament Hebrew word that is often used synonymously of grace). That is, God is loyal to the covenants that He has made with His people and He will fulfill those covenants.
Further, the psalmist reminds the nation that there is abundant redemption — God possesses “in the richest measure the willingness, power, and wisdom which are needed to procure redemption.” And the nation needs that redemption because its sin has risen up like a wall of partition between the nation and God. Like the firstborn that were redeemed by the blood of the lambs being applied to the doorposts in Egypt (Ex. 13), God is completely sovereign to redeem His nation from her sin.
The psalmist concludes in verse 8 by stating that God will redeem Israel from all his iniquities. That is, God alone (the pronoun He in He will is emphatic) will bring about the purchase and redemption of His people out of sin. What is the psalmist speaking about? He is talking about the fact that not only does God forgive individual sinners, but that one day He will keep His covenant promises made to Abraham, Moses, David, and Jeremiah and establish a Messiah to eternally rule over Israel and the world. In other words, there is not only hope for a good future of restoration for an individual sinner, but David also says that there is a great and glorious future for the nation of Israel.
Because the nation of Israel will be blessed with restoration, that is also the hope of every believer in Jesus Christ, because our restoration is bound up in Israel’s restoration: every nation will be blessed through the nation of Israel (Gen. 12:3; Jer. 31:31ff) and God has grafted the church into the promises made to Israel (Rom. 11:11-12). Our hope for the future is in God’s promise to keep His covenant with Israel. Thus, when the psalmist says, “With God there is abundant redemption for Israel,” that means that there is also abundant redemption for us, who have been grafted into those promises. Israel’s confidence, and our confidence, is not only that God will forgive sin now, but that He will forgive sin into the future and for all eternity and bring us to Himself.
That is a great promise when we realize that one out of one of us is going to die. And it’s a great admonition when we realize that if one does not confess his sins, none of these things are true. If our counselee is not a Christian, it is time for him to confess his sin; or if the counselee is a Christian who is living in unrepentant sin, it is likewise time to confess. There is no restoration without lament, confession, and forgiveness; but with humble lament and confession comes forgiveness and the added blessing of renewed fellowship with God and renewed ability to serve God.
The story of John Wesley’s conversion is quite well-known. On May 24, 1738 he heard the reading of Luther’s Preface to the Romans read one evening and came to trust in Christ, saying that his heart was “strangely warmed.” What is less well known about that day is that afternoon he went to St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and heard Psalm 130 sung as an anthem and he experienced deep conviction of his sin. That conviction was another contributing factor to hearing the good news of the gospel later that evening. Through the singing of this song, he was made more aware of his sin, grieved over his sin, and readied for confession of that sin and restoration to God.
Wesley benefited from learning of the sin in his heart. And that is true for every believer in Christ, and every counselee you will disciple. When sin is known, it can be grieved, confessed and forgiven, and restored, so that we are confident of our future both on earth and in eternity. When they are aware of their sin, our counselees might be tempted to be overwhelmed by grief or discouragement. Through this psalm, help them know that God has given them awareness of their sin as a step in the process of being restored to Him. Restoration joy comes in the morning after grief for sin has produced genuine repentance and confession.
Terry Enns is the pastor of Grace Bible Church in Granbury Texas. He has over twenty years of pastoral counseling experience, and is a certified counselor with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC, formerly NANC). In addition to his preaching and pastoral duties at Grace, Terry maintains an active blog at Words of Grace.