This is an excerpt from “The Sinner Saint Devotional: 60 Days in the Psalms” edited by Daniel Emery Price (1517 Publishing, 2021).
When the psalmist writes, “Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord” (Ps 130:1), what is he crying out for from the Lord? He is pleading for grace. In the most profound sense of the word, the psalmist is crying out for God to deliver grace to him in his deepest distress. And this is the rub. We, like the psalmist, only cry out for grace when we have made a mess of life, are trapped in our self-destructive habits, and feel God has forsaken us. What the psalmist writes can only be understood by people who have felt and experienced what it is like to fall headlong into horrible misery and hopelessness. Nobody thinks to pray for grace who has not first been knocked down and terrified by sin and death.
We can go days, even years, without feeling the consequences of our own selfish decisions. But when they catch up with us and their weight falls on us, overwhelming us, driving us to throw up our hands and cry out to God for rescue, then we cry out for grace. It is only when the power of sin and death push down on us, like a winepress expressing juice from grapes, that a prayer for grace in the deepest sense of the word is extracted from us. Only when we are in the worst of situations do we cry out for God to be God for us in the most unconditional sense. When we have lost all hope in ourselves or any other person, even when we lose hope that God himself will be for us, do we cry out of the depths, “Lord, have mercy on me!”
Only God can forgive our sin, rescue us from death, and create a joyful and peaceful heart in us. But we do not usually look for this, because we are obsessed with God forgiving, rescuing, and creating for us in ways we choose. We can heap sin upon sin on ourselves, and still, we will not turn to the Lord for his absolute absolution until all escapes have been closed to us. We prefer God to forgive our sin by not paying attention to it. Then our prayer is not for grace but that God would overlook and wink at us from the sidelines.
Likewise, God’s judgment is for other people. Most of the time we do not fear God, and we do not even consider the very real consequences of his judgment, not toward sin, or how the condemnation intended for us is redirected onto the crucified Lamb of God. Instead, we imagine that so long as we recognize that we have done wrong in relation to God, that is enough of a confession that He will not point an accusing finger at us. That is why, unless we are overwhelmed and knocked flat on our back by sin and death, we do not fear God. We hate God and resist his grace.
That is why for the psalmist, fear and hope go hand in hand. When we fear God has forsaken us on account of our selfish, self-destructive choices, then we cry out in the hope that he will hear us and rescue us from ourselves. Then, when we cry out for grace, we are pointed to the cross. There at Golgotha, all our fears of judgment and hope for grace are laid bare. There on the cross, we are put to death. Jesus expresses our cries of dereliction. He hangs on our cross and cries out of the depths for us. When we look at the Lamb of God stretched out on Calvary’s cross, we behold God’s answer to our cries.
We are not forgotten. Our cries are not ignored. We are not laid flat by sin and left for dead. Our refuge in every trouble and horror and terror is nailed to the cursed tree. Therefore there is no other place for the psalmist or us to run for grace than the person of Jesus Christ. This man who is God for us is our forgiveness, life, and salvation. He is the biblical meaning of grace–not some idea in search of meaning, but the limitless, abundant, inexhaustible grace of God on two legs. And when He is for us, as the apostle writes, who can be against us? With Jesus alone is forgiveness. In relation to the Christ, and Him only, is there grace upon grace. In relation to the Lamb of God, there is only one answer to our deepest cries for grace: “I will never leave you or forsake you because I have called you by name and you are mine.”
This is an excerpt from “The Sinner Saint Devotional: 60 Days in the Psalms” edited by Daniel Emery Price (1517 Publishing, 2021), pgs 42-44.