A song of ascents.
1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
2 O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
Would You Pray With Us Today?
3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.
5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
6 my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
7 O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
8 And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.
If you are on your way to a fancy dinner party when you realize that you are wearing the wrong socks, you would probably be really thankful your suit pants cover your ankles. “Don’t cross your legs!” you think. But just at that moment, you notice last week’s red wine stain on your white shirt. You button your suit and secretly remind yourself: “Even if it’s hot inside, don’t take off your jacket.” But then, unexpectedly, the thread on the back of your suit frays and rips. At this point, you nearly collapse and begin to obsess about whether it is even worth attending this long-awaited dinner.
Brokenness Behind the Facade
This is a lot like the struggles Christians have before going to church. Everyone wants to show up for worship radiating with joy, with a decent wife and well-behaved children. We all long to share enviable stories when brothers and sisters ask about our daily lives, and we want to apply the Bible at the right time, as our children say “Amen” in the background. Although we can brush off our worries at work and can cover our strained marriage behind a professional smile, our children’s every word and move reveal the brokenness behind this façade. We catch ourselves being distracted or subconsciously fumbling with our phones during the sermon—or maybe we just don’t bother to come next week.
Some in the church send their children to the grandparents’ house or hire a babysitter so they can come to Sunday service alone. That way, they won’t be embarrassed during church. Others start to leave as the hymn of response begins to play, not wanting to fellowship with brothers and sisters because they are afraid of saying too much. Still others tell the pastor, “I am not doing so well lately, I will come to church when I get better.”
Our problem is not “doing poorly,” but a misinterpretation of the Gospel.
Judgment and Salvation at the Same Moment
Psalm 130 is a “song of ascent,” which the Israelites sang as they pilgrimaged to Jerusalem. Did the Israelites become holier as they walked to the Temple for worship? Of course not. They went to the Temple because they were unclean and defiled and needed cleansing and atonement for their sins. The closer they came to the Temple, the more they understood God’s holiness, the more they realized their own sinfulness and inability to stand before God.
However, the God we worship not only judges all sin and makes it impossible for sinners to stand; he also lavishes on us the grace of forgiveness. The psalmist has seen and understood the righteous judgment of this God, and is waiting for the forgiveness and salvation he promises.
“My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.”
The daybreak that the night watchman is awaiting will illuminate everything, including our hidden sins. At the same time, the light that comes dispels all darkness. Judgment and salvation occur simultaneously in the moment of daybreak.
Do You Believe?
Although the Old Testament psalmist was still waiting, today we have seen this light. The moment Jesus was crucified, God’s judgment on sin fell on his righteous shoulders. The dawn of the third day shone on the empty tomb, giving all sinners a glimpse of the hope of resurrection.
The gospel does not give us a piece of cloth to cover up our sins as we come to meet God.
The gospel pulls down the last veil and lets the light of God shine on and heal us completely.
In the Church, we meet a God who is both righteous and loving. Without the cross, our sins would hinder us from enjoying his mercy. But because of the cross, our debt of sin has been paid. We can enter the Most Holy Place without fear and thoroughly enjoy the presence of God.
Christian, do you believe all your shame has been crucified together with Jesus? If you believe, do not shut yourself out of the church because of external factors.
Hu Yongjie is a pseudonym for a church planter in Shanghai. In his spare time, he enjoys trail running.
I want to meet you face to face. Prepare my heart to confess my sins through the knowledge of your righteousness; to reprove myself by the Holy Spirit you have given; to believe in your salvation because of your cross; and to be willing to worship you openly and without fear because of the resurrection of Jesus. Lord, help me to become a person who is sensitive to sin and constant in repentance. Help me to become a person who always returns to the cross. By faith in the gospel, make me humble and courageous. May I become your worshiper, dwelling in your temple all the days of my life and keeping your statutes and laws.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen!