The Sermon for Sunday, January 21st, 2024, the Third Sunday after Epiphany

The Lessons: Jeremiah 3:19 – 4:4; Psalm 130; 1 Corinthians 7:17-24; Mark 1:14-20

The Text: Psalm 130


Upon the death of Pope John Paul II, Rogers Cadenhead, a self-described “domain hoarder,” registered before the new pope’s name was announced. Cadenhead had the name before Rome knew it was needed.

The right domain name can be lucrative. Another name,, secured $16,000 on eBay. Cadenhead, however, didn’t want money. A Catholic himself, he was happy for the church to own the name. “I’m going to try and avoid angering 1.1 billion Catholics and my grandmother,” he quipped.

He did want something in return, though:

  1. One of those hats
  2. A free stay at the Vatican hotel
  3. Complete absolution, no questions asked, for the third week of March 1987

Makes you wonder what happened that week, doesn’t it? It may even remind you of a week of your own life.

– Max Lucado, Facing Your Giants. W. Publishing Group, 2006[1]

Psalm 130 is one of the seven penitential psalms in the Psalter (6; 32; 38; 51; 106; 130; 143). This psalm focuses on sin itself, though, rather than its consequences, but also emphasizes the themes of forgiveness and redemption. Like our Old Testament Lesson and our Gospel Lesson, this psalm issues a call to God’s people to turn back to him.

The Psalmist begins with the statement “Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice (Psalm 130:1, The Book of Common Prayer, 1928). The word “deep” accurately translates the Hebrew word used here, whereas the King James Version, the Vulgate, and the Septuagint render it “depths.” This is reflected in the Latin title of the Psalm, De profundis. One commentator explains the deep, or the depths, as “the lowest place to which the soul can sink,” that is, in this life. I am reminded of the prophet Jonah calling out to God from the belly of the whale (Jonah 2). In fact, the Latin word for “I called” as used in Psalm 130:1 also means “I shout aloud” and is used to describe Jonah’s calling out to God from his tribulation (Jonah 2:2), and this is also reflected in the King James Version rendering of this verb here, “I have cried.” If you are wondering about the differences between our Psalter and the King James Version of the Bible, remember that the Coverdale Psalter which all our Books of Common Prayer have used since 1662 actually first appeared in 1535 and was included in The Great Bible of 1540, whereas the King James Version was at the time that it appeared in 1611 a new translation of the Bible.

“Out of the depths” reflects a deep crisis in the Psalmist’s life, but we cannot say how deep. Sometimes we imagine that we are going through the worst experience in life that we could possibly endure, but it really is possible that there might be something worse in the future. But we must not worry about it, for worrying only creates a crisis of our own making. Whatever the tribulation, we need to call on God for help. Often in a desperate situation, it feels as if God is far away, and yet we must have faith that He is with us and attentive to our prayers.

In our Coverdale version of this Psalm, verse 2 asks God to “consider well the voice of my complaint.” However, the King James Version renders “complaint” with “supplications,” that is prayers. The Psalmist is asking God to listen attentively to his prayers for deliverance, for rescue from the depths.

But just as he asks God to hear his prayers, he realizes there is a particularly good reason for God not to listen to his prayer. This reason is given in verse 3 of the Psalm: if God takes careful note of every sin and wrongdoing, who will be able to withstand it? That thought is enough to make one sink even lower in the depths of misery. It is the absolute righteousness of God compared to man’s sinfulness.

But even here there is a solution to this problem, a solution that God provides, and this solution, called “mercy” in our Psalter, is “forgiveness” in the King James Version, and could also be translated as “atonement.” The purpose of God providing this forgiveness and atonement is that God may be had in reverence, that people may obey Him. The hope of forgiveness becomes the hope of salvation and deliverance from all evil.

The realization of God’s mercy and forgiveness of sins causes a change of attitude in the Psalmist, and this is reflected in verse 5 of the psalm where he expresses his determination to wait for the Lord and to hope in his word. The Hebrew word which “wait for” translates expresses the idea of looking expectantly to the Lord in faith, waiting on him and for him, and of gathering one’s thoughts to focus intently on the Lord. Together with this goes the idea of waiting patiently for the Lord to fulfill the words that he has spoken, the messages that he has given us for our life.

A new habit of life arises for those who hope in the Lord and wait for his deliverance. Verse 6 shows the Psalmist’s eagerness for the Lord to be like the eagerness of the watchman for the morning to arrive. I can speak from personal experience of guard duty in a remote location in Namibia when I served in the South African Army. How eagerly one waits for that guard duty to end and for the dawn to come!

Finally, Israel is called on to hope in the Lord (vv.7-8), since with the Lord is mercy and plenteous redemption, and he shall redeem Israel from all his sins. The Hebrew word for “mercy” expresses the idea of God’s loving-kindness.


With the preaching of the Gospel, God’s kingdom is now at hand, and the time of forgiveness of sins for all who repent from their sins, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and live their lives in obedience to him as Lord. What we learn from Psalm 130 is the necessity of waiting on the Lord and trusting in him at all times in our lives, knowing that, though he takes note of every sin, he is full of mercy and forgiveness to everyone who turns away from sin and believes in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.


In this hope we must wait on the Lord and trust the truth of his word, believing He will fulfill his word in our lives, and rescue us from whatever depths we are in.

[1] p. 88, Craig Brian Larson & Phyllis Ten Elshof (General Editors): 1001 Illustrations that Connect. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, Christianity Today International, 2008.

Categories: Sermons