Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Psalm 130:3-51NIV New International Version Translations
3 If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. 5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.


Psalm 130 is an unnamed psalm in the Hebrew psalter composed by a penitential Israelite. Unlike some Psalms that indicate some historical situation from which they were composed, Psalm 130 has no such superscription. We are not given any hint as to the historical situation prompting the psalmist’s composition. One internal clue as to the dating of this psalm may be found in the author’s mention of “Israel.” This term is used 63 times in 40 different psalms. All psalms except 71, 89, 98-99, 105-106, 114,2 115, 118, 121, 125, 128-130, 135, 136,3 147-149 are attributed to David, Solomon, or Asaph, all of whom lived during the time of the united kingdom known as “Israel.” The majority of Psalms that make mention of Israel, then, are prior to the divided monarchy. The psalmist may have lived during this time. It could also be the case, however, that the psalmist composed it during the time of the divided monarch, before the destruction of the nation of Israel in 722 BC by Assyria. The date may never be known with any certainty, and it is not particularly relevant for a proper interpretation of the psalm.
It is difficult to determine the cultural background of the psalm without knowing the historical background, including the identity of the author and the date of composition. The most that can be said is that an Israelite probably composed this psalm sometime between 1000 BC to 722 BC. As an Israelite living during this time his culture would reflect the Mosaic Law. As a Semitic individual he would have viewed society holistically, not individually. This would explain why he exhorts Israel to wait until the Lord redeems Israel as a nation from their sins (130:8).

Most scholars classify this psalm as an individual lament: 1. God is addressed with a cry for help; 2. A poetic description of the crisis is given; 3. An affirmation of trust is given; 4. A series of petitions are made; 5. An additional argument is given to appeal to God’s concern, a confession is made, or a protest of innocence is given; 6. Vows of praise are made if the Lord answers the prayer; 7. The psalmist gives an assurance of having his prayer heard and expresses confidence that the Lord will respond. Verses 1-2 clearly call on the Lord for help. Verse 3 expresses the psalmist’s crisis-he is in need of forgiveness. Verses 4-6 form a long expression of trust in the Lord. After this the psalm does not follow the flow of a typical individual lament psalm. There is no further petitions, an appeal to God’s concern, or a vow of praise. We only find an exhortation to the nation of Israel and a final affirmation of trust; nevertheless, the psalm exhibits the characteristics of the individual lament more so than any other psalm-type.

Biblical Truths

Verse 3 – The second line answers the question posed in the first. The statement is a rhetorical device, not intended to be answered. The psalmist realizes that if the Lord were to keep track of sins, no one would be able to stand before Him.

“keep a record” is a metaphor. It comes from the Hebrew shamar, meaning “store up.” The root idea of this word is “to exercise great care over” something. In this case God is exercising great care to store up man’s sin. He is compared to an accountant who would store up each sin on a ledger. The idea of God storing up sins is not limited to this psalm. It is also found in such passages as Deuteronomy 32:34; I Kings 17:8; Job 7:20; Hosea 13:12.

“Stand” is a also a metaphor. The idea is to stand before God as though God is on the judgment seat. To be able to stand before God is indicative of righteousness and justification. The idea here is that if God were to keep track of all our sins we would never be able to stand justified before Him. Our sins would incriminate us, humiliating us before the king. There is no one righteous, able to say he has clean hands before God. If God were to reward us according to our works, our judgment would be immeasurable. Thank God for His wonderful grace and mercy that forgives us of our sins!

Verse 4 – It is a simple purpose clause, indicating why the Lord is willing to forgive. While we know from other parts of Scripture that the Lord forgives us because He loves us and has chosen us, here we find a slightly different reason. The Lord is willing to forgive because it brings Him “honor.” Many translations render this as “feared,” but to the modern ear this often connotes “to be scared of.” This is not the meaning of the Hebrew. The fear spoken of here is reverential fear, or awe of God. It is paying Him the respect that is due Him. When the Lord forgives our sins it produces in us a gratitude and awe of the Almighty, causing our loyal respect for His willingness to erase our debt of sin.

Verse 5 – Where we have an instance of repetition wherein the psalmist repeats the fact he was waiting for the Lord. First he indicated that he waited for God, and then further indicated that his soul waited. In the second line “soul” is substituted for “I” and there is no mention of the object of wait; i.e. God.

The psalmist declared that his “soul” waited on God. This is an example of a synecdoche wherein one word is related to another word, though unexpressed, in the same genus. Soul, nephesh, is frequently used in the Hebrew Scriptures to indicate the whole person, not just the immaterial portion of man (Leviticus 7:18, 20; Psalm 86:14, et al). God’s “word” also seems to a reference to His pronouncement of righteousness as judge.

This verse is a beautiful confession of the psalmist’s faith. While he cried to the Lord for forgiveness, his cry was a cry of faith. He knew the Lord would show him mercy, but did not know exactly when. He would wait for the Lord’s word confirming the extension of His mercy.

It seems that the psalmist had more in mind than forgiveness of sin because one does not have to wait for the Lord’s forgiveness. It is likely that the psalmist’s sins had caused some temporal difficulties for him that he wished to be delivered from. While the Lord had forgiven him his sin, the Lord had not delivered him from the temporal effects of his sins.

Items for Discussion

  • When do you think about God’s forgiveness?
  • Why is it so hard for humans not to keep a record of the wrongs committed against them?
  • Why are hope and forgiveness so tied together so closely?
  • Can any relationship between two people survive without forgiveness? Why or why not?
  • The psalmist is in awe of God. When are you in awe of God?


Luke 15:20-27
20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. 25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’


Luke was a doctor and it is only logical that medical matters should be stressed. (Luke 4:38; 7:15; 8:55; 14:2; 18:15; 22:50) Luke was not a Jew and directed his message to Greeks, as a Gentile speaking to Gentiles. He writes in an orderly fashion giving careful attention to historical details. Luke stresses events which point to Christ’s humanity and uses the phrase the Son of Man rather than the term Son of God. He places more space and emphasis on the birth of Christ than any other writer. There is a special emphasis on individuals and prayer, the sick, women, poverty and wealth. The compassion of the Son of Man is displayed everywhere.

Biblical Truths and Theology3Barnes Notes:

Verse 20. He arose, and came. Was coming. But here is no indication of haste. He did not run, but came driven by his wants, and, as we may suppose, filled with shame, and even with some doubts whether his father would receive him.

A great way off. This is a beautiful description–the image of his father’s happening to see him clad in rags, poor, and emaciated, and yet he recognized his son, and all the feelings of a father prompted him to go and embrace him.

Had compassion. Pitied him. Saw his condition–his poverty and his wretched appearance–and was moved with compassion and love.

And ran. This is opposed to the manner in which the son came. The beauty of the picture is greatly heightened by these circumstances. The son came slowly– the father ran. The love and joy of the old man were so great that he hastened to meet him and welcome him to his home.

Fell on his neck. Threw his arms around his neck and embraced him.

And kissed him. This was a sign at once of affection and reconciliation. This must at once have dissipated every doubt of the son about the willingness of his father to forgive and receive him. A kiss is a sign of affection, 1 Samuel 10:1; Genesis 29:13. This is evidently designed to denote the readiness of God to pity and pardon returning sinners. In this verse of inimitable beauty is contained the point of the parable, which was uttered by the Savior to vindicate his own conduct in receiving sinners kindly. Who could blame this father for thus receiving his repenting son? Not even a Pharisee could blame him; and our Savior thus showed them, so that they could not resist it, that God received returning sinners, and that it was right for him also to receive them and treat them with attention.

Verse 21. No Barnes text on this verse.

Verse 22. The best robe. The son was probably in rags. The joy of the father is expressed by clothing him in the best raiment, that he might appear well. The robe here mentioned is probably the outer garment; and the father told them to put on him the best one that was in the house–one reserved for festival occasions. See Genesis 27:15.

A ring on his hand. To wear a ring on the hand was one mark of wealth and dignity. The rich and those in office commonly wore them. Comp. James 2:2. To give a ring was a mark of favor, or of affection, or of conferring office. Comp. Genesis 41:42; Esther 8:2. Here it was expressive of the favor and affection of the father.

Shoes on his feet. Servants, probably, did not usually wear shoes. The son returned, doubtless, without shoes–a condition very unlike that in which he was when he left home. When, therefore, the father commanded them to put shoes on him, it expressed his wish that he should not be treated as a servant, but as a son. The word shoes here, however, means no more than sandals, such as were commonly worn. And the meaning of all these images is the same– that God will treat those who return to him with kindness and affection. These images should not be attempted to be spiritualized. They are beautifully thrown in to fill up the narrative, and to express with more force the general truth that God will treat returning penitents with mercy and with love. To dress up the son in this manner was a proof of the father’s affection. So God will bestow on sinners the marks of his confidence and regard.

Verse 23. Be merry. Literally, “eating, let us rejoice.” The word merry does not quite express the meaning of the Greek. Merriment denotes a light, playful, jovial mirth. The Greek denotes simply joy–let us be happy, or joyful.

Verse 24. Was dead. This is capable of two significations:

  1. I supposed that he was dead, but I know now that he is alive.
  2. He was dead to virtue–he was sunk in pleasure and vice. The word is not infrequently thus used. See 1 Timothy 5:6; Matthew 8:22; Romans 6:13. Hence to be restored to virtue is said to be restored to life, Romans 6:13; Revelation 3:1; Ephesians 2:1. It is probable that this latter is the meaning here. See Luke 15:31.
  3. Was lost. Had wandered away from home, and we knew not where he was.

Verse 25. In the field. At work. This eldest son is designed to represent the Pharisees who had found fault with the Savior. Their conduct is likened to that of this envious and unnatural brother.

Music and dancing. Dancing was not uncommon among the Hebrews, and was used on various occasions. Thus Miriam celebrated the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt in dances as well as songs, Exodus 15:20. David danced before the ark, 2 Samuel 6:14. It was common at Jewish feasts (Judges 21:19-21) and in public triumphs (Judges 11:34), and at all seasons of mirth and rejoicings, Psalms 30:11; Jeremiah 31:4,13. It was also used in religious services by the idolaters (Exodus 32:19), and also by the Jews, at times, in their religious services, Psalms 149:3; 150:4. In this case it was an expression of rejoicing. Our Lord expresses no opinion about its propriety. He simply states the fact, nor was there occasion for comment on it. His mentioning it cannot be pleaded for its lawfulness or propriety, any more than his mentioning the vice of the younger son, or the wickedness of the Pharisees, can be pleaded to justify their conduct. It is an expressive image, used in accordance with the known customs of the country, to express joy. It is farther to be remarked, that if the example of persons in Scripture be pleaded for dancing, it can be only for just such dances as they practiced –for sacred or triumphal occasions.

Verses 26-28. Safe and sound. In health.


Items for Discussion

  • How did you feel when you had though you lost something of great value and then later, much later, found it?
  • How would you compare the prodigal son’s demeanor with that of his fathers?
  • How the father’s actions were much like that of God’s or Christ’s when we compare other stories in our Scriptures?
  • Who have you related to the most in the sermon series, the prodigal son, the older brother or the father?

Discussion Challenge

  • How do we, as the body of Christ’s church, live this parable?