The Pilgrim’s Help When Under Chastisement 

a brief study of Psalm 130, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 5 Aug 2011

Psalm 130 is another Pilgrim Psalm, but a rather unique one. Psalm 129 is a unique Pilgrim Psalm for it is an Imprecatory Psalm. Psalm 130 is a unique Pilgrim Psalm for it is a Penitential Psalm. It is one of the seven Penitential Psalms in the Bible.

Penitential Psalms were written by David on the occasions when he was facing the chastisement of God for his sin. They generally express deep grief for sin against God, and at the same time great hope through forgiveness.

Some of them were written when God chastised David for some specific sins. We think, for example, of Psalm 32 and 51 which where written in the aftermath of David’s sin of adultery and murder against Bathsheba and her husband.

But other penitential psalms were written as David experienced God’s chastisement for sin in general and not necessarily for any particular sin. When the apostle to the Hebrews says “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Heb 12:6), he is, referring, particularly, to this general chastisement. Because of our pride, failures, hardness of heart, and disobedience, God chastises.  He chastises us that we may be purified as gold. Psalm 130 is one such psalm.

Now, many commentators have difficulties seeing any of the Penitential Psalms as Messianic or Christological.

But we need not doubt that all the psalms were written in the Spirit of Christ for the church to sing in union with Him. And the Penitential Psalms are no exception. In fact, I believe they give us a glimpse of the inner turmoil of the Lord as He bore our sin as our substitute. When we approach the psalms in this way, it is often not difficult to see how they fitted into actual experiences of our Lord in His humiliation.

Does not, for example, Psalm 130 seem to fit like a glove into the circumstance of our Lord during the three days when His body was in the depths of the earth as Jonah was three days in the whale’s belly (Mt 12:40). Did not our Lord, as it were, wait for the light of the resurrection morning with anticipation?

When we sing this psalm with the humiliation of Christ in mind, we are given to feel something of what our Lord felt in regard to the horror of sin which separated us from God.

But that said, because of the nature of these psalms, they are often most profitably studied by applying them directly to our experience as sinners under chastisement rather than to Christ’s humiliation for us. Of course, we can apply them to ourselves only because we are united to Christ so that we can hope the same hope, cry the same cry, and feel the same feeling. This is why we can sing it, sometimes with gratitude in our heart for what the Lord has experienced for us, and sometimes as expression of our own experience.

Bearing this in mind, let us see how Psalm 130 may apply to us when we come under the chastising hand of God. We may entitle it: “The Pilgrim’s Help under Chastisement.”

This Psalm has 4 parts of 2 verses each, which I believe, can each be translated into a resolution to remember in times when we are brought low.

The first resolution is:

1.  I will cry to the LORD no matter how low I sink

This psalm was written when David was, as it were, in “the depths” (v. 1). We don’t know exactly what were the depths that David had fallen into. But we are all familiar with the metaphor. We know how it may come about through failures, economic losses, illnesses or sin. We speak of being down in the dumps. We say we have sunken deep into depression and in trouble and the billows are rolling over us.

Sometimes when we are in such a situation, we are tempted to despair or to be bitter. We are tempted to think that God has forsaken us and will not hear us. We are tempted to cease to pray for we feel that we will not be heard.

But Christ our Lord,—who had sunk deeper than any man could have sunken,—teaches us otherwise:

1  Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD. 2 Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.

I will cry; I will cry unto thee O LORD, no matter how deep I sink. Hear my voice O LORD and let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my humble supplication.

But secondly,…

2. I will draw near to the LORD despite my Sin

David wrote:

3 If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.

We don’t know if David had any particular sin he had committed in mind. But the Spirit of Christ who inspired Him to write would have us know that it does not matter what our sin or iniquities are.

However small or great our sin may be, we shall not be able to stand if the LORD were to mark our iniquities.

What is it to mark our iniquities? It is to keep a record. It is to bear it always in mind.

Thank God that He does not do so for His children. There is forgiveness and an implied forgetfulness with Him. When we confess our sin, He takes our sin and casts it behind Him into the depths of the ocean. As for as the East is from the West so far hath He removed our transgressions from us!

Our sins were nailed to the Cross and lifted up. Therefore when God looks at us, He sees not the sin. “But there is forgiveness with thee, [O LORD] that thou mayest be feared.

Thank God for the assurance of forgiveness, for only with this assurance do I dare to lift up my head to worship Him with fear and love mingled together.

I will, therefore, not let my sin drive a wedge between God and me. I will cling on to Christ my elder brother and rather draw near to the Father in tears of gratitude to fear Him and worship Him as a child coming unto his father in humble contrition.

But thirdly, …

3. I will hope in the LORD when Everything Looks Bleak

When we come under the mighty hand of God’s chastisement, the future can often be extremely uncertain. Jacob knew not what the future would be like. David when pursued by Absalom could only live day by day. Jonah did not know if he would live, not to mention where he was going in the whale’s belly.

In these hours of darkness, hope can be illusive. But thank God that in the LORD, we can have hope even in uncertainty.

5 I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. 6 My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.

Thank God for the assurance that He is faithful to keep His promise. Therefore we can hope. Thank God He is in control. Thank God for the knowledge that He holds tomorrow. Thank God for His promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us. Thank God for His pledge that all things will work together for His elect.

For this reason, in these dark hours my soul can wait for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning. Those that watch for the morning are confident that the morning will come. My confidence in the Lord should and can be greater than that.

I must wait upon the Lord with a firm hope that come what may, He is doing all things well. My hope shall not be a vain wish. My hope is a firm assurance that as God has said, it will come to pass.

I will cling on to my Saviour and hope in the LORD when the future seems to me like a swirling and erratic wind.

But finally,…

4. I will seek the LORD with the Church

When our Lord was crucified, He did not go to the cross as an individual. When He was buried, He was not buried as an individual.

He was crucified as the Head of Church. The Church is His body. He was buried as the Head of His church. This is why our resurrection is so closely tied to the resurrection of Christ in the Scriptures.

So likewise David was aware that he was not alone in his sufferings. He was part of the body. So he does not forget Israel. He would have Israel hope in the LORD with him. So he wrote:

7 Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. 8 And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

We must share the same attitude for we must sing the same song. We must never give in to the temptation to cut ourselves off from the Church when we come under the chastising hand of God.

We are not alone in our suffering. As Christians we will always suffer as part of a body, even the body of Christ unto which we are united. When “one member suffer, all the members suffer with it” for we are one body (1 Cor 12:26).

So then, let us in our deepest trials call upon the church to pray with us and hope with us, for with the LORD there is mercy and plenteous redemption. As the LORD redeems the individual, so He redeems His Church. He redeems His church from her iniquity by redeeming the individual members in the church from their iniquities, and from the effects of their iniquities. I will therefore cling on to my Redeemer and lift up my head to praise the Father together with the church redeemed by His blood even though much sorrow attends my soul because of sin.


Psalm 130 has been a comfort to many a saint undergoing trials. What is it to you, beloved brethren, youth and children?

Will you not learn from the Psalmists:

  • To cry unto the LORD no matter how low you sink; 
  • To draw near to the LORD despite your sin and unworthiness; 
  • To hope in the LORD though everything seems so bleak; and 
  • To wait upon the LORD in unity with the Church.

The Lord cares. He will never leave you nor forsake you in your darkest trials. Such as hope in Him will have deliverance in His name! Amen.