Waiting for Forgiveness:
A Devotion for the Second Sunday of Advent
LORD, if you kept a record of our sins,
who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
that we might learn to fear you.
Psalm 130 begins with a desperate cry for help. The psalmist calls out
to God “from the depths of despair” (v. 1). We do not know the exact
predicament in which the psalmist found himself, but we do know that it
was related to his sin: “LORD, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O
Lord, could ever survive?” (v. 3). Implied within this statement is an
understanding that our sins are so numerous and appalling that we
deserve to die because of them.
But that’s not the end of the story. Verse 4 continues: “But you
offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you.” No matter how much
we have sinned, we have hope because God is merciful. He forgives and
restores. Notice the unexpected result of our forgiveness: “that we
might learn to fear you.” You might think that the experience of
forgiveness would lead to taking God for granted. In fact, however, when
we truly grasp the import of our sin, and when we truly realize the
wonder of God’s forgiveness, the more we will be drawn to reverence. We
will bow before the Lord in humble worship and live our lives in service
In Psalm 130, the fact that God forgives and restores fuels the
psalmist’s hope: “I am counting on the LORD; . . . I have put my hope in
his word. I long for the Lord more than sentries long for the dawn”
(vv. 5-6). The psalm writer yearns for the day when God will forgive,
not just his sin, but also the sin of Israel. On that day, “He himself
will redeem Israel from every kind of sin” (v. 8). Thus, the psalmist
urges Israel to “hope in the LORD; for with the LORD there is unfailing
love” (v. 7).
The hope of Psalm 130 is an Advent kind of hope. The psalmist is
hoping, waiting, aching to experience God’s forgiveness and redemption.
In the season of Advent, we remember how God’s people once yearned for a
Savior who would restore their nation. We also get in touch with our
own need for forgiveness and renewal. Though the situation is quite
different from that of the writer of Psalm 130, we also put our hope in
the Lord and long for him. We too need him to put our lives back
together. We too need to experience the new life he alone can give.
Thus, Psalm 130 helps us prepare for a rich celebration of the birth of
the Savior who will indeed bring God’s forgiveness and redemption to the
world . . . including you and me.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Take some time to
reflect on the reality of God’s forgiveness through Christ. How do you
respond to the fact that God forgives all of your sin? How does this
truth help you to fear the Lord, that is, to revere him and humbly
PRAYER: Gracious God, like the psalmist, there have
been many times when I cry out to you from the depths of despair, times
when I beg you to hear my prayer and pay attention to me. Thank you for
being there, for listening, for making yourself known to me.
Yes, it’s true, Lord, that if you kept a record of my sins, I’d be
without hope. But in fact you are gracious and merciful. You do forgive.
Thus I hope in you. I trust you with my present and my future.
To be sure, there is still more to be redeemed in my life. May your
forgiveness and healing touch every part of me. May I live each moment
out of reverence for you, offering myself to you as a living sacrifice.
Thank you, dear Lord, for the season of Advent, for the opportunity
to be reminded of just how much I need you. All praise be to you, Amen.
Here’s how . . . .
This devotional comes from The High Calling: Everyday Conversations about Work, Life, and God (www.thehighcalling.org). You can read my Daily Reflections there, or sign up to have them sent to your email inbox each day. This website contains lots of encouragement for people who are trying to live out their faith in the workplace. The High Calling is associated with Laity Lodge, where I work.