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A message for the week starting on Sunday, 9 June 2024

Lectionary Week:  Thirds week after Pentecost

Prescribed Texts: 1 Samual 8:4-11, Psalm 130, 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1, Mark 3:20-35

Focus Text: Psalm 130

I read in a book that the first five verses of Psalm 130 appear on a wall of remembrance for the Jews who died in the German concentration camp at Dachau. This Psalm was written by a pilgrim, probably on his way to Jerusalem, through the barren desert areas of Israel. And in this way the words of Psalm 130 express the desire of every single person in distress, whether that person is in hospital or in a cell, whether that person is rich or poor. In times of distress we need to get a glimpse of a better future. Psalm 130 explains this process in three steps. However, let us not make the mistake to describe this, as people so often do today, as “three easy steps towards a better future” – because definitely these are not three easy steps. On the contrary.

Psalm 130 starts with the words: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.” This caused Psalm 130 to be better known by the Latin translation of these first words: De Profundis – Out of the depths. Many of us have found ourselves in such a position at some time or other in our lives, where it feels as though all light has vanished and we are totally surrounded by darkness. The well-known author, Oscar Wilde, was imprisoned at one stage of his life and he wrote a letter from this hell in which he found himself, which was later published under the title De Profundis.

Verse 2 tells us how this man in distress called out to God: “O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.” Unfortunately we are much too familiar with the terrible circumstances found on earth: cancer, war, poverty, unrighteousness, child abuse, gender-based violence, HIV and AIDS. Within these circumstances the one in distress calls out to God, knowing that Jesus also called out to God in His greatest moment of distress. As we become increasingly aware of God, so our cries before Him increase in volume, so our desire to be close to Him also increases. The distress in which we find ourselves may be the result of our own sin – a wrong choice we had made somewhere in our lives. It may be the result of someone else who had made a wrong choice. Whatever the reason, we keep on crying out to God in our distress.

Verse 5 says: “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits…” Waiting on the Lord to react is one of the most difficult things to do. When we find ourselves in distress, we want to be saved and we want to be saved NOW! The author of Psalm 130 however discovered the redeeming power of waiting upon the Lord. With the belief that his sins had been forgiven, he now waits upon the Lord to deliver him from his distress. Salvation is not found within ourselves. Salvation is found in God alone, through our relationship with Christ. In his letter, De Profundis, Oscar Wilde records how he discovered Jesus Christ from within the darkness of a prison cell, as he waited to be released.

Psalm 130 ends with a new vision bringing hope to this man in distress: “O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.” Victor Frankl, the Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, indicated in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, the importance of finding meaning in the midst of the harshest circumstances and thereby maintaining hope for the future. In the concentration camp where he was imprisoned, he found that people who could find meaning for their lives, were better able to survive the hardships of the camp. When people lost hope, they died.

Putting his hope in God is what brings peace into the soul of the author of Psalm 130.

These are definitely not three easy steps. But Psalm 130 becomes a lifelong journey for those who seek to find hope in God in spite of their circumstances.

Written by Dr Arnau van Wyngaard, recently retired DRC minister Shiselweni, Eswatini.