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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–4
Verses 1–4

In these verses we are taught,

I. Whatever condition we are in, though ever so deplorable, to continue calling upon God, Ps. 130:1. The best men may sometimes be in the depths, in great trouble and affliction, and utterly at a loss what to do, in the depths of distress and almost in the depths of despair, the spirit low and dark, sinking and drooping, cast down and disquieted. But, in the greatest depths, it is our privilege that we may cry unto God and be heard. A prayer may reach the heights of heaven, though not out of the depths of hell, yet out of the depths of the greatest trouble we can be in in this world, Jeremiah’s out of the dungeon, Daniel’s out of the den, and Jonah’s out of the fish’s belly. It is our duty and interest to cry unto God, for that is the likeliest way both to prevent our sinking lower and to recover us out of the horrible pit and miry clay, Ps. 40:1, 2.

II. While we continue calling upon God to assure ourselves of an answer of peace from him; for this is that which David in faith prays for (Ps. 130:2): Lord, hear my voice, my complaint and prayer, and let thy ears be attentive to the voice both of my afflictions and of my supplications.

III. We are taught to humble ourselves before the justice of God as guilty in his sight, and unable to answer him for one of a thousand of our offences (Ps. 130:3): If thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord! who shall stand? His calling God Lord twice, in so few words, Jah and Adonai, is very emphatic, and intimates a very awful sense of God’s glorious majesty and a dread of his wrath. Let us learn here, 1. To acknowledge our iniquities, that we cannot justify ourselves before God, or plead Not guilty. There is that which is remarkable in our iniquities and is liable to be animadverted upon. 2. To own the power and justice of God, which are such that, if he were extreme to mark what we do amiss, there would be no hopes of coming off. His eye can discover enough in the best man to ground a condemnation upon; and, if he proceed against us, we have no way to help ourselves, we cannot stand, but shall certainly be cast. If God deal with us in strict justice, we are undone; if he make remarks upon our iniquities, he will find them to be many and great, greatly aggravated and very provoking; and then, if he should proceed accordingly, he would shut us out from all hope of his favour and shut us up under his wrath; and what could we do to help ourselves? We could not make our escape, nor resist not bear up under his avenging hand. 3. Let us admire God’s patience and forbearance; we should be undone if he were to mark iniquities, and he knows it, and therefore bears with us. It is of his mercy that we are not consumed by his wrath.

IV. We are taught to cast ourselves upon the pardoning mercy of God, and to comfort ourselves with that when we see ourselves obnoxious to his justice, Ps. 130:4. Here is, 1. God’s grace discovered, and pleaded with him, by a penitent sinner: But there is forgiveness with thee. It is our unspeakable comfort, in all our approaches to God, that there is forgiveness with him, for that is what we need. He has put himself into a capacity to pardon sin; he has declared himself gracious and merciful, and ready to forgive, Exod. 34:6, 7. He has promised to forgive the sins of those that do repent. Never any that dealt with him found him implacable, but easy to be entreated, and swift to show mercy. With us there is iniquity, and therefore it is well for us that with him there is forgiveness. There is a propitiation with thee, so some read it. Jesus Christ is the great propitiation, the ransom which God has found; he is ever with him, as advocate for us, and through him we hope to obtain forgiveness. 2. Our duty designed in that discovery, and inferred from it: “There is forgiveness with thee, not that thou mayest be made bold with and presumed upon, but that thou mayest be feared—in general, that thou mayest be worshipped and served by the children of men, who, being sinners, could have no dealings with God, if he were not a Master that could pass by a great many faults.” But this encourages us to come into his service that we shall not be turned off for every misdemeanour; no, nor for any, if we truly repent. This does in a special manner invite those who have sinned to repent, and return to the fear of God, that he is gracious and merciful, and will receive them upon their repentance, Joel 2:13; Matt. 3:2. And, particularly, we are to have a holy awe and reverence of God’s pardoning mercy (Hos. 3:5; They shall fear the Lord, and his goodness); and then we may expect the benefit of the forgiveness that is with God when we make it the object of our holy fear.