“Wait Upon the Lord with Hope” – Psalm 130:5-6
Introduction – Watchmen
Listen to these words from Psalm 130:5-6: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.”
OK… that must be important… because it is repeated twice – “more than watchmen wait for the morning.” What does that mean?
I can tell you that it is not referring to guys that work in a factory making clocks and watches. After all that Psalm was written long before Jesus was born, and they didn’t have watches back then. And if that’s kind of what it meant, it would have said “more than sundial guys watch for the morning” – because if they were concerned about the time they would have consulted the town sundial.
No, watchmen referred to men that were guarding the city from attack. They might walk along sidewalks on the top edge of the city wall. They would watch and listen for any sign of enemy movement so that they could alert the city’s residents to prepare for battle. In Roman times, there were four overnight shifts, so you can imagine the last guys – with the shift from 3:00 – 6:00 in the morning – and they’ve been walking for three hours already, and they’re tired, and their eyelids are getting droopy – kind of like when you’re listening to the pastor preach!! And they just want to go home to bed. And they keep looking toward the east, waiting for that first glimmer of dawn from the rising sun – the sign that their shift is over. They hope… they hope… THEY HOPE it’s going to be soon!! So, now you can imagine what it’s like for watchmen to wait for the morning.
And the person who wrote the psalm said, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits for the Lord more fervently than those watchmen wait for the morning!” And he adds, “In His Word I hope.”
1. Theme word: Hope
Hope is our theme word for today. Our Advent series is “Wait Upon the Lord.” Last Sunday we talked about “with faith” – like Abraham and Sarah waited for a son, and waited for their family tree to start growing, because… well, because God promised it. So, they waited with faith… because God was trustworthy, and He keeps all His promises in Christ. (Remember the little Bible verse we had with all those actions?) And today, our theme adds that we wait upon the Lord with hope.
“Hope” is kind of a Christmas word, isn’t it? Everybody is hoping for something for Christmas. There is a song that goes, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…” That person is hoping for snow before Christmas, and to last all the way through Christmas. Not likely where we live… rain, maybe, and more rain, and more rain.
There’s another song, “It’s beginning to look at lot like Christmas,” and in one of the verses it explains what kids wanted for Christmas, oh, about 60 years ago:
A pair of Hopalong boots and a pistol that shoots Is the wish of Barney and Ben
Dolls that’ll talk and will go for a walk Is the hope of Janice and Jen
And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again.
The “hope of Janice and Jen.” Yes, we all get our hopes up for Christmas. If we could read your dad’s mind, we might hear this: “Man, I sure hope I get what I want for Christmas. I really want a new car. Do you think I’ll get it? I sure hope I do.” What about your mom? She might be thinking: “I hope that everybody can get here for Christmas. I hope we can find the PERFECT Christmas tree. I hope that there’s a small brightly-wrapped gift under the tree with my name on it, because you know what comes in small packages… maybe diamonds, or jewels, or gold of some kind. I’d love some new jewelry for Christmas. And I know I deserve it, because I’ve been really good. I’ve done a lot of good things for a lot of people. I’ve been working really hard. I’ve been really nice to everyone – especially my kids. It has been a long time since I’ve been bad, so I sure hope people are watching so I get just what I want for Christmas!”
After hearing these words, what do you hope you will get for Christmas? I don’t even know what kids want for Christmas these days. So, each of you tell me one thing you hope you’ll get for Christmas. (Wait for answers.) Do you think you’ll get what you’re hoping for? What makes you think you are going to get it? On what do you base your hope? Is it just because you’ve been asking for it all year? Is it because you’ve been really good and you deserve it? Is it just a hope like every other hope that is all based on chance and luck, or is it based on something more solid, real and certain? Might it be based on who you have told what you’d like? (Not Santa, but your parents!! And you know they love you, and they want to give you good gifts – maybe not all the things you want, but some things you want, and especially the things you need!!)
2. Psalm 130 – a Penitential Psalm
The verse that I read at the beginning of this message is part of a Psalm that is called a “Penitential Psalm.” What that means is that the person who wrote it is repenting, or turning from sin, and turning toward God. The person who wrote it feels really bad for what he did, thought and said that was wrong – just like you and I do. He wanted to tell God that he was sorry, so he wrote this Psalm to do that. It is like a prayer to God. We can use it ourselves to pray to God and tell him that we are sorry too. Let’s do that now. I’m going to read it, and explain it, and I want you to think about it, and make this “sorry” prayer your own.
It starts with “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.” That describes how low and sorry the psalmist feels. It’s like he’s crying from the bottom of a pit, or the bottom of a well, or the bottom of a cave or mine, or the bottom of an ocean. Out of the DEPTHS he’s crying to God. And he’s crying loudly because he’s sorry for what he has done. But he’s also crying loudly because he wants to make sure God hears him. If you were calling out to your parents because you had fallen down into an abandoned well, you would have to cry out loudly, too, so they would hear you.
That’s what the psalmist says next: “O Lord, hear my voice!” So, he’s crying from the bottom of something, and he wants God to hear him. The next sentence explains even more: “Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy.” Did you know that God has ears? Yes, He has ears to listen to all of our prayers – prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of asking for things, prayers saying you are sorry for your sins. That last one is what the psalmist was expressing to God – listen to my pleas for mercy. A plea is a request, and not just a gentle request, but a very passionate and heart-felt request, like begging. “God, hear me. You’ve got to HEAR ME!! I need your mercy.” The psalmist knows what he has done wrong. He doesn’t tell us, but we know the things that we have done wrong, and we can make a plea for God’s mercy, too. And mercy… well, that’s like when you deserve something bad for what you’ve done, but your parents, or in this case God, doesn’t give you all the bad that you deserve.
Mercy would be:
Your parents tell you that you won’t get any dessert unless you eat all your vegetables. You don’t eat them all, you try, but oh, they just don’t taste so good. Half your vegetables are still on your plate, but your parents’ mercy allows you to have a little taste of dessert.
Mercy would be:
You didn’t tell your parents that you were going to your friend’s place after school, and they were worried about you, they didn’t know where you were. You know that the rules at your house mean that you’ll be grounded for a whole week. But your parents only ground you for 3 days instead of 7 days. That’s mercy.
The psalmist is calling out for God’s mercy. He knows he has done wrong things, sinful things, and he knows he should receive punishment from God, but he asks for mercy… maybe less punishment, or none at all. “Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy.”
Then he points out that he doesn’t even deserve to be in God’s presence. “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities [that’s just another word for sins]… so, if you should pay attention to our sins, who could stand? Who could even dare to stand before you?”
I remember a time when I was about 11 years old. My brother and I were playing hockey in the basement of our house. I took a hard shot and someone put a window right in front of where the ball was going. Who would do that?? Well, you know what happened – the window broke, and my dad was going to be coming home from work in a few minutes. Should I just pretend that nothing happened and hope that my dad wouldn’t notice? (Remember hope is our key word today.) Should I say that it was my brother’s fault? Should I, would I, could I even dare to stand before my dad and tell him that I broke the window? That’s what I did! I went to the front step of our house, and looked down the street, and waited… waited until I saw my dad coming home. Then I walked down the street to meet my dad as he was walking home from work, and I told him. I dared to stand before him and tell him.
When we truly realize all the wrong things we have said and done and thought, when we realize how sinful we are, we don’t deserve to stand before a holy and sinless God. Do we dare to come to God with our sins? The psalmist did, and was he surprised!!
The next thing he writes is “With You there is forgiveness!” When I broke that window in the basement, I was brave and courageous to tell my dad about it because… I knew my dad, and I trusted him to be forgiving. In the same way, the psalmist knew God, and He trusted God to be forgiving. “With You there is forgiveness.” There IS forgiveness. Even back almost 3,000 years, the man who wrote that psalm knew that God is forgiving. That’s God’s character, His nature. The psalmist added “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits and in His Word I hope.” He was waiting for God to send the Messiah, the Saviour, the Redeemer, the one who would forgive sins once and for all.
And that’s kind of how the Psalm ends: “O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with Him is plentiful redemption. And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” There is hope again, and love, and redemption / saving, but that redeeming is in the future – “He WILL redeem Israel.” And the psalmist had to wait, patiently, fervently, hopefully, like the watchmen wait for the morning! It would still take hundreds of years before that Saviour came, but that didn’t stop the psalmist from trusting God, and from hoping for… well, a Christmas present.
3. The waiting is over… the best gifts!
We know that that Christmas present came one year a long time ago when Mary gave birth to a baby boy and placed him in a manger bed. His name is Jesus, and it’s especially because of Jesus that we can trust God to be forgiving of us, too. We don’t have to wait anymore, like the psalmist did. The waiting is over. What we wait for is the celebration of Jesus’ birth, the celebration of hopes realized, the celebration of forgiveness accomplished when Jesus died on the cross… for US!!
Let’s just stop right there. A few minutes ago, I asked you on what you based your hope of getting good presents for Christmas? When it comes to gifts, you have to put your hope in the one giving the gifts. At Christmas, it’s your parents, grandparents, maybe your siblings. They love you and they give you good gifts.
When it comes to the church, to our own soul, and to faith, JESUS is the giver of all good gifts! In the psalm it says, “In his Word I hope.” The Word of Jesus is THE BEST! What he says is always the truth. He never lies, and he never disappoints us. He is always doing and saying the right things for us, and so the hope we have in Jesus is sure, certain and real! It is not just good luck and chance. We can be certain that He will give us all the best gifts!
We’re not going to get those gifts because we’ve been really good and we deserve it. We don’t necessarily deserve the gifts that God wants to give us, but He gives them because His nature is to give good and perfect gifts.
In the church we receive gifts all the time. We get gifts of God’s love, joy, peace, forgiveness, and so much more! These are THE BEST gifts we can ever get, even better than a new car! A new car won’t be new for long. It will get old and run down before we know it. The best toy you could ever get is not going to be the best toy next year, and it sure isn’t going to last forever. The gifts we get from Jesus last forever! So when we say that we hope in Jesus, we aren’t just saying that Jesus might give us forgiveness if we are good enough. We are saying that Jesus WILL give us forgiveness, because HE is good enough! Our HOPE is always in Jesus! Amen.