The Most Dangerous Situation You’ll Ever Encounter: A Sermon for Wednesday of Judica on Psalm 130

isis-beheadingClick here for a free, downloadable Bible study of Psalm 130 from Around the Word.

Out | of the depths*
     I cry to you, | O LORD!
O Lord, | hear my voice!*
     Let your ears be attentive
     to the voice of my pleas for | mercy!
If you, O LORD, should mark in- | iquities,*
     O Lord, | who could stand?
But with you there is for- | giveness,*
     that you | may be feared.
I wait for the LORD, my | soul waits,*
     and in his | word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the | morning,*
     more than watchmen for the | morning.
O Israel, hope in the LORD!
For with the LORD there is | steadfast love,*
     and with him is plentiful re- | demption.
And he will redeem | Israel*
     from all his in- | iquities.
(Psalm 130)

And indeed, He has redeemed you, O Israel, from all your iniquities. For on the cross, where your Lord hung beaten, bloody, and naked, there you see inscribed in shining letters the words, “God is love,” (LSB, 429; st. 2).

We live in a world fraught with danger. ISIS is located in the Middle East, but their terrorism knows no borders. As I was writing this sermon I did a quick scan of the news. As expected, most of the articles were about death, destruction, or disease. A few of the headlines I came across included “Passenger Jet Carrying 150 Crashes in France”; “More Women Opt to Lower Ovarian Cancer Risk”; “Chicago Postal Worker Shot on His Way to Work”; “Wisconsin State Trooper Shot and Killed”; “Detroit Mother Arrested after Bodies of 2 Kids Found in Freezer.” What a terrible, dangerous world in which we live.

And so Psalm 130 began with a plea for help: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!” Whenever someone calls out to God “from the depths” in the Bible, serious danger is imminent. And in almost every case, that danger takes the form of drowning in water, as we see in Psalm 62:

I sink in deep mire,
where there is no | foothold;*
     I have come into deep waters,
     and the flood sweeps | over me.
Deliver me from sinking | in the mire;*
     let me be delivered from my enemies
     and from the deep | waters.
(Psalm 69:2, 14)

Isaiah speaks of the grave danger Israel faced in the wilderness when they came up against the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army in hot pursuit (Isa 51:19). Now we know how that all turned out: God miraculously parted the sea; Israel passed through on dry ground, but the waters came back over the Egyptians and they drowned. But try to imagine what your state of mind would have been like had you been there, walking through the middle of a sea with the waters parted on either side. I guarantee you every Israelite who passed through those waters had the very same fear that was realized by Pharaoh and his army. After all, it’s not every day you pass through the middle of the depths of the sea on dry ground.

Ezekiel speaks of the city of Tyre, a city known primarily for three things: its impressive ships, sea trade, and arrogance (Ezekiel 27). So God judged them by means of the very sea which they held so dear, as the prophet says: “Now you are wrecked by the seas, in the depths of the waters; your merchandise and all your crew in your midst have sunk with you,” (Ezekiel 27:34).

In each of these examples we see people in very dangerous situations, all of which involve the threat of drowning in water. But here in Psalm 130 we find the one case in Scripture where someone cries out to God “from the depths”, but those depths aren’t water. Like water, these depths have destructive power, but even more so. As terrible as drowning in water would be, it would be so much worse to drown in your sin. So that this might not happen, we cry out with the psalmist for deliverance from our sin:

If you, O LORD, should mark in- | iquities,*
     O Lord, | who could stand?
(Psalm 130:3)

St. Paul takes the danger of sin so seriously that he says when someone stubbornly persists in open, unrepentant sin, the Church has an obligation to hand that person over to Satan “for the destruction of the flesh,” (1 Cor 5:1–5). Handing someone over to Satan is just about the last thing you’d ever expect the Bible to encourage. As terrible as excommunication is, it is sometimes necessary. It is certainly not something we do quickly or lightly, and we don’t do so out of anger. But to let someone persist in sin is the opposite of love, especially since sin is so much more dangerous than drowning, ISIS, or ovarian cancer could ever be.

Remember what our Lord says about what we should and should not fear? ISIS can harm the body, but that’s the worst they can do. Rather fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:28). That’s what happens to those who, blinded by their sin, do not see Christ as their Savior. The most dangerous situation you’ll ever encounter is your own sin, not only because it brings physical death, but because it can cause you to experience the much more terrible second death, eternal suffering in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur (Revelation 21:8).

So repent, beloved, of your sin. There is nothing more dangerous to your present well-being and eternal salvation than your own sin.

But when you confess your sin, God disarms the power of sin to harm you. For when you confess, He is faithful and just to forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. As the Psalm (130) says:

But with you there is for- | giveness,*
     that you | may be feared.
O Israel, hope in the LORD!
For with the LORD there is | steadfast love,*
     and with him is plentiful re- | demption.
And he will redeem | Israel*
     from all his in- | iquities.
(Psalm 130:4, 7–8)

Where sin is forgiven, death gives way to life. Your eternal life has already begun at the font, when you were baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. There you passed through saving waters so much greater than the Red Sea. The destructive power of water in Holy Baptism is a blessed destruction, as it is a drowning of the sinful flesh. Though your body will indeed go into the grave one day, Christ has sanctified your grave so that it will be nothing more than a peaceful sleep for your body until the Lord’s reappearing.

But you’re more than just a body. That will be raised up on the Last Day, to be sure, but your soul will be with Jesus immediately upon the moment of your death. As our Lord promised the thief on the cross: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise,” (Luke 23:43). Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus, not even death (Romans 8:38–39).

Soli Deo Gloria

+Rev. Eric Andersen
Psalm 130: The Most Dangerous Situation You’ll Ever Encounter
Wednesday of Judica, 2015
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