Right after the Virginia Tech University massacre, the worship leader at a community worship service turned to this text. On behalf of those gathered to find solace in God in the wake of that awful tragedy, he stood and prayed the first two verses of this psalm: "Out of the depths we cry to you, O Lord. O Lord, hear our voice. Let your ears be attentive to our cry for mercy."
I'm not surprised that these words were selected for that occasion. Down through the centuries, God's people have often made these words their own when going through deep grief.
Like other psalmists, our poet images trouble as being in the depths. Sometimes in the psalms the depths are a pit, sometimes mire, sometimes deep water. Whatever the specifics, the imagery conveys feelings of helplessness in the face of heart-breaking bereavement, victimization, or, as in the case of the Virginia Tech shootings, senseless tragedy. No light and momentary troubles here; people are in the depths, and out of the depths they cry, "O Lord, hear my voice." They beg, "Let your ears be attentive to our cry for mercy."
We all fall into the miserable depths of sin.
I'm not surprised that these words might seem fitting for the Virginia Tech service. But there is a surprise in the next line of the poem. At least, I was surprised the first time I read this psalm with care. "If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?" What surprises me is that the depths this poet talks about are not depths of illness or oppression or violence or bereavement, but depths of guilt. Unlike most psalms where this imagery is used, here it's not a case of enemies digging a pit that he fell into, or the waves and breakers of life crashing over him and overwhelming him. ...
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