“And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison.” Mark 6:27
Arguably Martin Luther’s favorite Psalm was 130. The last verse of this Psalm predicts the Savior with these words: And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities [v 8]. This verse not only encapsulates the message of the entire Old Testament, it also explains and supports the preceding verses of this Psalm.
Verses 1 and 2 of Psalm 130 form a powerful cry of lamentation: 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! Every Christian either has expressed or will express such a cry to one degree or another. Some individuals experience the depths of pain, misery, frustration, loss of bodily functions, economic loss and even a degree of despair, more than others; but all feel it. Because of the fallenness of this world, every non-Christian and yes, every Christian groans in this realm ruled by the Prince of Darkness.
John the Baptist went down into the depths quite deep. He had been imprisoned, and the torture of such damp, dark, coarse imprisonment often resulted in death, and just the imprisonment would have generated the cry, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!” Certainly it was the Psalms of lamentation—such as Psalm 130—that were in the mind and on the lips of The Baptist when he put his malnourished neck on the line and prepared to have that thinking brain and those praying lips silenced by the executioner’s sword. John would have found peace as he recalled the predicted Redeemer set forth in the last verse of Psalm 130, and he, who introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, would have had some idea of the price for his redemption. It would take the life of the sacrificial Lamb of God to procure mankind’s forgiveness.
The one who entered the deepest depths was indeed the Son of God as He hung upon the torturous tree. He was not only being tortured to death on the premiere Roman instrument of torture, but He was bearing the sin, misery and death of the entire world! No wonder the Son of God cried from such depths with the lamenting prayer of Psalm 22:1: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? It is truly this man, this Redeemer, who is at the side of John the Baptist and at the side of all who cry to God out of the depths of this fallen world. He will never leave us or forsake us. He will see us through our pain, misery and death, for He has been there, done that. We do not have one who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but one who was tempted in every way that we are, and yet He was without sin.
And why should God even consider the cry of a sinner? Every Christian is aware of this undeserving status…that no one deserves to stand before God. This is summarized in Psalm 130:3-4: If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. No one—not even the likes of John the Baptist or the Virgin Mary—could stand before God either in prayer or on Judgment Day. But because the Redeemer, as predicted in the last verse of Psalm 130, has come, there is full and complete forgiveness before God. So John, Mary and each of us can stand with imputed righteousness before God in prayer and on Judgment Day. We thus hold God in the greatest reverence (“fear”), for with Him there is forgiveness.
We then should not be surprised when we find ourselves in the depths, ultimately in the valley of the shadow of death and—like John the Baptist—we find ourselves waiting and waiting for God’s timing in our lives. In such waiting we, like John, know where to find hope. Psalm 130:5-6 reminds us where to look: 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. In God’s word we find our hope as we wait for God’s deliverance. Whether that Word be the powerful prophecies of the Redeemer, the prayers of the Psalms, the Gospels and Epistles of the New Testament and the like, such Word of God is constantly pointing us to Jesus. In the moil and toil of this life we are then looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God…everywhere for us.