This eleventh song of degrees inaugurates the beginning of the third
and concluding stage in the Christians experience towards that unity of life with God.
In the first stage of the journey, we saw the seeking and ascending soul
moving from that which is earthly to that which is heavenly.
During the second stage, he has moved from that which is carnal into that which is spiritual.
At this moment he enters upon the third and final stage of his experience.
This is where he will be united with God in a fuller way.
The sentiment of this song is conveyed by these words:
depths, cry, iniquities, who shall stand?, forgiveness, wait, hope, mercy, plenteous redemption.
If we were to read the biographies of those souls who follow the Lamb wherever He goes,
we would find in their experience something similar to what is described in this song of degrees.
Such an experience has been termed by some as "the dark night of the soul."
It is a phenomenon which stands at the threshold of a life of union with God.
This event is terrible in itself.
Yet, if a person successfully passes through this experience, he enters into the liberty of the sons of God.
This is the experience that is unfolded to us in this 130th Psalm.
During the second period of our Christian life, the Lord deals with us concerning the expressions
and the activities of our soul.
He deals with our mind, our emotion, and our volition.
He is dealing with our energy -- the energy and activities of the flesh.
But, very little is touched concerning the life of our flesh.
The activities have been dealt with, but the life of the flesh, which is self, has actually not been crippled yet.
It has not yet received a drastic blow.
This work must be done during the third stage or at the beginning of that stage.
Let's look at the characteristics of the "dark night of the soul."
Let us not forget that this thing happens only to those who have already tasted the illumination,
enlightenment, and emancipation of the second period of Christian experience.
We must remember that it was during the second period that the soul is set free
from the ties of the world and enters into light.
It is here that he receives vision, understanding, and revelation from the Lord.
He bathes himself in the full light of the Holy Spirit.
But the soul may also be required to endure the afflictions, and possibly many afflictions,
as we saw in the preceding psalm.
The soul may have to experience the plowing of the plower upon his back
which will make the furrows deep and long.
He may pass through many times of darkness, just as a seed must which is buried beneath the earth.
He may encounter countless periods of afflictions, as the seed does which decays and dies.
Nevertheless, one thing is very certain: whether there be afflictions or periods of darkness,
that soul knows the Lord is with him.
He knows the Lord has never forsaken him.
He knows through affliction in his body and agony in his soul that there is confidence in his God.
Through it all, he has fullness of the light and fullness of faith.
He has sustaining power in the presence of the Lord.
He knows the Lord will not permit any temptation to him more than his soul can bear.
(1 Corinthians 10: 13)
Afflictions are nothing if God is with us.
Darkness is never darkness if our Lord is with us.
During the second period, the soul may pass through many "dark" events.
Even so, he has an inward knowledge that the Lord is working on his behalf.
There is within the ascending soul the awareness of the presence of the Lord.
He knows that the Lord is with him.
That makes every burden light and easy.
Consider the life of our Lord Jesus.
Jesus went through many afflictions while on this earth.
You name them -- He endured them all.
But, as He went through all of them, He was comforted by the blessed assurance that the Father
was with Him.
He was pleasing the Father, and the Father was pleased with Him.
Because of this, Jesus found the strength that carried him through all the problems
regardless of how difficult they were.
Then the moment arrived, when our Lord Jesus had to go to the cross.
And during those first three hours of Calvary, He was mocked, derided, and humiliated,
as all hell raised itself up against Him.
Nonetheless, throughout those hours our Lord Jesus could still say,
"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing."
The Father was ever present with Him, providing Him with strength, support,
and making His anguish, bearable.
But then at noon time, the sun abruptly hid itself.
Darkness prevailed over the land.
Even God could not look upon this terrible scene.
Jesus cried out: "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"
It was at that moment, that our Lord entered into the "dark night of the soul!"
Thank God, towards the end, Jesus was able to say, "Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit."
- He tasted the bitterness of being forsaken by the Father.
- He was made sin for us.
- He tasted the bitterness of hell and hades.
- He went through death for us.
This explains in part what is meant by the "dark night of the soul."
At the very beginning of your journey with Christ, you were troubled by the world and the things
of the world.
Yet, the Lord has delivered you!
As you are progressing in such a positive manner, you are enjoying the presence of the Lord.
- You are now living in the heavenlies.
- You have revelation.
- You are continually rejoicing in the Lord.
- You are going forward; the Lord is leading you on and on.
You are thinking that everything is all right.
You are going onward and making great strides.
There seems to be no limit to your progress.
Suddenly, at that very moment, you are plunged into the depths without reason.
Abruptly, the sun is hidden.
A pitch-black cloud comes upon you without warning.
The thunder rolls and the lightning strikes, and you stand quivering and trembling
under the apparent anger of the Lord.
What makes it even worse, your soul entertains the presumption that you must have
somehow greatly offended the Lord.
At that moment, you feel as though you are the greatest sinner in the world.
In spite of all former experiences, in spite of every evidence of the past grace of the Lord,
in spite of the fact you have come a long way, you have come to a point when it seems
that the Lord has withdrawn from you.
It seems that the grace of God is being withheld from you, and you feel totally alone.
Like our Lord on the cross, when He was compelled to cry "out of the depths"
that terrible cry of inner loneliness, you also feel terribly alone.
Outward sufferings and mental anguish become unbearable because you feel
the inward support is no longer there.
It seems as though God has hidden His face from you.
You see yourself as the greatest sinner in the world.
You see the awfulness, the terribleness, the horridness of your very self -- there is no good in you.
It seems that the sense of sin is greatest to those who have known the Lord the most.
In Psalm 130 the consciousness of iniquity is so great that the soul is overwhelmed.
What can be left for that simple, naked, sinful self, if the Lord should withdraw Himself
and withhold His grace.
This soul stands before the Lord in utter darkness, trembling with fear.
He realizes how sinful he is.
He realizes that there is no good in him.
"I deserve everything I have coming to me.
I deserve to be judged and condemned.
And yet, I look to Thee for forgiveness.
I know there is forgiveness with Thee."
This soul is speaking of the forgiveness of his sinfulness.
He is not speaking of the forgiveness of his various sins.
This is his feeling at that awful moment.
He is conscious of nothing else but the greatness of his iniquities.
Who can stand if the Lord should inquire of us?
The soul is literally crushed under such burden.
The naked, sinful self -- the life of the flesh -- is fully revealed.
This causes that soul to abhor himself.
This is the experience of a soul's dark night!
In the depths, the sense of inward iniquity is so keen that it can easily overwhelm the soul.
Many genuine Christians who pass through such an experience even doubt that they are saved.
The soul goes through desolation and despair.
Everything seems to be lost.
Even their salvation seems to be in question.
The revelation of self, the very life spring of the natural man, is so appalling that the soul loathes himself.
He feels God is more than justified to forsake him, to withdraw from him, and even to judge him.
But has God really withdrawn Himself?
Has He really forsaken us?
Not in the slightest!
This is only the way we feel.
On the one hand, the soul accepts what comes as fully justified; on the other, he is crying out
Yet, he feels the difficulty in his voice being heard because he is at the bottom of the depths.
Again, this is his own feeling.
God allows this, so that we may know ourselves, and know there is no good in us.
He permits this in order that we may realize that we cannot live without Him.
We can only live by Him and in Him.
He hears our cries!
The Lord does truly hear us!
There is forgiveness, there is mercy, and there is plenteous redemption.
Jonah experienced something similar.
Jonah was swallowed by a big fish.
While he was in the dark belly of that fish, he cried:
"Oh Lord, I am cast into the depths; I am cast out from the sight of God! My soul fainteth!
But as I faint I cry unto the Lord and He hears me. Salvation is of the Lord."
Jonah prayed and was sure of salvation.
Christian, when you are thrown into an extremity so deep that it seems your cry
cannot possibly reach the Lord, remember, if you cry, He hears.
You will learn afresh that He has never forsaken you and will never leave you.
He has plenteous redemption.
In the greatest moment of agony over his own iniquities, the soul in Psalm 130 can still look up
and be assured by the faith within him that there is forgiveness with the Lord.
This forgiveness is more than that of sins we commit in the beginning of our Christian life.
It goes far deeper.
In addition, it forgives the person himself and all his sins and iniquities.
We must remember that such all-embracing forgiveness as this
does not usher in a life of lasciviousness or looseness of conduct.
What it really brings is the fear of the Lord.
"There is forgiveness with Thee, Lord, that thou mayest be feared." (Verse 4)
So, a brokenness of spirit may result.
We are humbled before God.
We are broken in spirit, and we pray for the forgiveness which comes from God.
The depth will do our soul real good.
Have you been broken?
Has your self been broken?
Only brokenness can bring us to the threshold of a life of union with God.
It cannot simply be a few cracks in the shell!
Many Christians have been cracked, and some fissures have indeed left a mark in their life.
But that is not enough!
There must come into our life this experience of being broken beyond repair before God.
In verses one to four, we see the soul entering into the depths and learning the lesson of brokenness.
- We must be broken in the sense that we have no strength.
- We must be crushed in the sense that we can no longer demand our right.
- We must be broken in the sense that there is no righteousness in us.
- We must be broken in the sense that we are utterly ended... and that God is our beginning!
From verses five to eight, we observed the calmness and the comfort and the consolation of the soul.
May we come to this place in our Christian walk with God, and enjoy the comfort of
the full union with Him.
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White