Prayers of Repentance – Psalm 130
“But with [the Lord] there is forgiveness…”Psalm 130:4
Take a moment and read Psalm 130.
Have you ever hit your thumb with a hammer? It hurts. But it doesn’t just hurt the small injured appendage. The pain shoots up your arm and rattles around in your brain. Your whole hand and arm tingle with pain. It’s as if your whole body is alight with the fire. What happens to one part of the body affects the whole. One of the great truths about making our home in the Lord, our dwelling in the New Jerusalem, is that we are called to live with others. As St. Paul reminds us, “we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Romans 12:5). Whatever we do in the Body of Christ, therefore, affects not ourselves alone, but everyone who dwells with us in the New Jerusalem.
Psalm 130 is an individual lament, expressing penitence and trust in God’s mercy. And though it is written in the first person singular, it is a cry of repentance for the whole people of Israel. The penitential element of this psalm is geared toward helping the new inhabitants of the Promised Land to see themselves as forgiven people, whose only right to enter God’s presence lies in His mercy. “And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”
The call is to repentance, a cleansing of all the people, that we may live together in harmony. And so, we repent for ourselves, yes, but also on behalf of the whole Body of Christ. Both Ezra the priest, and Daniel the prophet recognized the need for this corporate repentance before the land could be properly settled. Daniel cried to the Lord: “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us” (Dan 9:16). Ezra prayed, “From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt… But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant and to give us a secure hold within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving… to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem” (Ezra 10:7-9).
The challenge of dwelling in the New Jerusalem is to move from self will into God’s will, to turn our attention from the things of this world and onto the way of life in Christ Jesus. Our desire should be to seek to be transformed into the sorts of people who live lives of grace in Christ. Through baptism we were born into Zion, we were made citizens of the New Jerusalem, but we have been separated from the land of our birth by our sin. It was a long journey to get here, but the work has just begun. Living in the New Jerusalem requires a new heart and a new attitude, a different set of skills than we possessed and employed while living in exile. Repentance is key. We will get distracted from time to time and will return to our old ways of living. We need to be held accountable. We need each other to build ourselves up. And we need to be patient, compassionate, and understanding of one another. Not tolerating sin, but loving the sinner. And repenting for ourselves and the whole Body of Christ.