Songs of Ascent - Fall 2020 - Reflection 5 of 6
By Pastor Matt Bisel
Read the psalms and discuss the questions below. Each Small Group is different, some tend to be more talkative, other not as much. Do your best to manage time; it's okay if you don’t make it through all the questions.
Psalm 130 - Hope
I cry out to you from the depths, Lord—
my Lord, listen to my voice!
Let your ears pay close attention to my request for mercy!
If you kept track of sins, Lord—
my Lord, who would stand a chance?
But forgiveness is with you—
that’s why you are honored.
I hope, Lord.
My whole being hopes,
and I wait for God’s promise.
My whole being waits for my Lord— more than the night watch waits for morning;
yes, more than the night watch waits for morning!
Israel, wait for the Lord!
Because faithful love is with the Lord;
because great redemption is with our God!
He is the one who will redeem Israel
from all its sin.
Common English Bible
Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life!
Master, hear my cry for help!
Listen hard! Open your ears!
Listen to my cries for mercy.
If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings,
who would stand a chance?
As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit,
and that’s why you’re worshiped.
I pray to God—my life a prayer—
and wait for what he’ll say and do.
My life’s on the line before God, my Lord,
waiting and watching till morning,
waiting and watching till morning.
O Israel, wait and watch for God— with God’s arrival comes love,
with God’s arrival comes generous redemption.
No doubt about it—he’ll redeem Israel, buy back Israel from captivity to sin.
In this short psalm the name of God is used eight times. Within it, what characteristics of God do we find? Or another way to put it, in what ways does the psalmist understand God to work?
The psalm opens with a cry for help from the depths. You can hear the desperation in their voice as they plead to God, “Listen to my voice…open your ears…mercy…mercy…mercy!” The crises, trouble, or suffering of the psalmist is lived, an unavoidable part of the human experience. It is expressed in prayer openly and passionately to God. How do you pray to God? How have you experienced God in times of suffering?
The psalmist waits with their “whole being” in expectation, “more than the night watch waits for morning.” What expectations are expressed in the psalmist’s suffering and prayer? What expectation do you bring to prayer? In what ways do our expectations lead to hope?
At the beginning of the psalm, the palmist “cries for mercy,” seeking personal redemption. In the closing lines the psalmist puts their hope in Israel’s redemption. In what ways are personal and communal redemption related?
Psalm 131 - Humility
Lord, my heart isn’t proud;
my eyes aren’t conceited.
I don’t get involved with things too great or wonderful for me.
No. But I have calmed and quieted myself
like a weaned child on its mother;
I’m like the weaned child that is with me.
Israel, wait for the Lord—
from now until forever from now!
Common English Bible
God, I’m not trying to rule the roost,
I don’t want to be king of the mountain.
I haven’t meddled where I have no business
or fantasized grandiose plans.
I’ve kept my feet on the ground,
I’ve cultivated a quiet heart.
Like a baby content in its mother’s arms,
my soul is a baby content.
Wait, Israel, for God. Wait with hope.
Hope now; hope always!
Whereas Psalm 130 is a prayer for help from the depths of the valley floor, Psalm 131 is a reminder for those times when grand vistas are enjoyed from the mountain tops: God is God and we are not! Psalm 131 is a song of humility and how often do we forget, tooting our own horn, patting ourselves on the back for a job well done. Pride has a way of sneaking up on us and turning well-intentioned aspirations into self-serving ambition. How do you see the differences between aspiration and ambition? As Christians we aspire to be like Christ. How did Jesus model humility?
The psalmist continues saying, “I have cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content.” How do you find contentment in God? Sometime pride isn’t our problem but rather just the opposite. We think too little of ourselves, mistaking self-consciousness and insecurity with humility. Like the psalmist, Jesus uses children as an illustration, encouraging us to have childlike faith or trust in God. Further still, Scottish theologian and pastor John Baillie observed that, “Humility is the obverse side of confidence in God, whereas pride is the obverse side of confidence in self.” So, what do you think having a child like confidence in God looks like?
Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society (Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 2000).