Lent 5 Monday
“Out of the depth I cry to you, O Lord.”
It seems that there are many superfluous words at the beginning of the psalm, but when you consider carefully the things that weigh heavy on David, you can see easily that neither the emotion of his heart nor the danger can be sufficiently described, no matter how many words you use. For he is not assailed by some common temptation; he does not complain about dangers he might face from Saul, Absalom, false prophets, and others. He is not talking about some other affliction stemming from envy or hatred by which the world persecutes those who are blessed by God. Rather, he indicates the illness of conscience and the genuine fear of death when hearts are overwhelmed by despair, feeling that they are abandoned by God when they see that their unworthiness and their guilt is prosecuted before God’s judgment seat; when it appears as if God has not only left them but as if he has rejected them and hates them because of their sins. These afflictions are much more unbearable than the others that take place usually; for these afflictions pose a danger for the soul and eternal salvation. This is also why he expresses himself in this particular way, “Out of the depth I cry to you,” as if he wanted to say: “I am harassed by outward misfortune, for I feel my sins and the righteous wrath of God. I have no idea whatsoever how I could put an end to this.” There are remedies among men for the hatred and every other misfortune that might oppress us. But this is truly an evil which cannot be healed, unless help is sent from above. Indeed, other harms that harass those blessed by God can be overcome by patience, e.g., when possessions and one’s reputation is at risk; even in lesser sins, as are the sins of the youth, the heart can be lifted up again more easily. But these knots are felt and cannot be untied, when these hellish thoughts fill the heart, so that man feels nothing besides being rejected by God forever. Therefore, those who experience such afflictions have here an example, showing that David also suffered and experienced the same. For this, too, makes this affliction worse: Those who experience it think that they are the only ones dealing with it. This is why one must learn that all those who were exceedingly holy suffered the same and were tortured by the fright of law and sin unto death, as we see that David here cries out as if he were put into hell: “Out of the depth I cry to you, O Lord.” But the story does not end here: We must not just endure such afflictions and dangers; we must also learn the way on which those who endured them got out of them. And you see what David does. You see where he goes in this difficult situation. He does not despair, but cries as if there is still certain hope for help and comfort. This is why you, too, should think and do likewise. For David is not afflicted in order to be driven into despair. This is why you, too, should not take on afflictions with a heart that consumes you in sadness and despair. When you are led into hell, you are to believe that the Lord is there who wants to lead you out of hell, 1 Samuel 2:6. When you are crushed and beaten into a pulp, you are to know that there is a Lord who wants to make you well again and heal you, Hosea 6:1. When your soul is full of grief, you are to look for comfort to him who has promised that an anxious spirit is a sacrifice that pleases him, Psalm 51:17. But it is highly beneficial when a brother is present in such violent assaults who comforts us with the Word, for God wanted his church to be such that one comforts the other, promising that he wanted to be the third when two are gathered in his name, Matthew 18:20.