This hymn was written by reformer Martin Luther in 1524 as “Aus Tiefer Not” and translated by Richard Massie in the 1800s. This hymn is a paraphrase of Psalm 130, and was a great favourite of Luthers, calling it a Pauline Psalm —along with Psalm 32, 51, and 1431. Martin Luther highly encouraged the singing of Psalms and included them in his liturgical reforms. He began writing hymns in 1523 and composed them until his death in 15462. Under his Roman Catholic theology, Martin Luther’s struggle with understanding how could a sinful man as himself be accepted by a righteous God is well documented; until he finally came to the right understanding by the Spirit of God of Romans 1:17 “the righteous shall live by faith”. You can hear the echoes of relief from the burden of our sins by the grace and mercy of God in this Psalm and song. Enjoy!
From depths of woe I raise to thee
the voice of lamentation;
Lord, turn a gracious ear to me
and hear my supplication:
if thou iniquities dost mark,
our secret sins and misdeeds dark,
O who shall stand before thee?
To wash away the crimson stain,
grace, grace alone, availeth;
our works, alas! are all in vain;
in much the best life faileth:
no man can glory in thy sight,
all must alike confess thy might,
and live alone by mercy.
Therefore my trust is in the Lord,
and not in mine own merit;
on him my soul shall rest, his Word
upholds my fainting spirit:
his promised mercy is my fort,
my comfort, and my sweet support;
I wait for it with patience.
What though I wait the live-long night,
and ’til the dawn appeareth,
my heart still trusteth in his might;
it doubteth not nor feareth:
do thus, O ye of Israel’s seed,
ye of the Spirit born indeed;
and wait ’til God appeareth.
Though great our sins and sore our woes,
his grace much more aboundeth;
his helping love no limit knows,
our utmost need it soundeth.
Our Shepherd good and true is he,
who will at last his Israel free
from all their sin and sorrow.