Cries for salvific mercy, a.k.a. Sinner’s Prayer, Prayer of the Sinner, or Sinner’s Plea, have come under fire recently as providing an inadequate explanation of the way of salvation. While not disagreeing with the need for a persevering faith, in one place in Scripture a man asked, “What must I do to be saved?” The response given him was clear and simple:
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31)
However, long before the Philippian jailer cried out for mercy, the Psalmist wrote Psalm 119. And in this Psalm we find six pleas for saving mercy, all of which were answered in and through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross for the sins of the world.
Firstly, in Psalm 119:122, the Psalmist requests or pleads with God to become a pledge for him. It is an interesting plea, as in the book of Proverbs teaches on several occasions that we should not make a pledge, and especially not for a stranger. For example, here is Proverbs 22:26-27:
“Do not be one of those who shakes hands in a pledge,
“One of those who is surety for debts;
“If you have nothing with which to pay,
“Why should he take away your bed from under you?” (Prov 22:26-27)
However, in the case of Psalm 119:122, the psalmist pleads, calling himself a servant of the Lord, and asks for God to take him in pledge. It is a very fascinating request in light of Proverbs:
“Be surety for Your servant for good;
“Do not let the proud oppress me.” (Psalm 119:122)
The Psalmist here used the same verb for “pledge” as is found in Proverbs 22. So here we have the Psalmist requesting that God to become surety for his debt. And this is exactly what God did for us in Christ!
Remember, however, that Paul taught in Romans that Christ died for us, not when we were His servants, but rather when we were His enemies! Jesus did exactly that when He died on the cross? He cancelled the certificate of debt that was held against us due to our sins:
“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Col 2:13-14)
So, in essence, the death of Jesus on the cross was God’s answer to the plea of the Psalmist in Psalm 119:122! What an amazing and beautiful link between the Old and New Covenants, where the New became a fulfillment of the Old.
Secondly, this pattern is also found true of another cry in Psalm 119. In the case of Psalm 119:154, the Psalmist is cried out for a lawyer to plead his case:
“Plead my cause and redeem me;
“Revive me according to Your word.” (Psalm 119:154)
The Psalmist sees his need for representation for his cause. And in 1 John 2:1-2 we read that Jesus is our Lawyer before the Father, arguing His case for on our behalf because of His atoning blood:
“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate [Lawyer] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2)
The parallelism is amazing and even astounding. Jesus became the fulfillment of this plea of the Psalmist, as found in Psalm 119:154. The Psalmist asked for a lawyer, and Jesus became His Lawyer. Yet He was not only a lawyer for the Psalmist alone, but also for the entire world!
Thirdly, in Psalm 119:154, the Psalmist also cried out to be redeemed. He longed for redemption through a Kinsman-Redeemer. He needed someone who had the legal authority to purchase him from his self-imposed captivity. Again Jesus was His answer. The sinless Lamb of God brought a sufficient redemption to all of humanity by His blood shed on Calvary’s cross:
“And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.’” (Rev 5:9-10)
Again Jesus was the Psalmist’s answer!
Fourthly, the Psalmist pled for deliverance. He was in trouble that necessitated deliverance from captivity and judgment:
“Let my supplication come before You;
“Deliver me according to Your word.” (Psalm 119:170)
Here Christ stepped in and provided deliverance to all who would turn to Him for salvation:
“For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thess 1:9-10)
Fifthly, Jesus therefore provided salvation—another answer to the plea of Psalm 119:146:
“I cry out to You;
“Save me, and I will keep Your testimonies.” (Psa 119:146)
And was not Jesus the Savior of the world?
“And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.” (1 John 4:14)
Sixthly and finally, through Jesus, men who were once dead in trespasses and sins, are brought to life (hence “revived”) by His death and resurrection. Hence, we find the Psalmist requesting life from the giver of life:
“Deal bountifully with Your servant,
“That I may live and keep Your word.” (Psalm 119:17)
“My soul clings to the dust;
“Revive me according to Your word.” (Psalm 119:25)
“Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things,
“And revive me in Your way.” (Psalm 119:37)
“Behold, I long for Your precepts;
“Revive me in Your righteousness.” (Psalm 119:40)
“Revive me according to Your lovingkindness,
“So that I may keep the testimony of Your mouth” (Psalm 119:88)
“I am afflicted very much;
“Revive me, O Lord, according to Your word.” (Psalm 119:107)
“Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness;
“O Lord, revive me according to Your justice (Psalm 119:149)
“Plead my cause and redeem me;
“Revive me according to Your word (Psalm 119:154)
“Great are Your tender mercies, O Lord;
“Revive me according to Your judgments (Psalm 119:156)
“Consider how I love Your precepts;
“Revive me, O Lord, according to Your lovingkindness.” (Psalm 119:159)
Even so, Jesus became the answer for the spiritually dead condition of man, as stated so clearly by the Apostle Paul:
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 2:4-7)
From death to life, from lost to saved, from bondage to deliverance, from captivity to redemption, from guilty to acquitted. All these requested for mercy granted through the death of Jesus on the cross. What an amazing salvation available in Christ! Six cries for mercy found in Psalm 119. And, amazingly enough, Jesus was and is the answer to all of these cries for mercy.