1 A song. A psalm of the Sons of Korah. For the director of music. According to mahalath leannoth. A maskil of Heman the Ezrahite.
O LORD, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you. 2 May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry.
3 For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave. 4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like a man without strength. 5 I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care. 6 You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. 7 Your wrath lies heavily upon me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves. Selah
8 You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them. I am confined and cannot escape; 9 my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, O LORD, every day; I spread out my hands to you. 10 Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do those who are dead rise up and praise you? Selah 11 Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Destruction? 12 Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion? 13 But I cry to you for help, O LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you. 14 Why, O LORD, do you reject me and hide your face from me?
15 From my youth I have been afflicted and close to death; I have suffered your terrors and am in despair. 16 Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me. 17 All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me. 18 You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend.
Psalm 88 – The ditch of despondency
(Verses 1-2) This is not a ‘happy psalm’ and does not end, like many that go ‘through the valley’, on to the mountain top of knowing God’s faithfulness. But life is like this, and the Book of Psalms reflects life: so we should learn from it. But it starts with a good lesson for us all to heed: despite being despondent and maybe depressed, the psalmist cries out day and night to God. He asks God, his Saviour, to accept and hear his prayer. Someone said that praying and evangelism have in common that there are only two situations where we should pray or evangelise: (1) daily, when we feel like it; and (2) daily, when we do not feel like it! That is living by faith in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
(Verses 3-7) Here is why he is now praying to God: he is troubled and feels spiritually dead (though he is not) and physically as if he was dying (which he is not); he feels he has no strength (which he does have by a weak sinner’s trust in his Almighty God and Saviour); he feels God has placed him in darkness (which He can do at times to grow us spiritually or to chastise us as our loving Father); he feels God’s wrath is upon him (which is something that can never happen to a ‘born again’ child of God, as all God’s wrath of judgment was borne by Jesus for him on the cross when He was punished for his sins); and he feels ‘overwhelmed’ by God’s circumstantial waves of darkness or chastisement (as it seems to him.)
(Verses 8-18) He now gives his random journal of how this has all affected him. The good thing is that he is sharing all this with His Saviour God who cares for him, just as the Lord Jesus Christ cares for you, even when your feelings do not match. He twice tells God that daily he spreads his hands out to Him. He calls or cries out to God, including in the morning. He asks God to deal with these problems:-
- He is repulsive to his friends, who forsake him.
- He is confined like a captive.
- He grieves and like a dead man cannot praise God in the dark. He says God is not at work.
- He feels God rejects and hides from him.
- He feels God has afflicted him and kept him close to death, since youth.
- He feels God’s wrath and terrors have swamped and destroyed him.
- He blames God for removing his friends. He now says darkness (not God) is his closest friend.
Other psalmists in similar sad positions reflect on who God really is and are encouraged. He should do that now.