Weds 30 March - Psalm 88
1 Lord, you are the God who saves me;
day and night I cry out to you.
2 May my prayer come before you;
turn your ear to my cry.
3 I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death.
4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am like one 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 on me;
you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
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, Lord, every day;
I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you show your wonders to the dead?
Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
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, Lord;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 Why, Lord, do you reject me
and hide your face from me?
15 From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
I have borne 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 from me friend and neighbour –
darkness is my closest friend.
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Meditation on Psalm 88
Two true stories as a starter.
A Pastor was standing at the door at the end of the service and a church member comes over to him. He asks her, “How are you?” She replied, “I am all right, thank you, under the circumstances.”
To which he replied, “Christians are never under the circumstances, they should always be on top of the circumstances.”
Nil ‘brownie points’!
A visiting speaker was standing at the door after the service and a lady came up to him to thank him for what he had said. He asked her how she was and she told him that she wouldn’t burden him because it would take too long and there were other people for him to meet.
“No”, he said, “let’s go and sit in the church. I don’t have to stand at the door.”
They sat down and he listened as she, through many tears, poured out her situation to him. He sat and listened, talked with her and then prayed with and for her.
Plenty of ‘brownie points’ for him!
How would we respond to someone who used the language of our psalm?
Perhaps the language of our psalm is real to us.
Whatever else we might think, this is the heart cry of someone who is in desperate trouble, within and without.
Michael Wilcock says, ‘a sense of rejection by God, prolonged affliction, overwhelming terror and abandonment by his nearest and dearest are crowned by one of the most despairing cries in the Psalter.’
Spurgeon says, ‘Heman makes a map of his life’s history. He puts down all the dark places through which he has travelled. He mentions his sins, his hopes (if he had any), his fears, his woes and so on. Now that is real prayer, laying your case before the Lord.’
‘Heman’ was one of David’s three choir leaders. According to 2 Chronicles 25:6 he was involved in the music ministry in the temple of the LORD. According to 1 Kings 4:31 he was a man of wisdom.
David Guzik comments that ‘the identity of the singer of this dark song helps us to understand that it came from a wise, talented, accomplished and blessed man.’
It doesn’t matter which translation you read, you can’t get away from the heart-breaking cries of the psalmist.
There’s just one glimmer of hope at the beginning of the psalm – verse 1a: ‘LORD, you are the God who saves me…’
There is hope in the midst of despair and the despair comes out in every verse.
- Verses 1-5 PRAYING IN THE DARKNESS
This is persistent prayer – ‘day and night’; ‘every day’ (verse 9)
This is painful prayer – ‘I cry out to you’; ‘I am overwhelmed with troubles’; ‘I am near to death’
This is pleading prayer – ‘turn your ear to my cry’
This is penetrating prayer – ‘I am on the brink of death’; ‘I am forgotten’; ‘I am cut off’
I am quite sure these are the prayers that many of the people in Ukraine and Russia are praying every day.
Maybe, these are the prayers that you are praying every day.
Hang on in there – you are praying to the ‘LORD – the God who saves.’
You might not be able to make any sense of it but God hasn’t finished dealing with you yet.
- Verses 6-9a and 10-12 GOD WHERE ARE YOU?
The psalmist is pointing the finger at God.
Having spoken out personally – “I”; “I”; “I”…he now turns to God – “You”; “You”; “You”
He raises a series of statements and questions, each one aimed at God.
- put me in the darkest of places
- overwhelmed me – I am drowning
- cut me off from my friends, who don’t want to know me
- confined me – I cannot escape
Oh God, where are you?
Isn’t this what Job prayed when he was in a dark place. Job 23:1-4 is a personal cry – “Even today my complaint is bitter; His hand is heavy in spite of my groaning. If only I knew where I might Him; if only I could go to His dwelling! I would state my case before Him and fill my mouth with arguments”.
Notice, the psalmist doesn’t give up praying – ‘I call to you every day’
Then he asks a number of rhetorical questions. He doesn’t have the assurance of what is beyond the grave as we do.
He asks questions about the dead, the grave, the place of destruction, the place of darkness and the land of forgetfulness.
He is being honest with God.
He is not ‘on top of his circumstances’. He is being overwhelmed by them.
- Verses 13-18 THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL
Again, the psalmist doesn’t give up praying – ‘ But I cry to you for help, LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you.’
A glimmer of hope? You would have thought so but not so. He returns to his desperate situation and tells God, again, what he thinks.
- rejected me
- hidden your face from me
- terrorised me
- taken my friends neighbours from me
How do I feel? I’ll tell you…
- I have suffered for years
- I am in despair
- I feel destroyed
- I am overwhelmed
- I am alone
Perhaps the saddest of all statements is the final one – ‘Darkness is my closest friend.’
Read through Lamentations 3:1-24. Perhaps you identify with his heart cry as you do with the psalmist. Get to verses 22-24, read them slowly and rejoice that, in spite of the realities you may be facing, the LORD is your faithful friend.
Great is your faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with you.
All I have needed your hand has provided
Great is your faithfulness, Lord unto me.
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