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Read Psalm 88

A song. A psalm of the Sons of Korah. For the director of music. According to mahalath leannoth. A maskil of Heman the Ezrahite.

Lord, you are the God who saves me;
    day and night I cry out to you.

May my prayer come before you;
    turn your ear to my cry.

I am overwhelmed with troubles
    and my life draws near to death.

I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
    I am like one without strength.

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.

You have put me in the lowest pit,
    in the darkest depths.

Your wrath lies heavily on me;
    you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.

You have taken from me my closest friends
    and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;

    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 neighbor—
    darkness is my closest friend.

Go Deeper

God welcomes our grief. We can acknowledge His goodness while still mourning the broken world we live in and plead with the creator of this universe for mercy and clarity. In this psalm we see a raw cry of despair that lays out the author’s sorrow and sin in the form of a desperate prayer to a God that is bigger than our pain. Written by Heman the Ezrahite, who was known as a wise and talented man, this dark song is evidence that even the faithful experience doubt and angst. 

In the midst of confusion, the writer acknowledges God’s power and goodness from the very first line. “Oh God of my salvation.” Before anything else, he recognizes God has already delivered him and then he can proceed to wrestle with his own agony. He attributes his troubles to the power and acts of God:

“You have put me in the lowest pit” (v. 6).

“Your wrath lies heavily on me” (v. 7).

“Your terrors have destroyed me” (v. 16).

By doing this, he acknowledges his own sin and wrestles with the righteous wrath and justice of God. He feels alone and weak, but his greatest despair is in verse 14 when he feels God has left him. “Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?” The greatest consequence of our own sin and sorrows is that God feels far from us in them. This psalm isn’t a plea to change his circumstance, but just to be near to the presence of God again. 

Doubt doesn’t disqualify or distance us from God, but it’s an opportunity to lean in and seek His face above all else. Our prayer, along with the psalmist, is to be near to God and to know He is constant when our situation is not. 

Questions

  1. What is your reaction when trials come? Is it anger, confusion, sorrow?
  2. Reflect on a time that God has felt far from you. What was happening? What was your response?
  3. What can you do to seek God in the midst of trials?

A Quote

“There is nothing that so quickly makes the bell ring in heaven as the touch of a troubled hand.”

F.B. Meyer

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3 thoughts on “Psalm 88”

  1. Ella Snodgrass

    The heaviness evidenced by the writer of this psalm is palpable. He knows where to bring his darkness & desperation, to the God of his salvation. Yet he wars with brutal honesty feeling rejected and abandoned by the One who is his Help. It’s both a physical & spiritual crisis that is crushing his soul. Today, I will remember that dark nights turn into daylight because of the hope we have in Christ. I will recall 1 Peter 5:6 “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you in due time, casting your care upon Him, because He cares for you.”

  2. Kathy Davidson

    Even though this psalmist feels like God is punishing him and rejecting him- and even though he feels like God has abandoned him….. he still cries out. Oftentimes when I feel distant from God, I shut down in my feelings & don’t continue to approach God. This psalmist, however, knows the character of the One he continues to appeal to… He is a God who saves. Yes, he may feel distant from God, but he continues to approach him with confidence- He knows God will save him, if not now, then eventually. This is a very honest and very bold prayer! You would think that if God was responsible for your troubles the way the psalmist describes it that he would not continue to draw near… and yet, he does. We can learn from that boldness! It reminds me of what the author of Hebrews encourages us to do: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
    ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭4:16‬ ‭

    No matter how we feel, we can approach God’s throne with boldness & confidence because we know WHO is sitting on it- the God who saves- and we know WHAT is waiting for us there- mercy, grace, and help.

  3. As I read this Psalm I thought, “Only God can hear this kind of desperation.” When experiencing personal grief and someone would ask me how I was doing, my response was usually, “Pretty good…doing the best I can.” I didn’t want to burden the other person. But at night, when all alone, I felt confidence that God could handle what I was really feeling. He would not pass judgement. After unloading, peace would come. I could rest in His arms. So thankful for this honest Psalm!

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