Monday 11 July 2022

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. 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 neighbor— darkness is my closest friend.

“Lord, you are the God who saves me”. Given what follows, the opening statement of Psalm 88 is both surprising and enlightening. The tone of the remainder of the psalm is full of darkness and despair—it is unmatched in terms of its sheer bleakness. Yet the psalmist begins by addressing God as “the God who saves me”, he certainly knows something of the character of God, and his present experience does not match his understanding of what God’s character should be like. He knows that the God he calls on is a God who saves His people. Yet being saved by God is not the psalmist’s present personal experience. The despair of this psalm stems from the strong dissonance between the psalmist’s expectation of God and his experience of the reality of life with Him. We can all relate, I am sure. It is this first declaration, however, that we need to speak, dare I say shout from our mouths when faced with trials. When we declare the truth of God over our situations, we begin to align ourselves with God and His ways, His will and purposes. In so doing we begin to see His hand at work, where before we saw only bleakness.

Father, help me to raise the note of praise even in the darkness of the deepest night of despair that I may see Your hand at work!

Written by Ps. Richard Botta

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