Meditations on the Psalms #169

Psalm 88 Part 1

This psalm is a song, yet a remarkably sad song, and is often regarded as the saddest psalm in the entire collection. The writer was on the brink of despair – the last word in the psalm is ‘darkness.’ This psalm was probably written by someone who had leprosy, described as a living death in v3-5 which he attributes to God (v8). Despair sometimes strikes men dumb, and sometimes, as here, makes them eloquent.   There are many mentions of a Heman in the days of David and Solomon, but no real evidence that this one was the author.

The opening line was both a past remembrance and a clinging to a future hope. It is one of the small glimmers of light in an otherwise dark psalm. The writer has salvation, he is sure of that, and God is the sole author of it. While a person can see God as their Saviour, it is not altogether midnight with them. Heman is clinging to God in the darkness. Prayer is proof of lingering hope.

The agony was not just superficial, but also spiritual. He felt he was drawing near to the grave. The ‘Selah’ after v7 is poignant; above the breakers the swimmer lifts his head and looks around him, breathing for a moment, until the next wave comes. Even lamentation must have its pauses and reflections.

The metaphors of dungeons and deep waters tell us about a revulsion that isolates him friendless and in the narrow prison of himself. Perhaps worst of all, the psalmist felt that there was no escape. Life was draining from him and if God did not respond, there seemed to be no remedy.
Amazingly, and with determination, he keeps himself in touch with God, crying to Him, and going out to meet Him at the ‘break of each new day.’ The marvel is that amidst his appalling suffering, he still maintains the activity of a practiced relationship with God – he prays.
The worst of the psalmist’s afflictions was the sense that God had in some way forsaken him (hidden His face). In v16 the word for wrath is in the plural because he feels overwhelmed. TBC 

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