The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), May 16
Before David passes the baton of leadership to Solomon, he prepares Israel to become a community of worshipers by separating the sons of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun to “prophesy with harps, stringed instruments, and cymbals” and to “give thanks and praise to the LORD” (1 Chron. 25:1, 3). They are “instructed in the songs of the LORD” (25:7) so that they may lead Israel in worship.
At least fourteen songs are produced at the end of David’s reign and in the early days of Solomon’s reign. Psalm 88 is the first of those songs, and it is not a song of joy, but of great sadness.
As graphite sticks to the oily fingerprints left upon a surface so this song picks up the muddy fingerprints of sorrow upon the soul.
Terrible affliction from an unnamed source (Ps. 88:1-9a)
- Unrelenting pain stimulates constant prayer: “I have cried out day and night before you” (88:1).
- The sufferer cannot see anything other than his own trouble: “My soul is full of troubles” (88:3).
- Death seems tangible and imminent: “My life draws near to the grave;” “adrift among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave” (88:3, 5).
- God’s wrath is attributed to the suffering: “You have laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the depths. Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you have afflicted me with all Your waves” (88:6-7).
- Isolation from others makes the suffering even more unbearable: “You have put away my acquaintances far from me; You have made me an abomination to them” (88:8).
- Hope seems futile: “My eye wastes away because of affliction” (88:9a)
Desperate times call for desperate prayers (88:9b-12)
- Hands lifted upward reveal absolute despair of help from anywhere or anyone other than God: “LORD, I have called daily upon You; I have stretched out my hands to You” (88:9)
- The hopelessness of the situation doesn’t prevent God’s activity, but drives the sufferer to God in desperation: “Will you work wonders for the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise You? Shall Your lovingkindness be declared in the grave? Or Your faithfulness in the place of destruction? Shall Your wonders be known in the dark? And your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?” (88:10-12).
Declaration of hope (88:13)
- With every sunrise comes hope, “But to You I have cried out, O LORD, and in the morning my prayer comes before You” (88:33).
Concludes without a resolution (88:14-18)
- God appears to be adversarial: “LORD, why do you cast off my soul? Why do You hide Your face from me?” (88:14).
- God appears to be angry and punitive: “Your fierce wrath has gone over me; Your terrors have cut me off” (88:16).
- Suffering causes people to feel truly alone, “Loved one and friend You have put far from me, and my acquaintances into darkness” (18).
This song offers several morsels of truth:
- Had the songwriter specified his source of trouble, readers without the same problem would gloss over this psalm. Because the affliction is unnamed, any sufferer, with any problem, may identify with this song.
- The reader may not need this song today, but a day may come when he will empathize with the writer of this song.
- It is always too soon to give up!
Question from today’s chronological Bible reading (Psalms 144, 145, 88, 89):
Psalm 89 begins by describing God’s faithfulness and transitions to King David’s legacy. How does David’s life reflect God’s faithfulness?