Psalm 88 (The Message)
A Korah Prayer of Heman
Many scholars call this the saddest of all the psalms.
“In this Psalm, Heman makes a map of his life’s history, he puts down all the dark places through which he has traveled. He mentions his sins, his sorrows, his hopes (if he had any), his fears, his woes, and so on. Now, that is real prayer, laying your case before the Lord.”
–Charles Haddon Spurgeon
1-9 God, you’re my last chance of the day.
I spend the night on my knees before you.
Put me on your salvation agenda;
take notes on the trouble I’m in.
The psalmist is overwhelmed with his troubles, unable to find relief, pouring out his heart to God. There is no happy ending here, no answer. Yet even in such a comfortless situation, he prays. God has promised never to leave us or forsake us, to carry us through the floods and fires. So let us not dishonor the Lord by saying he doesn’t care, or he has forgotten us. Christ’s death on the cross is irrevocable proof that God loves us dearly and will lay down his life to save us, even — perhaps especially — when we are caught in our darkness.
I’ve had my fill of trouble;
I’m camped on the edge of hell.
I’m written off as a lost cause,
one more statistic, a hopeless case.
Abandoned as already dead,
one more body in a stack of corpses,
And not so much as a gravestone—
I’m a black hole in oblivion.
You’ve dropped me into a bottomless pit,
sunk me in a pitch-black abyss.
The Psalms and the Old Testament in general do not present a comprehensive theology of the world beyond. The Psalms express the agony, fear, and uncertainty of death’s doorstep. The singers in the Psalms often know they can remember God and give Him thanks now, but don’t have the same certainty about the world beyond.
2 Timothy 2:10 says that Jesus brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. The understanding of the after-life was murky at best in the Old Testament; but Jesus let us know more about heaven and hell than anyone else could. Jesus could do this because He had first-hand knowledge of the world beyond.
I’m battered senseless by your rage,
relentlessly pounded by your waves of anger.
You turned my friends against me,
made me horrible to them.
I’m caught in a maze and can’t find my way out,
blinded by tears of pain and frustration.
9-12 I call to you, God; all day I call.
I wring my hands, I plead for help.
Are the dead a live audience for your miracles?
Do ghosts ever join the choirs that praise you?
Does your love make any difference in a graveyard?
Is your faithful presence noticed in the corridors of hell?
Are your marvelous wonders ever seen in the dark,
your righteous ways noticed in the Land of No Memory?
13-18 I’m standing my ground, God, shouting for help,
at my prayers every morning, on my knees each daybreak.
This is a crisis, but it is a crisis of faith, not of unbelief. The writer refuses to give up on God and his help. He continues in fervent prayer.
Why, God, do you turn a deaf ear?
Why do you make yourself scarce?
For as long as I remember I’ve been hurting;
I’ve taken the worst you can hand out, and I’ve had it.
Your wildfire anger has blazed through my life;
I’m bleeding, black-and-blue.
You’ve attacked me fiercely from every side,
raining down blows till I’m nearly dead.
You made lover and neighbor alike dump me;
the only friend I have left is Darkness.
“Hello, Darkness, my old friend.”
“We thank God that there is one such song as this, with its revelation of what results in character when a soul, in the midst of the most appalling suffering, still maintains the activity of practiced relationship with God. We have also met such souls, and their witness to the power of the Divine grace is more potent than any theoretical expositions.”
–J. Campbell Morgan
“But the pleas here used were peculiarly suited to Christ. And we are not to think that the holy Jesus suffered for us only at Gethsemane and on Calvary. His whole life was labour and sorrow; he was afflicted as never man was, from his youth up. He was prepared for that death of which he tasted through life. No man could share in the sufferings by which other men were to be redeemed. All forsook him, and fled. Oftentimes, blessed Jesus, do we forsake thee; but do not forsake us, O take not thy Holy Spirit from us.”
Neville Peter was born in St. Thomas in 1971, and before he was one he was diagnosed with glaucoma; he was completely blind by age 12. A musical child, he sang and played piano, eventually going to the University of Miami for a degree in Studio Music and Vocal Jazz. He worked with Gladys Knight and other big names in jazz, pop, reggae, and R&B. Then one New Year’s Eve at a party in South Beach, he decided he had seen what the world had to offer and he did not find it appealing. He turned all his talents over to the Lord. Now he has written over 100 Gospel songs and performed at the White House. His two favorite Bible verses are Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” and Isaiah 42:16, “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them. I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” His greatest joy, he says, is to use his music to introduce people to the Savior and to show them how to get ready for His soon return.
HERE — I think you will enjoy his rendition of “Near the Cross.”