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Psalm 88

Jorine Johnson

1 O Lord, God of my salvation;

    I cry out day and night before you.

2 Let my prayer come before you;

    incline your ear to my cry!

3 For my soul is full of troubles,

    and my life draws near to Sheol.

4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit;

    I am a man who has no strength,

5 like one set loose among the dead,

    like the slain that lie in the grave,

like those whom you remember no more,

    for they are cut off from your hand.

6 You have put me in the depths of the pit,

    in the regions dark and deep.

7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me,

    and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah

8 You have caused my companions to shun me;

    you have made me a horror to them.

I am shut in so that I cannot escape;

9     my eye grows dim through sorrow.

Every day I call upon you, O Lord;

    I spread out my hands to you.

10 Do you work wonders for the dead?

    Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah

11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,

    or your faithfulness in Abaddon?

12 Are your wonders known in the darkness,

    or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

13 But I, O Lord, cry to you;

    in the morning my prayer comes before you.

14 O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?

    Why do you hide your face from me?

15 Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,

    I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.

16 Your wrath has swept over me;

    your dreadful assaults destroy me.

17 They surround me like a flood all day long;

    they close in on me together.

18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;

    my companions have become darkness.

The psalmists cry out to the Lord for salvation and desperately call out to God for His deliverance and help in their troubled circumstances. In verse 3 through 9, the psalmists give reason for their for their cries and their prayers. It is in the circumstances of loneliness, trouble, the vast number of enemies seeking their life, and describes in detail the depths of their trouble and they pit they are in. All human beings living in a sinful world can certainly understand this psalm. We all feel the burden of being in a place “in over our heads,” the impending doom whether it is failed relationships, finances, stress, work, school, and the difficulties in life. 

And this is why the psalmist cries out to the Lord for deliverance and salvation in their brokenness and living in the pit with no escape. There is no one to save us except the Lord. He alone is our salvation. His power is over the graves and death itself. 

But the psalm ends with questions to the Lord and challenging the actions of the Lord on the psalmists’ life. Usually the psalmist ends with a positive or a hope to the future in which the psalmist looks to the Lord for deliverance and salvation. But here we have a prayer for salvation, a description of the condition in which the psalmist finds himself, and questions that seem to go unanswered. 

But I think it’s interesting that the Psalms are composed in the way that 88 ends with a sobering thought while psalm 89:1 starts, “I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.” Even with all of the problems and the pit we face and the impending doom and trouble, we still serve the God who is our salvation and who will meet our needs according to His loving mercy. His steadfast love truly is lasting forever and ever. We may not always see His love, but that’s where faith comes. “Being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). We may not always see God’s love, but we can be sure and have faith that it is always there and know that our God works for our good. 

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