A maskil of Heman the Ezrahite.
O LORD, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry. For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like a man without strength. 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. You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. Your wrath lies heavily upon me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves. Selah You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them. I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, O LORD, every day; I spread out my hands to you. Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do those who are dead rise up and praise you? Selah Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Destruction? Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion? But I cry to you for help, O LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you. Why, O LORD, do you reject me and hide your face from me? From my youth I have been afflicted and close to death; I have suffered your terrors and am in despair. Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me. All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me. You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend. (NIV)
This is probably one of the hardest psalms to understand. Marshall H. Lewis wrote about this psalm “Psalm 88 is like no other psalm. There is nothing like it in the Psalter, nothing like it in the rest of the Bible, nothing like it among Israelite and Judean noncanonical psalms, nothing like it among Babylonian and Egyptian psalms. It is unique in its utter hopelessness, its complete lack of praise, its unmitigated blame of God. Brueggemann goes so far as to call it “an embarrassment to conventional faith.” Not even the Book of Job is as dark. At least God responds to Job; here, the cry of the psalmist disappears into the void. God is invoked, but remains absent. This is the challenge in interpreting Psalm 88.” I believe that this psalm can be understood best as a psalm for those that rejects God’s provisional way of salvation. Read this psalm after you have read Luke 16:19-27. Put the rich man of Luke 16 in the subject role of this psalm. Notice that this psalm does not mention anything about repentance. Now read Romans chapter one, then reread Luke 16:19-27 and then reread this psalm. Unless you seek God and the righteousness found in the work of His son this will become your psalm after your death.
As I was reading this psalm I realized how much this gift of salvation really means to me. Now for the hard question, does my life reflect how important it is in my life to share God’s Word and his message of salvation from the pit, the grave, the place of darkness, the land of oblivion with others? In Luke 16:26 where Abraham tells the rich man that there is a great gulf fixed between us and that none can pass either way makes me realize how important God’s Word is in this world. When the rich man ask Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn his brothers Abraham stated “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rise from the dead”. It is not my lifestyle that leads other to Christ, but my lifestyle that can lead them to the source of my salvation which is Christ. Christ became the living Word. The song Let the Lower Lights Be Burning by Philip P Bless was written to encourage believers of their responsibilities to be the light on this earth to point others to the greater light so that they to might make it safely into the harbor.
- Brightly beams our Father’s mercy, From His lighthouse evermore, But to us He gives the keeping Of the lights along the shore.
- Refrain: Let the lower lights be burning! Send a gleam across the wave! Some poor fainting, struggling seaman You may rescue, you may save.
- Dark the night of sin has settled, Loud the angry billows roar; Eager eyes are watching, longing, For the lights along the shore.
- Trim your feeble lamp, my brother; Some poor sailor, tempest-tossed, Trying now to make the harbor, In the darkness may be lost.
As you read verse eighteen “You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend” remember David’s words from Psalm 51:10-13:
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.
Remember it is your relationship with God that makes you shine, not the relationship you have with others. Strive to renew your relationship with God and he will make your light shine and hopefully your light will point them to the greater light.