A song, a psalm written by the Korahites; for the music director; according to the machalath-leannoth style; a well-written song by Heman the Ezrachite.
O LORD God who delivers me! By day I cry out and at night I pray before you.
Listen to my prayer! Pay attention to my cry for help!
For my life is filled with troubles and I am ready to enter Sheol.
They treat me like those who descend into the grave.
I am like a helpless man, adrift among the dead, like corpses lying in the grave,
whom you remember no more, and who are cut off from your power.
You place me in the lowest regions of the pit, in the dark places, in the watery depths.
Your anger bears down on me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. (Selah)
You cause those who know me to keep their distance;
you make me an appalling sight to them.
I am trapped and cannot get free.
My eyes grow weak because of oppression.
I call out to you, O LORD, all day long;
I spread out my hands in prayer to you.
Do you accomplish amazing things for the dead?
Do the departed spirits rise up and give you thanks? (Selah)
Is your loyal love proclaimed in the grave, or your faithfulness in the place of the dead?
Are your amazing deeds experienced in the dark region, or your deliverance in the land of oblivion?
As for me, I cry out to you, O LORD;
in the morning my prayer confronts you.
O LORD, why do you reject me, and pay no attention to me?
I am oppressed and have been on the verge of death since my youth.
I have been subjected to your horrors and am numb with pain.
Your anger overwhelms me; your terrors destroy me.
They surround me like water all day long; they join forces and encircle me.
You cause my friends and neighbors to keep their distance;
those who know me leave me alone in the darkness.
(Psalm 88:1-18 NET)
This has been a psalm that I have returned to again and again over the years. It is not a psalm I have ever heard a sermon on. It is not a psalm I have ever preached (though that will hopefully be changed within the year…Lord willing). It is a psalm of agonizing despair and sorrow…of waves crashing over the anguished soul. Of lament and weeping. Of crying in the night only to rise still weeping in the morning. Of one caught in the very grip of the grave and destruction (sheol and abaddon) and overwhelmed by utter darkness. It is the soul come to the end of itself found to be under judgment…found to be without friend or support…found to be stripped of all but this last pleading cry rasping from the lips.
But it is a psalm enclosed right in the midst of that wonderful book of Psalms. It is a prayer to the only One who might possibly (just possibly) save the lost soul. It is a desperate cry of last hope. There is no clear word of hope ending this psalm as in so many others. But there is yet a glimmer…a ray of light. It is dim…though not even visible to the eye. The darkness is simply too deep. But as long as life and breath remains (even in the throes of death and the grave) there is some hope because the covenant is not forgotten. God may yet relent. He may yet have mercy. He may yet restore. He may yet save. He may yet hear the cry that (for all its deafening tones) is prefaced by that opening cry: “יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵ֣י יְשׁוּעָתִ֑י” (“O LORD, the God who saves me”). Desperation…how I am driven by you….Lord Jesus save me or I am undone!