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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
Psalms 88

 

 

Verses 1-18

A Song or Psalm for the sons of Korah, to the chief Musician upon Mahaloth Leannoth, Maschil of Heman the Ezrahite. I think that this is the darkest of all the Psalms; it has hardly a spot of light in it. The only bright words that I know of are in the first verse the rest of the Psalm is very dark, and very dreary. Why, then, am I going to read it? Because, it may be, there is some poor heart here that is very heavy; you cannot tell out of this great crowd how many sorrowing and burdened spirits there may be amongst us; but there may be a dozen or two of persons who are driven almost to despair. My dear friend, if this is your case, I want you to know that somebody else has been just where you are. Remember how the shipwrecked man upon the lonely island all of a sudden came upon the footprints of another human being; so here, on the lone island of despondency, you shall be able to trace the footprints of another who has been there before you. Hear how he prays

Psalms 88:1. O LORD God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee:

It was only a cry, a cry as of an animal in pain, or at best the cry as of a child that has lost its mother: “I have cried day and night before thee.”

Psalms 88:2. Let my prayer come before thee:

“Give me an audience, O Lord. Do not shut the door in my face. My prayer has been knocking, knocking, knocking, at thy gate; open to it. ‘Let my prayer come before thee.’”

Psalms 88:2. Incline thine ear unto my cry;

“Stoop down to me out of heaven, O Lord. Bow that ear of thine to hear even my feeble and unworthy cry. I know that I do not deserve it. I know that it will be a great act of condescension on thy part; but do ‘incline thine ear unto my cry.’”

Psalms 88:3. For my soul is full of troubles:

“Full of troubles, brimming over with grief, and every drop of it is as bitter as gall.”

Psalms 88:3-4. And my life draweth nigh unto the grave. I am counted with them that go down into the pit:

“They put me down as a dead man. They that see the lines of fierce despair upon my face reckon that I cannot live long: ‘I am counted with them that go down into the pit.’” These were his pleas in crying unto God,-“

Distresses round me thicken,

My life draws nigh the grave;

Descend, O Lord, to quicken,

Descend, my soul to save!”

Psalms 88:4. I am as a man that hath no strength:

Here is one, in the time of manhood when he should be strongest, who yet says, “I am as a man that hath no strength.” This subject may not interest some of you, just now; but it is here, so we must mention it; and it may be wanted even by you one of these days. Bright eyes are not always bright, and the earthly joy that leaps and dances does not abide for ever. The dry may come when you will turn to this Psalm with the two eights to it, and find comfort in it because it describes your case also.

Psalms 88:5. Free among the dead,-

A freeman of the sepulcher, at home at death’s dark door: “Free among the dead,”

Psalms 88:5. Like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand.

This is perhaps the most awful depth of the whole Psalm. The writer bemoaned that be was not remembered even by God any more, and that he was cut off from God’s hand at least, so he thought.

Psalms 88:6-7. Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Selah,

Very properly here comes a “Selah.” Such a strain upon the harp-strings had put them all out of tune; so the players had notice to retune their harps, and the singers were bidden to lift up the strain of their song. It seems to me as if the writer here lifted his head above the waves of the tempestuous sea, and still kept on swimming.

Psalms 88:8. Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me; thou hast made me an abomination unto them: I am shut up, and I cannot come forth.

This is the utterance of a soul imprisoned in solitary confinement, nobody able to come to it to breathe out consolation: “Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me. They cannot come to me, and I am shut up, and I cannot come forth to them.”

Psalms 88:9. Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction: LORD, I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee.

Now hear how the psalmist pleads with the Lord. Prayer is always best when it rises to pleading. The man who understands the sacred art of prayer becomes a special pleader with God.

Psalms 88:10. Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise thee? Selah.

“Shall the dead arise, and praise thee?” Not in this life, though the godly will praise the Lord in the world to come. But now, when a Christian man dies, God loses a chorister from the choirs of earth, there is one the less to sing his praises here; and the psalmist therefore pleads: “Lord, if I live, thou canst show thy wonders to me; but wilt thou show thy wonders to the dead? If I am alive, I can praise thee; but shall the dead arise, and praise thee?”

Psalms 88:11-12. Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction? Shalt thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

He pleads that, if he dies, he shall not be able to tell out the mercy of the Lord. God will lose a singer from his earthly choir, a witness from his earthly courts, a testifier of his lovingkindness, and faithfulness, and righteousness.

Psalms 88:13. But unto thee have I cried, O LORD and in the morning shall my prayer repent thee.

“I will be up betimes, before thou comest to me. I will be first to approach thee. I will salute the rising sun with my rising prayer.”

Psalms 88:14. LORD, why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me?

Note again the earnestness of the psalmist’s pleadings. We have had many of them already; each verse has, I think, had at least two pleadings in it. If thou wouldst be heard with God, take care that thou dost reason with him, and press thine arguments with the Most High. He delights in this exercise of persevering supplication which will take no denial.

Psalms 88:15-18. I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted. Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off. They came round about me daily like water; they compassed me about together. Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness.

There the Psalm ends. It is a sorrowful wail, and it comes to a close when you do not expect it to finish. It really has no finish to it, as when men wind up their songs with proper finales; but it is broken off, like a lily snapped at the stalk. I have read you this eighty-eighth Psalm as an example of persevering prayer. The man who wrote it-“Heman the Ezrahite”-kept on praying even when he did not seem to be heard, and thus he is a pattern to us. Yet notice how the next Psalm begins: “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord.” It is not always the sorrowful sackbut that is to be in our hand; we can play the joyous harp as well. “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever.” “I will never leave off praising him.” “With my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Psalms 88:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/psalms-88.html. 2011.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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