Tuesday, May 02, 2023

2023.05.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 88

Read Psalm 88

Questions from the Scripture text: What kind of poem is this (superscript)? Who wrote this Psalm? Into whose hands was it entrusted? To what is it set? How else is it titled? Who does Psalm 88:1 address? What does it call Him? What has the Psalmist been doing? When? What does he ask would happen to his prayer (Psalm 88:2a)? What does he ask God to do in verse 2b? What is full of what (Psalm 88:3a)? To what does his life draw near (verse 3b)? With whom is he counted (Psalm 88:4a)? Who is he like (verse 4b)? Who else (Psalm 88:5a, 5b)? What does God do to them (Psalm 88:5c–d)? How far down has the Lord lain him (Psalm 88:6)? What lies heavy upon him (Psalm 88:7a)? With what has God afflicted him (verse 7b)? What has God done with his acquaintances (Psalm 88:8a)? What has He done with the psalmist in relation to them (verse 8b)? What is his situation (verse 8c)? What is happening to him (Psalm 88:9a)? Why? Whom does he re-address in verse 9b? What has he done, how often? With what posture to indicate its intensity (verse 9c)? What questions does he ask about whom, doing what, in Psalm 88:10-12? What has he been doing that dead people don’t do (Psalm 88:13)? What question is the fundamental question of both Psalm 88:14a and verse 14b? What is his condition (Psalm 88:15a, c)? Since when? On account of what (verse 15b–16)? Who has done what to him (Psalm 88:17)? And who has(n’t) done what (Psalm 88:18)?

What is the worst part of facing deadly trouble for a believer? Psalm 88 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eighteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the worst part of facing deadly trouble for a believer is the prospect of being hindered from receiving and praising the providential mercies of God. 

This song of instruction (“contemplation”) reflects very closely the experience of Job, teaching us how a believer may bring before God the worst of the difficulties that he faces when he is in a deadly trouble.

It seems like God is not listening, Psalm 88:1–2Psalm 88:9Psalm 88:13. One of the great comforts of the believer is that he knows that he has the ear of God. But sometimes, this must become something that we know entirely by faith, rather than experience. The psalmist has cried out day and night (Psalm 88:1b). He is pleading that his prayer would be noticed by God (Psalm 88:2). His eyes are about to expire from crying (Psalm 88:9a). His praying has been daily (verse 9b). His praying has been intense—with hands stretched out (verse 9c). This crying out has shaped his days, setting the tone of his heart every morning (Psalm 88:13). For all of this, his situation hasn’t changed. But he is still praying! Why? Because the reliable measure of what God is like and what God is doing is not how things seem, but what He has said.

He's running out of opportunities to bring God praise in this worldPsalm 88:3-6Psalm 88:10-12. He’s drawing near to the grave (Psalm 88:3), like those who go down into the pit (Psalm 88:4), among the dead like the slain who lie in the grave (Psalm 88:5)—in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the depths (Psalm 88:6). Many such Psalms turn to hope, but this one literally ends in darkness (Psalm 88:18).

But if he does leave this world, he will run out of opportunities for God to be glorified by remembering him and acting for him with His hand (Psalm 88:5). It will bring to an end the count of the wonders that God has worked for him (Psalm 88:10a, Psalm 88:12). And that means that he won’t be able to praise and know those wonders in this world (Psalm 88:10b, Psalm 88:12). He will have run out of opportunities in this world to declare God’s lovingkindness and faithfulness (Psalm 88:11). When God’s praise is our purpose, our distress over death will be distress at the end of our opportunities to bring Him praise in this world.

It’s God Himself Who is doing itPsalm 88:6-8Psalm 88:14Psalm 88:15-18. The doctrine of sovereign providence is a comfort when we think about what the future holds. But it can be deeply distressing in the middle of present troubles. God is never the author of sin or the author of evil. And He never treats us unjustly. But since He works all things according to the counsel of His will (cf. Ephesians 1:11), we know that He has ordained whatever trouble we are in. 

The psalmist feels the pain of this keenly. The Lord is the One who has laid him in the pit (Psalm 88:6a). The Lord is the One whose wrath lies heavy on him and all around him (Psalm 88:7a, cf. Psalm 88:15-17). The Lord is the One Who has afflicted him (Psalm 88:7b). The Lord is the One who has isolated him (Psalm 88:8Psalm 88:18). Yahweh is the One Who is casting him away (Psalm 88:14). 

If we love the Lord’s smile and fellowship above all others’, the knowledge that our hardship comes in His providence troubles us with the awareness that something may be off in our relationship with Him. Yes, it is troubling when those who were near us turn on us (Psalm 88:8Psalm 88:18). But the frown of God Himself is a much greater trial to the believer.

Sometimes, the darkness refuses to lift (Psalm 88:18). In those times, let us remember that He has given us Christ, and let us cling to Him by the words and thoughts of this Psalm.

What is the worst trouble you have been in? What was the worst part of it for you? What does this tell you about how you think? What trouble are you in right now? What part has singing and praying had in how you cope with it? 

Sample prayer:  Lord, even in deepest darkness, we can cry out to You. Help us to know that Your Word is more reliable than our feelings as a measure of what You are like and what You are doing in our lives. As long as we are in this world, grant us to see Your wonderful working, and grant us to speak and sing Your praise. We have gathered to declare Your lovingkindness and faithfulness. Grant that we would do so by Your Spirit, in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP88B “O LORD, I’ve Daily Called” or TPH256 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

No comments:

Post a Comment