*Below is Pastor Andrew’s preaching outline from Sunday’s sermon, not a word for word manuscript. This is meant as aid in seeing the thought and direction of the sermon.
Why the 88th
Working with teens and college students for many years the Lamentations of the Psalter were such a help, (I mean they were a help to me when I was that age) because as we know teens can be act and think in ways that seem irrational and emotional and when it came to their prayers they said they had a hard time, because they never felt they could be honest with God about their situations or how they were feeling…Now few people have i ever worked with where the groaning of Ps 88 may be a reality, but many have experienced a season where this seemed true, and the comfort is in the honesty of the text.
I’ve never suffered in this way, but the raw heart of the Psalmist before us is a beauty to behold.
In this one Psalm the Prosperity gospel is shattered, the broken as given words to sing, the disillusioned are given eyes to see the need for endurance, and in the darkness, there is still light.
As one commentator summed up this text: It is a great mercy that the Lord has given us this one raw honest Psalm, it is an equally great mercy that he has only given us one. We could not have handled this text apart from the whole of the Psalter, and yet the whole of the Psalter would be lacking without the honesty of this one.
So as we approach the text let’s first lay out some foundational things…..
Foundational Issues of the Text
-This is 1 of 59 Songs of Lament that Make up the Psalter (but the only one that ends so open ended without a resolution or strong declaration of hope
-Now lament Psalms making up 39% of the Psalter are actually the largest single genre in the book (pointing to the reality that any aspect of the Christian faith that deals with our inner being and expressions of those emotions before God will deal with suffering, anxiety, depression, doubt, and fear)
Who Is Herman
-He is listed as a son of Korah and one of the singers at the temple
-In the book of 1 Kings 4:31 Solomon Wisdom is equated to Heman’s and then said to be greater (which says a lot about Heman)
-Also in the book of 1 Chronicles (6:33, 25:5) we are given a biographical sketch of Heman as we see that he was appointed by David to be the chief musician along with his brother Asaph. We are also told he had 14 sons and 3 daughters, all said to be musicians
-He is the only named Author in any of the 12 Korahite Psalms
-And one of two Ezrahite Authors along with Ethan of Ps 89 (who is also found with Heman in Kings and Chronicles)
-As A member of the Korahite line Heman would have a first-hand picture of the grace and mercy of God towards his family (in Numbers 16 his ancestors lead a rebellion against Moses and were swallowed up by the earth, and yet God seemed to spare some of his descendants) Num 26, and they rose in prominence to become musicians and writers of the scriptures themselves. Pointing to the reality that God is the God of Salvation in spite of brokenness or family baggage.
Why Does this Matter: Because as we have seen titles of Psalms are often just as informative but instructive: as they give us insight into who wrote it and why to a degree why (such as we saw with David in Psalm 51)
-For us when we come to this text in knowledge of where the prayer originates we know that the end for this man appears to be anything but death and lasting sorrow, and yet this is one of the realities of his life or an aspect of his soul that was seen only by God. He was a man who is faithful the worship of God and yet suffered in his soul. Yet in His Song of suffering he taught us how to cry out to God. He teaches us to pray
For we are reminded that the Psalms are an important aspect to all the churches as they bring strength and encouragement as Paul reminds us….
Ephesians 5:19 ESV
addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,
Colossians 3:16 ESV
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
The Worship of the church is not just to be sung in Joy but through the valley of the shadow of death and in the Dark nights of the soul.
And so today we begin not in Joy but in Agony….As we see the Psalmist Praying with honesty in the midst of suffering.
I. Through the Pain (3-9a, 10-12, 14-18)
Psalm 88:3–9 ESV
For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength, 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. You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep. Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah 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; my eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call upon you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you.
Psalm 88:10–12 ESV
Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon? Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
Psalm 88:14–18 ESV
O Lord, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me? Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am helpless. Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me. They surround me like a flood all day long; they close in on me together. You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness.
A. He Doesn’t Hide his emotions from God
When we read the words of this psalm many of us may be shocked by the raw honesty of the moment. The words being said hit home. Especially for those of us who may have never experienced this type of suffering. Yet they mirror the words of Job in the mire.
For those of you who have been through this pain you are immediately drawn to the raw emotion being expressed. the Psalmist holds nothing back from His God. He Knows who God is and he is broken. He has lost his bearing in the darkness and cries out in his disillusionment; through the pain he is searching.
It’s amazing to think about the fact that some of our greatest hymns are written by those who have experienced some great tragedies.
Not to harp to much on modern pop Christian worship, but as one theologian Carl Truman asked what can miserable Christians sing… A lot of our music is filled with overt happiness and joy in blessing. (Not bad things) but for many its singing of the faithfulness of God in suffering or the hope that through the pain He is there.
One song that reflects this so well is “Dear refuge of My weary Soul” written by Anne Steele
-Anne Steele (1717-1778)most Prolific Baptist Hymn writer:
She was injured when she fell from a horse at 19 and spent most of her life dealing with the ramifications of her injuries (eventually spending the final 9 years of her life bed ridden)
- Dear refuge of my weary soul,
On Thee, when sorrows rise
On Thee, when waves of trouble roll,
My fainting hope relies
To Thee I tell each rising grief,
For Thou alone canst heal
Thy Word can bring a sweet relief,
For every pain I feel
- But oh! When gloomy doubts prevail,
I fear to call Thee mine
The springs of comfort seem to fail,
And all my hopes decline
Yet gracious God, where shall I flee?
Thou art my only trust
And still my soul would cleave to Thee
Though prostrate in the dust
- Hast Thou not bid me seek Thy face,
And shall I seek in vain?
And can the ear of sovereign grace,
Be deaf when I complain?
No still the ear of sovereign grace,
Attends the mourner’s prayer
Oh may I ever find access,
To breathe my sorrows there
- Thy mercy seat is open still,
Here let my soul retreat
With humble hope attend Thy will,
And wait beneath Thy feet,
Thy mercy seat is open still,
Here let my soul retreat
With humble hope attend Thy will,
And wait beneath Thy feet
B. He has a deep sense of God’s Sovereign will (in spite of his circumstances)
He sees everything that has happened to him as the work of God….Now we may not be keen on the words he uses, but at the end of the day he doesn’t see the events unfolding around him as pure happenstance, It’s not bad luck.
Now there is a reason to have hope here.
- If the events unfolding before him was beyond the control of God then there would be nowhere to turn. For if God was not in control then the Psalmist has not hope.
- For us when the everything has left us disillusioned if God is not in control we are left to sail aimlessly hoping somewhere along the way he jumps ins.
- In Seeing God as Sovereign he also knows where his true help can come from
- His friends are gone, His past is of no comfort, all he sees is what lies before him in his own mind and it is not good…. He has become blinded by the events around him (like we often get blinded by the events
- It’s like driving through a dense fog or a torrential rain its seems unending, you cant’s see straight a head but a few feet you fear around any corner. You may have taken this road a million times but now you can’t see or understand your surroundings. Yet it is just a season that a seems to last a life time
Example: Another great hymn writer: William Cowper best known for : There is a Fountain & God Moves in Mysterious ways (best friends and co laborer with John Newton: Amazing Grace)
- God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.
He plants his footsteps on the sea, And rides upon the storm.
- Ye fearful saints fresh courage take, The clouds you so much dread,
Are big with mercy, and shall break, With blessings on your head.
- Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust him for his grace.
Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.
- His purposes will ripen fast, Unfolding every hour.
The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flower.
- Blind unbelief is sure to err, And scan His work in vain.
God is His own interpreter, And He will make it plain.
John Newton writes in the preface to the Olney Hymns that he was so discouraged when Cowper was struck ill that he set aside the project and almost never completed it.
This is One of the Last hymns he wrote before being committed to an asylum.
Reading the hymn in this light brings great pathos to lines such as “Blind unbelief is sure to err / And scan His work in vain / God is His own interpreter / And He will make it plain.” The hymn is a call to trust the Lord, even in the dark (Isaiah 50:10). But I love that it was written by one who knew firsthand the difficulty of this.
II. Without Ceasing (1b-2, 9b, 13)
Psalm 88:1–2 ESV
O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you. Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry!
Psalm 88:9 ESV
my eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call upon you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you.
Psalm 88:13 ESV
But I, O Lord, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Throughout this Psalm we need to be reminded thought that this is not a pity party or a complaint but an active prayer, his life is marked by one of Prayer through the suffering, through the pain and through the unknown.
He Knows that only salvation Comes from the Lord and so it is to Him that he turns
So for us this reminds us that through it all Prayer must be a continual aspect of our journey through Good and evil
Spurgeon when coming to this text rejoiced for to him it taught about the well-worn path that others had travelled:
Ill: Washing up on a deserted Island and finding tracks in the sand
So Here we see the Footprints in the sand calling us to walk, and yet it is easy to lose sight of God at times in trouble
-In the book of Job Satan speaks of using suffering against Job to prove that Job’s faith is only skin deep (he only worships God because of the good he receives)
Job 1:6–12 ESV
6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 8 And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” 9 Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
Yet what we see throughout the book of Job is very Different:
Job 2:9–10 ESV
9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
-The rest of the book will bear out that Jobs faith is unwavering even though throughout he will be confused and the events taking place in his life (it is not till the end that resolution is made and even then the resolution’s is to know that God is the god of my salvation, not the God who reveals every detail of the plan to mortal men)
-So he never ceases to plead his case and the Lord finds him righteous through it all, yet as we know our pleads in the midst of lament are not guarantees that our troubles will be dispersed, for some of them may teach us great things about God and about ourselves as Paul
2 Corinthians 12:7–8 ESV
7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.
-Paul comes to God continually looking for reprieve (he doesn’t abandon his hope in God because things are difficult or even as we see when he is told he will have to live with the Thorn, rather he see that his faith is in the Lord alone.
III. To the One who Saves (1)
Psalm 88:1 ESV
O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you.
He Knows that it is Only God who can restore
1 Peter 5:10 ESV
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
-The Psalmist connects us through this Psalm to the reality that in the midst of suffering and uncertainty it is into the hands of the almighty that we know we have a firm assurance of the eternal nature of who we are
-Our circumstance can never define who we are in the faith, we must be defined by God alone and trust in his sovereign grace and mercy over us,
-The life of Paul was one of continual suffering and set backs, and yet it was he who declared that they were but light momentary afflictions compared to the glory that is to be reveled in us.
Romans 8:18 ESV
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
TR: And through all of these things we ultimately in our prayer are seen the wonder of Christ the one who suffered far more than we ever will for our salvation and hope.
But Not Only Does The psalmist Show us the Direction of our Prayers He also Reveals to us the truth of Christ in His Prayer:
He was Like us in His suffering
Hebrews 2:10–17 ESV
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
He Suffered far more than we can Imagine
1 Peter 2:21–25 ESV
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
In His Suffering He too Cried Out
Matthew 27:45–46 ESV
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Reflection on Ps 22
Isaiah 50:10 ESV
Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.