Psalms 87–89: I Have Cried Out By Day & In The Night

Read the Bible in 2011Week 30: Wednesday

O LORD, the God of my salvation,
I have cried out by day and in the night before You.
Let my prayer come before You;
Incline Your ear to my cry!
For my soul has had enough troubles,
And my life has drawn near to Sheol.

Psalm 88:1–3

Wednesday’s Bible reading is Psalms 87–89. In this trio of psalms, Psalm 88 is the type of psalm that is almost shocking to find in Scripture. There is no tight mask of super-spirituality here pretending godly people feel no pain—this is a raw lament of why. It is the psalm of someone who has been ground down by overwhelming, lengthy suffering. It is a psalm that gives a voice to your heart at your lowest ebb.

It’s a psalm that just ends—there’s no crescendo to a change of mood or even a conclusion—it just stops. That’s very fitting for this psalm, because if you have ever lived within the words of this psalm, you know the unrelenting hours of tears and crying out with no answer—only a continuing in endurance.

M’Caw and Motyer write:

“This lament is unique in the Psalter because of its gloom and unrelieved misery, devoid even of hope. Contrast the conclusions of Pss. 22 and 31 with vv. 15–18. It seems to be a personal elegy by someone who, like Job, was strained between an undeviating trust in God as the sole source of his salvation, and an intensely bewildering experience which appeared to negate the foundation of all such trust. The divisions of the psalm are marked by those verses in which the psalmist recalls how patiently he has prayed to God: vv. 1, 9b, 13….he complains of the wrath of God, the alienation of friends and his bitter personal distress.”1

Now read the rest of the psalm:

“I am reckoned among those who go down to the pit;
I have become like a man without strength,
Forsaken among the dead,
Like the slain who lie in the grave,
Whom You remember no more,
And they are cut off from Your hand.
You have put me in the lowest pit,
In dark places, in the depths.
Your wrath has rested upon me,
And You have afflicted me with all Your waves.
You have removed my acquaintances far from me;
You have made me an object of loathing to them;
I am shut up and cannot go out.
My eye has wasted away because of affliction;
I have called upon You every day, O LORD;
I have spread out my hands to You.
Will You perform wonders for the dead?
Will the departed spirits rise and praise You?
Will Your lovingkindness be declared in the grave,
Your faithfulness in Abaddon?
Will Your wonders be made known in the darkness?
And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
But I, O LORD, have cried out to You for help,
And in the morning my prayer comes before You.
O LORD, why do You reject my soul?
Why do You hide Your face from me?
I was afflicted and about to die from my youth on;
I suffer Your terrors; I am overcome.
Your burning anger has passed over me;
Your terrors have destroyed me.
They have surrounded me like water all day long;
They have encompassed me altogether.
You have removed lover and friend far from me;
My acquaintances are in darkness.”
Psalm 88:4–19

There can be times in our life when we think and feel exactly as Heman the Ezrahite did when he wrote this psalm. The inclusion of this psalm in God’s Word tells us God wants us to know we are not alone in experiencing the war of attrition that affliction wages against us. We are not alone in experiencing abandonment and alienation from those we thought loved us.

Over the past few years my family has been hit so hard by the economy we’ve experienced shock, disorientation and grief. We’ve experienced abandonment as we’ve had very few Christians who have stayed with us through the long haul, loved us and been willing to walk beside us through this valley. When the psalmist tells God that He’s removed his friends from him, and my acquaintances are darkness, I know exactly what he feels—it is one of the hardest things to bear. I think even more so because I have known the difference the love of Christians makes in enabling you to live in hope and trust in God when you are suffering. Charles Spurgeon wrote:

“Lost friends require but small excuse for turning their backs on the afflicted. The swallows offer no apology for leaving us to winter by ourselves. Yet it is a piercing pain which arises from the desertion of dear associates; it is a wound which festers and refuses to be healed.”2

Many of my posts are a struggle to write because of the tension I feel between wanting to be authentic and offer something helpful while at the same time being at the lowest ebb I can ever remember; however, the discipline of trying to write on God’s Word has kept me tied to His Word. There are days when I have felt I am slogging through mud—then there are times like today when a portion of His Word expresses who I am. God keeps me tied to Himself through His Word. It meant something to me to encounter this psalm today.

How can this psalm help us? There are times when commentaries are as dry as dust, and the authors seem far removed from the Bible in their erudite research. Then there are those scholars who have walked through the text in their lives. I have some commentaries on Job written by men who have lived there—I don’t see how you could even begin to write one on that book if you had not. In writing on this psalm, M’Caw and Motyer have some helpful words:

13 But again, though distress has reached critical proportions, faith greets each new day with prayer, in spite of the fact that he is utterly perplexed by God’s purposes as seen in his life. 14, 15 Divine wrath, which he cannot explain, has been his long-standing lot, and 16, 17 now the wrath which he has long experienced rises like a flood to swamp and destroy. 18 Not only so, but it is God who has alienated human sympathy from the sufferer so that, literally, ‘my friends are darkness’, i.e., there is nothing to be seen but darkness and hopelessness where he might reasonably and rightly expect light and relief (cf. Jb. 6:14–20), Aptly, but dreadfully, the last word of the psalm is darkness, and yet therein lies its wonder—the wonder of triumphant faith, that a man should see no light at all but yet go on supplicating in fervent, trustful, ceaseless prayer (cf. Is. 50:10). Truly the OT saint can be our master and teacher!”3

I don’t think the psalmist’s faith is triumphant as we think of the word—he certainly is not feeling victorious—but his faith is persistent. He endures; he continues to pray; he constantly brings his case before God.

“LORD, the God of my salvation,
I have cried out by day and in the night before You.
Let my prayer come before You;
Incline Your ear to my cry!
For my soul has had enough troubles,
And my life has drawn near to Sheol.”
Psalm 88:1–3

In Suffering & Lovingkindness I’ve written about showing kindness to someone who is suffering.
Isaiah 42 Photograph: – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
Miedo-ajeno, RayNata: Public Domain
1, 3Leslie S. M’Caw, J. A. Motyer, “Psalms,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., pp. 505–506.
2Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Psalm 88.
The Ninth Wave, Ivan Aivazovsky: Public Domain.

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

2 thoughts on “Psalms 87–89: I Have Cried Out By Day & In The Night

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