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Comments on Psalm 88

From various commentators:

The Psalm as a Whole

There is no sadder prayer in the Psalter. --Derek Kidner

Long trails of suffering and loss traverse the landscape of human existence, even for the devoted people of God. There are cold, wintry nights of the soul, when bleakness fills every horizon, and darkness seems nearly complete. --Daniel Estes citing Tate

Verses 1-9a

"God of my salvation" (v. 1) is the only positive note in the psalm... apart from the crucial fact that he continues to pray. --Derek Kidner

For the psalmist, death is not just... a state at the end of life. In his affliction and loss of strength, he is already at the threshold of Sheol. --James L. Mays

Verses 9b-12

"Every day I call upon you, O Lord" (v 9); True faith is not an apathetic acceptance of whatever comes to pass. True faith lies in wrestling with the Lord in prayer." --Daniel Estes citing Willem VanGemeren

The whole character of death is negative: it is the last word in inactivity, silence, the severing of ties, corruption, gloom, oblivion. The New Testament concurs, calling it the last enemy. --Derek Kidner

Verses 13-18

Even as the psalmist feels abandoned by the Lord, he persists in addressing him directly, suggesting that he does not give up on the Lord even when it appears that the Lord has given up on him. --Daniel Estes

The cry, "darkness!" is a challenge to Yahweh... to put an end to this anti-God state of things and at last to show himself as the one He is. --Hossfeld & Zenger

Relationship to the New Testament

The psalm reminds us of the limits set for praying that is not based on the knowledge that God raised Messiah Jesus from the grave. This Old Testament prayer sounds like a cry to hear that good news as its answer. --James L. Mays

Lee Southwick's Poem

A few months ago, Lee showed me a poem he had written, and it reminded me of Psalm 88. I appreciate Lee's poem in the way it can help us catch a glimpse of the inner life of someone who has lost a beloved spouse of many years.




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