Psalms Of Lament
Psalms Of Lament
Text: Psalm 130:1-8
Thesis: To show that the psalms of lament encourage God's people to come to Him in times of hopeless distress.
1. Most of us know that in times of emergency, we should call 911. That will bring the help we
2. Some have noted that Song # 911 in our song books is appropriate for times of distress,
too. Note the words of verse 3: "Bring Him your weariness, receive His rest; weep out your
blinding tears upon His breast." Would we do that, however? Or would we avoid going to
God while we are torn by problems? "I'll wait until I get myself under control, then I'll go to
God," many of us would say.
3. The psalms of lament, however, suggest that we do just as this song teaches. While we
are blinded by tears is a most appropriate time to turn to God. No, we may not say the
right words, and our attitudes might not be what they should be. But where better to go
when all of life seems to have caved in around us?
4. Some have estimated that as many as 57 of the Psalms may be placed in the category of
a "lament". That's 38% of the Psalms! Why did God want us to have these psalms?
I. Psalms Of Personal Lament
A. In these psalms, it seems that an individual is approaching God with a problem of one kind or another. Gerald H. Wilson in The NIV Application Commentary on Psalms (vol. 1) notes: "Slander, sickness, sin, famine, political upheaval, and legal accusations can all be at the root of a lament's pain" (p. 141). In these psalms, a declaration of hopelessness is made. The only hope the psalmist has is God. Almost always the psalm will close with a statement of trust, and assurance that God will act.
B. Psalm 130 - An example of a personal lament:
1. vv. 1,2 - The psalm begins with a clear statement of crisis. He claims to be calling "out of the depths", and he appeals to God to hear his voice.
2. vv. 3,4 - A confession (of sorts) follows, with the psalmist acknowledging that none can claim innocence with God. But he knows that God is merciful, and he hopes for the forgiveness God can give.
3. vv. 5,6 - The psalmist is convinced that God will act to help him, just as people in the night wait for the morning - they know the morning will come. In God's word he hopes, thus suggesting his faith in God's covenant relationship.
4. vv. 7,8 - The psalmist then turns from his personal dilemma to encourage all of Israel to turn to God in hope. Though Israel has sinned, God has mercy. He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
5. Thus, one who began weeping to God out of the depths eventually finds the composure to urge others to turn to the faithful God. There was obviously comfort to be found in this honest lament with God.
C. There are many examples of psalms of personal lament. Others that might be considered are Psalm 51 (David's famous confession of sin), Psalm 22 (one we will consider next week in our Psalms of the Messiah), Psalm 26 and Psalm 120.
II. Psalms Of Communal Lament
A. These psalms speak of times of national distress. Many of these center on the destruction of Judah and the exile in Babylon. The Jews naturally expected God to defend His land against the barbarians; when He didn't it made the destruction even worse. Had God cast them off completely?
B. Psalm 74 - An example of a communal lament:
1. vv. 1,2 - The psalm begins with an urgent petition to God to look upon His people and the devastation that is occurring (Is this during the destruction of Judah?). The psalmist repeatedly refers to "Your" pasture, congregation, inheritance, dwelling place. It's as if God has abandoned all that is His.
2. vv. 3-8 - A description of the destruction ensues. The work of the enemies of God's people is described in detail, with the temple itself being defiled and burned, and all the "meeting places" (synagogues?) destroyed, too.
3. vv. 9-12 - God does not seem to be aware of the problem; the psalmist urges Him to take His hands out of His pocket ("out of Your bosom") and do something! But that statement is immediately followed by a statement of trust in God. He has "my King from of old", and He has often worked salvation.
4. vv. 22,23 - With a heave of desperation, the psalmist implores God to "Arise" and plead his own cause. It's not for his own sake the writer pleads, but for that of Israel.
C. Psalm 137 - Another example of a communal lament:
1. As we know, God did not stop the destruction of Judah. He had warned His people for hundreds of years to no avail. This psalm is written from exile.
2. vv. 1,2 - An opening dirge is given; there is no joy, so how can they make music?
3. vv. 3-6 - Though taunted by the Babylonians to play music, the psalmist again declares to have no heart for it. A vow is made to never forget Jerusalem; it is the writer's chief joy.
4. vv. 7-9 - The psalm closes with the psalmist's appeal to God to remember the harm done by the Babylonians. The words are harsh, and Christians find it hard to reconcile with the command to love our enemies. But the writer is honest; he will not conceal the anger he feels, and the hatred for the ones who inflicted the destruction.
D. There are many other examples of communal laments. For example, Psalm 90 (the Psalm attributed to Moses), Psalm 60, Psalm 85 and Psalm 126 (which both appear to have been written after the exile).
1. These psalms were originally the property of the Jews, and were sung regularly in their
worship and in their festivals. But they have been preserved for us because they continue
to teach us things we need to know.
2. Wilson, again, comments on the enduring value of the psalms of lament: "Experience of
suffering and divine distance drives the psalmists toward God rather than away from Him.
They seek to awaken God to their need, to hasten His approach, and to ensure His action
in their behalf. ... They function on one important level as instruction and models in carrying
on a faithful conversation with the Maker of the universe." (pp. 143,141)
3. Mat. 11:28 - These psalms demonstrate the truthfulness of Christ's gracious invitation to
come to Him when we are burdened, and we'll find rest.