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A Psalmist's Cry: Psalm 88

Wandering through the Psalms  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  30:15
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Introduction

This is our second and last sermon in the third book of Psalms. Just a reminder as we have been looking at the Psalms, the third book collection has a general focus of exile in the lives of the people.
Exile in their world is both actual and metaphorically.
There was a time where the people of God’s choosing where driven into exile as a way of punishing their unbelief and rebellion against God.
If you have been reading through the Psalms in this section of Psalms, you would have also realized that many of these psalms are written from a perspective of exile from God in their lives.
A sort of spiritual desert in their time.
God appeared to be silent,
God appeared to be inactive,
God appeared to be letting the evil prevail.
Church, this morning’s Psalm is one of those Psalms.
I have labelled this Psalm as a Palmist Cry.
This Psalm leaves us with many questions, like
Why do we, as beloved people of God, have to go through a time of suffering?
How are we to act as Christians when it appears to be a silent time from God.
In fact, is God really silent or do I have a problem. Am I the problem?
You may be wondering why would God place these verses in the scripture,
but I hope that after we walk through these verses this morning, that you will have a richer understanding of the heart of the Psalmist, and more importantly
the very heart of God
the heart for His people as they at times walk through those difficult moments in our lives.
Before we look into this Psalm let me tell you this.
This Psalm is a Psalm of great emotion and suffering.
I hope that this is not a warning like those found in front of a TV show, but to bring you to an awareness as we work through these Words from God. It may be hard to read and hear.
For some of us that are currently walking through trials, it may be a Psalm that you can quickly identify with. You are feeling the same intensity that the Psalmist speaks of. May I encourage you to listen to God’s Spirit speak to you with words of comfort.
For some of us, we may struggle with these words as we are struggling with the same emotion and suffering of the Psalmist. May I encourage you as well, to hang tight, because in this Psalm you will find out God’s redeeming Grace and a shadow of things to come.
For the rest of us that are not experiencing this presently in our life, To God be the Glory, but may the words found in this Psalm be packed away for a time that may come or as you walk along side someone who is experience these words, that you will be able to pull them out to bring words of comfort.
With this in mind, let’s open up our Bibles and turn with me to the Double 8 Psalm. Ps 88
Psalm 88 ESV
A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil of Heman the Ezrahite. 1 O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you. 2 Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry! 3 For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. 4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength, 5 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. 6 You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep. 7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah 8 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; 9 my eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call upon you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you. 10 Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah 11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon? 12 Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? 13 But I, O Lord, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you. 14 O Lord, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me? 15 Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am helpless. 16 Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me. 17 They surround me like a flood all day long; they close in on me together. 18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness.

Cry of the Heart (vs 1-2)

You may have noticed that I have developed a practice of speaking of the writers of the Psalm as “The Psalmist”. I am intentionally doing this to begin our shift of looking at the Psalms as writers, who have been inspired by God to formulate the words. Many people have held to the fact that most of the Psalms were from David, as this is largely true, but not all.
I want you to realize that these Psalms have been penned by inspiration from God. They are the very words of God. In those moment of feeling lost, abandoned, a maybe thoughts of God’s Silence in our lives, we can turn to these passages and listen to God speak to us.
This inspired writer for today’s Psalm is non other than the band of the Sons of Korah. Those temple musicians that have a dark past in their lives and by the words of this Psalm, they are reliving that past in their present day circumstance.
As we work through this Psalm will will be focus around various crys.
We are going to be looking at cry’s from the heart,
Cry’s of our life,
Cry’s to God and end the morning with Christ’s cry for us.
Stop for a moment....
Do you have a cry of the heart.
pause
Remember, these Psalms were often put to music and became a chorus for people to sing. It was the nation’s song book.
I always appreciate our worship leaders as they week by week pick songs that bring us together to worship,
If the Psalms were the songs to pick for worship, I could hardly see this one being one of the top songs. I’m not sure if it would even be in the top 100
You see the Psalmist is in great turmoil. His life seems to be crushing down on him as he cries out to God. But I must point out that even in the midst of the turmoil he is holding onto his faith in a God that has delivered in the past and will soon deliver him in his cry.
This Psalm has been placed specifically in the Psalter a reminder for all of us as we in a point of despair that we can cry out to God and it not a indication of our lack of faith.
It is the farthest from that.
He cries out, “The God of my salvation”,
I have seen so many hurtful words have been placed from well meaning brothers and sisters in the Lord when they approach a fellow believer who is feeling what this Psalmist is feeling.
When we are going through this rough patch, our faith is not wavering, but we can cry out to God.
You see this cry is a cry out for something to be done. It’s not a cry of complaint, but a cry for action.
Once commentary writes,
The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 14: Psalms 73–150 (Ceaseless Prayer)
In verse 1 God is addressed as Yahweh, the personal God of Israel, and is identified as the “God of my salvation” (“deliverance”). This is reason enough to pray. The psalmist knows God as his Savior. What ever else may be said, he is anchored in the God who saves His people. No wonder that he can pour out the bitter agony of his soul before God. To know God as our Savior is to know just enough. We can come to Him without pretense and tell Him who we really are.
When we are in a good relationship with God and understand that he is our savior, we can cry out to God for deliverance.
Our faith in God is the anchor that will hold us strong as we go through these times.
I read a poem about an anchor, It goes like this.
This anchor holds in day of adversity, When all else threatens to give way.
This anchor keeps my vessel from drifting, Never letting my ship run astray.
This anchor holds midst angry seas battering, When waves and winds battle for my soul.
This anchor holds in the lonely night hours, When darkness levy my spirit less bold.
This anchor holds with vigil over me, Surveying waters lest my ship drift away.
This anchor is trustworthy and faithful, Making unanxious my passageway.
This anchor holds fast though life is fleeing, When death’s icy fingers my life grasps for.
This anchor will never let me falter, Till my ship moors on that sacred shore
This anchor holds in the Judgment, When the elements melt with fervent heat.
This anchor will calm and quiet my spirit, Shoring me on with mercy and peace.
***********
This anchor holding me is Jesus.
My ship is in his arrant control.
He is my one hope! He is my comfort!
He is the anchor of my soul!
Written by L C Taylor- https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon-illustrations/65416/on-stories-by-sermon-central
You see the Psalmist cry was a cry to God not because he wasn’t getting what he wanted, but a cry for help. The Psalmist’s plea was similar to that of Jacob (Gen 32:26) when he sat all night wrestling with an angel.

A Shadow of things to come: A Cry of Heart

In each of the crys in this Psalm, there is also a shadow of things to come.
I refer them to Shadows as they are in the background a casting of an image or thought that is there from another source.
A cry of another’s heart.
The first shadow is when Christ was in the garden praying to God, He too cried out knowing that what he was about to endure was for the sake of the lost. He was crying out for comfort and strength to complete the call on His life.
It is in these moments of our life, as we cry out, that those shadows of Christ’s are present.
Knowing what we are enduring, we have a mediator, a God, the also went through a time of crying. It is there to bring us comfort as Christ can understand and relate to us.

Cry for my Life (vs 3-12)

After the Psalmist expresses this Cry of his Heart, he then goes through several different cries for his life. Cries of troubles, feelings of God’s wrath, cries of prayers.

Ceaseless Troubles ( vs 3-5)

The first set of cries are for the troubles that he is facing.
Many authors and readers of this text describe a man who is facing immediate death.
He is terminal. He sees no end in sight
He is experiencing the dark night of the soul.
If you would look at verse 3-5, it’s a time when we are at this place in our lives, we can identify with the loss of strength.
ps 88:4 “4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength,”
The troubles of his world have gotten him down. Despair is just around the corner. The ceaseless troubles in his life just keep coming.

Ceaseless Wrath (vs 6-9)

after listing the troubles of his world, the psalmist then moves onto the wrath that he is feeling.
That wrath he feels is from God.
It is important to note that,
The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 14: Psalms 73–150 (Ceaseless Wrath)
The psalmist does not identify the cause of the divine displeasure, only the consequences.
His consequences and wrath are isolation.
So many people, that I talk with,
who God has placed in my path as they identify with this psalmist at this point in their lives, they often have the same message. A feeling of isolation.
Maybe that isolation is self induced, or in the case of this Psalmist the shunning of companions,
but in both cases the wrath one feels is a wrath that brings on isolation.
This cry like the first also has a shadow of things to come but we notice that:
The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 14: Psalms 73–150 (Ceaseless Wrath)
The thought progresses in verses 3–9 from mental and physical pain to divine and human rejection. Here is a picture of total despair. It is as if we hear the cry of pain as Jesus hangs on the cross.
It’s in those moments that we must do as the Psalmist states,
ps 88:9
Psalm 88:9 ESV
9 my eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call upon you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you.
Instead of turning the results of wrath back against God, blaming God, Blaming others, we need to spread out our hands to the one who will sustain us through this time.
It is that moment that the Psalmist realizes what is needed in his life.

Ceaseless Prayer (vs 9-12)

The Psalmist once again, in this prayer, introduces a prayer to the personal God, Yahweh.
But this prayer seems a little different that prayers we often see in the Psalms.
There is a fascination with the comparison of the living and the dead.
Three understandings and reasons for the death theme
Only the living can bring praise to God
The dead will not rise up and praise him. If you are dead you are dead. The Psalmist was reasoning with God in so much as to say, if you want worshipers you need to keep them alive.
There are no witnesses of Yahweh from the dead
Remember this is a pre Christ’s work on the cross , as stated,

For all of these reasons, the Lord should answer the psalmist’s prayers with healing and deliverance. Implied, of course, is the promise that if God does perform a miracle, worship and witness will be his response. His expectation for God’s mighty intervention places him at the heart of Israel’s covenant experience of the living God (see Ex. 15). No wonder he pours out his soul in persevering prayer. He doesn’t give up on God even though he fears that God has given up on him.

It is at this point in the Psalm that we notice and must realize this:
What brings us through these times in our lives is pray, abiding prayer.
Prayer in the form of words penned by one who was close to his God, Yahweh.
Dare I say that when we are drawn to prayer like this of the Psalmist it is the very things that brings us even closer to God.

A shadow of things to come: Life everlasting

As I mentioned earlier these words of a cry for my life also come with a Shadow of things to come.
This shadow is life everlasting.
At the time of the writing of the Psalm, the words are pointing to the cross. A time when death will not be the victor. There is life everlasting.
That is the shadow that we can hold onto in this world as we are in the cries for our lives.
No matter what the troubles are in this world.
No matter what wrath we are feeling,
no matter what isolation we find ourselves in,
no matter how silent God seems to be in response to our many prayers to Him,
There is a life everlasting.
John 1:12 ESV
12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
John 14:6 ESV
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
life everlasting through Christ.
It would be great to stop there and yet, the Psalmist is not finished

Cry out to God (vs 13-18)

Look once again at the final verses. This Psalm ends with a continued cry out to God.
unlike other Psalms that finish with on a positive note, the Psalmist first expressed the cry of his heart, the cry for his life, and now he finished with the Cry out to God.

The psalmist reinforces his supplication by reminding Yahweh that he prays to Him. (The verb in verse 13, cried out, means “to cry out for help.”) Furthermore, he prays “in the morning”; he begins his day seeking God’s face (see v. 1). Nevertheless, he is greeted with silence. Thus he asks: “LORD, why do you cast off my soul?” His deepest pain is God’s absence as His face is turned from him in rejection and displeasure (see Ps. 22:1–2).

A shadow of things to come: Christ Cry to His Father

Once again we look for the shadow in these words.
We look through the story of Christ and we are drawn to the voice of Christ as he pours out his heart and his life to God.
We are drawn to those times in the Garden, before His death, as He is pouring out his thoughts to His heavenly father as he too felt abandoned by his disciples.
He too felt the pain of isolation.

Christ Cry for Us

The Psalmist may end this Psalm with the apparent lack of hope, but this morning, I won’t leave you there.
You see, as one person wrote,
The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 14: Psalms 73–150 (Ceaseless Rejection)
This prayer was incorporated into the Psalter and is thus a prayer for us. Since it does not end in resolution, God’s answer is still open. It is a prayer for the sick, not for the healed. In our darkness, in our anguish we too can pray this psalm. The promise is that God will hear and answer. The resolution lies in His sovereign hand. Moreover, this “incomplete” psalm demands the gospel to complete it. Jesus is the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world (John 1:29). It is by His stripes that we are healed (Is. 53:5)
Folks,
This Psalm is the Psalm often used in our Easter story. Did you catch that?
It is tied directly with Psalm 22:1
Psalm 22:1 ESV
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
If in those moments of despair in your life, the place where you feel abandoned by all those around you and even feel that God is not there, or He is silent, we turn to these words.
Christ at the moment of great pain and suffering on our behalf, cried out to His heavenly father feeling the same things you do or have felt.
Christ can and does understand all that you have and will experience as He Himself has gone through the same things.
Hebrews 4:15 ESV
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
As Christ hung on the cross to pay the punishment for our sin, so that we can stand before a holy God, and our sin be reconciled, bought with a price, the shed blood of Christ, paid the way for our sins to one day they will be ultimately removed from our lives.
It is in that Good News, the Gospel that this Psalm is complete.
Our crys, of our heart, our crys for our lives, Our crys out to God will one day be fully answered.
God has promised us that one day, all this, all that we struggle with, all that we face will be gone.
We will stand in the presence of a Holy God, and our cries will be turned to praises.
Our heart will rejoice.
The wrath will be turned away
Our prayers will turn to worship.
I’m not sure about you, but looking forward to that day bring a load of excitement to my life.
Christ is coming and one day coming for me. He is coming for me because I have accepted His words, Have you?
Has the gospel been applied in your life?

Prayer

Let’s bow our hearts in prayer.
Lord we come to you this morning with the prayers and crys of our heart. We know that you are present, we know that you hear us, we know that one day you will return. May I ask you, in this silent moment of prayer, as we are all bowing before a Holy God, in an act of prayer and crying out, would you raise your hand if you can identify with this Psalmist. You have crys of your own heart. You struggle with the feelings of isolation and struggling. Pray out to God.
As we all have times in our life, Lord help us to continue as the Psalmist You are the God of my salvation.
Amen

Response to Worship

As the worship team comes forward to lead us in a response to the Word of God, let me leave you with this.
The closing song, will guide us through words of worship.
They are powerful words that echo the words of this Psalmist.
We can not do this alone.
We can not do this by our own strength.
It is only through the power of Christ working through our lives that we can live out the words found in this Psalm. That we can say,
Yet not I, but Christ who lives in me.
If you are feeling alone, if you need prayer, if during the song the words echo your heart, reach out to God. The front is always open to come to the alter of Grace. Come with our hands reaching out, come and we will pray for one another and practice the presence of Christ.
I hope this morning, As you sing these words, may they be not just words, but words of affirmation in your life as we serve a mighty, powerful and ever present God.
let’s sing

Benediction

Colossians 3:16–17 ESV
16 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. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
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