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The Scriptorium

Lamentation for a Great Man

In the midst of sorrow, we can have hope. Psalm 88.1, 2

Man of Sorrows (1)

Opening Prayer: Psalm 88.1, 2
O LORD, God of my salvation,
I have cried out day and night before You.
Let my prayer come before You;
Incline Your ear to my cry.

Sing Psalm 88.1-3
(Picardy: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence)
Lord of my salvation, hear me, as I cry by night and day.
Hear my plea, O Lord, bend near me; O, receive me when I pray!
For my soul is weak and weary, and my life draws near the grave.

Read Psalm 88.1, 2, and don’t forget the superscription!

1. How would you describe the mood of these verses?

2. What do the psalmists want of God?

Psalm 88 provides a proper bookend to Psalms 42/43, which opened the collection of psalms written by the sons of Korah. There the mood was one of disquiet and of searching for refreshment from the Lord. Here we return to that mood and theme. But whereas in Psalms 42/43 that longing was realized, in Psalm 88 it is not. The psalms of the sons of Korah end in God remaining silent and the burdened soul unrelieved in his suffering.

And there’s a good reason for this, although probably not one of which the sons of Korah were aware.

The psalm is set to a melody known as “Mahalath Leannoth”, or “The Sickness of Affliction.” It is a psalm about being afflicted to the point of weakness, despair, and death. The psalm appears to be an homage to Heman the Ezrahite (the Hebrew preposition to here can mean “concerning” or even “for”). So who was he?

Heman was a descendant of Perez, of the tribe of Judah, a contemporary of Solomon and second only to him in wisdom (cf. 1 Chron. 2.5, 6; 1 Kgs. 4.30, 31).My sense is that this great man had died, or was near to dying, and this psalm was meant to be sung as a lamentation for such a great loss.

So a great wise man of the tribe of Judah has died, and the psalm puts us, as it were, in the grave with him. Now why would God want the sons of Korah to write something like this?

Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Indeed, why would they write this?

Because with God there is always hope.
Hope for a brighter tomorrow.
Hope for help from His caring hand.

In the midst of their sadness, to Whom do they cry?
“O LORD, God of my salvation.” (Ps. 88. 1)

In the midst of their sorrow, how often do they seek Him?
“I have cried out day and night before You.” (Ps. 88.1)

In their depression, where is their hope?
“Let my prayer come before You.” (Ps. 88.2)

In the darkness, where is the light?
“Incline Your ear to my cry.” (Ps. 88.2)

As the prophet Jeremiah wrote:
“Remember my affliction and roaming,
the wormwood and the gall.
My soul still remembers and sinks within me.
This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.
Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness.
‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘Therefore I hope in Him!’” (Lam. 3.19-24)

“The LORD is righteous in her midst,
He will do no unrighteousness.
Every morning He brings His justice to light;
He never fails…” (Zeph. 3.5).

Look to God’s love.
It never fails. (1 Cor. 13.8)

1. How can we maintain our hope in God in the face of trials or tragedies?

2. Why is it important that we do so? How can we encourage our fellow believers in their times of trial?

3. What does it mean to ask, seek, and knock in prayer to the Lord (Matt. 7.7, 8)? How do you see that attitude reflected in verses 1 and 2 of Psalm 88?

Probably the psalmist described his own case, yet he leads to Christ. Thus are we called to look unto Jesus, wounded and bruised for our iniquities. But the wrath of God poured the greatest bitterness into his cup. This weighed him down into darkness and the deep. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Psalm 88.1-9

Closing Prayer: Psalm 88.9-12
Those who are dead in their trespasses and sins will not praise the Lord. Today, throughout the day, pray for specific lost people in your Personal Mission Field, that God would open their eyes to Jesus, and that He would use you to help them come to faith in Him.

Sing Psalm 88.9-12
(Picardy: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence)
All day long I cry in vain, Lord, as my eye is wasting away.
Can a dead man sing Your praise, Lord? Can I testify from the grave?
Will I tell Your love again, Lord?  Will I sing Your pow’r and grace?

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can listen to our summary of last week’s study by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore

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