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The Scriptorium

In the Grave

And it's a good thing. Psalm 88.6, 7

Man of Sorrows (3)

Opening Prayer: Psalm 88.6, 7
You have laid me in the lowest pit,
In darkness, in the depths.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
And You have afflicted me with all Your waves.

Sing Psalm 88.6-8
(Picardy: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence)
In the lowest pit You have set me, in a deep and darkening place.
All Your holy wrath has beset me, overwhelming me in waves.
All my former friends forget me; on me now they look with hate.

Read Psalm 88.6, 7

1. Where is the psalmist in these verses?

2. How do we know that he still has faith?

Let’s remember that inspired prophets did not always fully grasp the meaning of what they preached or wrote. Their words captured something important about their times and circumstances; but very often, they pointed far beyond those times and situations to deeper, more sublime and mysterious truths that would await fuller explication as the course of God’s redemptive plan continued to unfold.

These verses certainly fall into that category. The sons of Korah speak as Heman, now lowered into the grave, yet somehow, still communing with the Lord. Heman seems to acknowledge the deservedness of his death (v. 7; cf. Rom. 3.23, 6.23), yet his faith is undiminished. We get the sense that God hears Heman’s prayer and that, somehow, the grave is not the end of the story.

This is further signaled by the not-so-veiled reference to Jonah 2.1-4. There the prophet sounds very much like Heman in Psalm 88, and we know that God did not leave Jonah in the depths of the sea. This was not the first time the sons of Korah appealed to Jonah 2. They did in Psalm 42.7, which verse is immediately followed by the confident expression of hope in God’s reviving power (Ps. 42.8).

In the face of death and loss, echoes of faith and hope reverberate throughout Psalm 88. For the most part, they are left unsaid, yet the memory of them is cued up for those who are familiar with Scripture and who hope in the sovereign grace and goodness of God.

God will raise this wise man from the tribe of Judah, just as He will raise Wisdom Himself in a later day.

Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
If you were sitting in English class and were given the assignment to write about a frightening place, a place you would like to avoid at all costs, you would be hard-pressed to come up with a darker description than this. Laid in the lowest pit. In darkness. In a deep place. God’s wrath overwhelming. God’s affliction unending. Rolling to and fro with unceasing storm-tossed waves. In the dark. Alone. No friends. Hated by everyone. Shut up in a small, dark place from which you cannot get out, going blind in the germ-ridden hold of affliction. Rocking, retching, in the darkness (Ps. 88.6, 7).

And that cannot even begin to describe the place of suffering to which Jesus was flung for us;
“He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised
for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and
the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Is. 53.3-6).

Back to English class for a new assignment: Write about light and love; forgiveness and new life.  Write about emerging from the darkness; justified from sin. Underserved yet experienced:
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom. 5. 8).

Jesus, the Man of sorrows, experienced the rank darkness of God’s anger, so that we can experience His light.

So in this truth, the sons of Korah tell us how to take the next assignment into our Personal Mission Field:
“My heart is overflowing with a good theme;
I recite my composition concerning the King;
my tongue is the pen of a ready writer” (Ps. 45. 1).

Show and tell.

1. How should the suffering and death of Jesus – for your sins – lead you to respond to Him?

2. What “good theme” will you share with someone today?

3. How can we as believers encourage one another in our witness to the Lord?

He complained most of God’s displeasure. Even the children of God’s love may sometimes think themselves children of wrath and no outward trouble can be so hard upon them as that. Probably the psalmist described his own case, yet he leads to Christ. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Psalm 88.1-9

Closing Prayer: Psalm 88.1-3
Call on the Lord to fill your soul with peace. Whatever challenges, troubles, or obstacles are facing you today, roll them on Him, and give Him thanks.

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.

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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