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Sovereign in Death...and Life

He will never fail us. Psalm 88.16-18

Man of Sorrows (6)

Opening Prayer: Psalm 88.1-5
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.
For my soul is full of troubles,
And my life draws near to the grave.
I am counted with those who go down to the pit;
I am like a man who has no strength,
Adrift among the dead,
Like the slain who lie in the grave,
Whom You remember no more,
And who are cut off from Your hand.

Sing Psalm 88.1-5
(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.

Like a person thought to be dying, like a man whose strength is gone.
Like one with the slain now lying, like a dead and buried one:
For Your mercy I am sighing, cut off from Your hand and gone.

Read Psalm 88.16-18.

1. From where did Heman’s affliction come?

2. What is the effect of this on him?

The psalms composed by the sons of Korah end not with a bang, but a whimper.

But it’s a whimper of faith.

We are all going to die. It should comfort us to know as we are dying – as in all our trials, troubles, disappointments, fears, and uncertainties – that God is sovereign over life and death.

God knows the value of trials to strengthen hope, build character, and increase our experience of His love (cf. Rom. 5.1-5). This will be true as well when it comes our time to depart this life. God will have brought us to that moment. He will be with us in it, receiving our prayers and preparing to receive us to Himself. And though we may feel sad, bereft of loved ones, and slipping away into an uncertain darkness, we know that nothing – not even death – can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8.37-39).

Trials and death sadden us, cause us to grieve and moan, and leave us feeling perplexed and downcast. But they do not leave us forsaken. God Who is sovereign over death will hear our prayers, keep us through death’s flood (v. 17), and receive us unto Himself. That hope is sought here, but for us who know Jesus Christ, it is assured.

Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
The sons of Korah remind us that each one – themselves, Heman, David (Ps. 31.11; 38.11), Job (Job 16.20), Jesus (Matt. 26.47-50; Mk. 14.50)), us – will be afflicted, overwhelmed, forsaken by friends and family, and suffer terrors and wrath from God or from others (Ps. 88.15-18). Life is like that. Jesus promised (Jn. 16.33).

But we also possess the promise that He will never forsake us (Heb. 13.5).

We have, through the Holy Spirit, access to the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2.16). So it is possible, when we are surrounded and engulfed by troubles, that we can imagine ourselves flooded by His Living Water (Jn. 4.10). Up to our necks. Engulfed by His Presence; more pervasive than any problem.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.”
“For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior…” (Is. 43.2, 3).

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed,
and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
though its waters roar and be troubled,
though the mountains shake with its swelling” (Ps. 46.1-3).

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! (Rom. 11.33)

There are no depths. Not even death. Deeper than His love for us.

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8.38, 39).

1. How should we prepare for the trials we will face in life? For our own death?

2. What does it mean to have the mind of Christ? How can knowing that help us as we go through trials?

3. Why is it so comforting to know that God is sovereign over life and death?

Had the prophet thought himself rejected and abhorred by God, he certainly would not have persevered in prayer. But here he sets forth the judgment of the flesh, against which he strenuously and magnanimously struggled, that it might at length be manifest from the result that he had not prayed in vain. Although, therefore, this psalm does not end with thanksgiving, but with a mournful complaint, as if there remained no place for mercy, yet it is so much the more useful as a means of keeping us in the duty of prayer. John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on the Psalm 88.14-18

Closing Prayer: Psalm 88.13-18
Set your mind on Jesus, exalted in glory. See Him, with the eye of your heart (Eph. 1.15ff), radiant in beauty, welcoming your gaze and your praise. Call on Him to be Living Water in you today.

Sing Psalm 88.13-18
(Picardy: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence)
Morning comes and, Lord, I am crying: Why do You my soul reject?
From my youth have I been dying; pain and terrors sore afflict.
Fear and anger, sorely trying, overwhelm, destroy, reject.

All day long my foes surround me, like a threat’ning, rising flood.
Circling round they sought and found me, taking from me all that is good.
Friend and lover gone, they hound me – all my friends in darkness stood.

T. M. and Susie Moore

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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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