The final plea to Yahweh (Ps 88:13-88:18)

“I cry out to you!

Yahweh!

In the morning

My prayer comes before you.

Yahweh!

Why do you cast me off?

Why do you hide your face from me?

Wretched and close to death from my youth on,

I suffer your terrors.

I am desperate.

Your wrath has swept over me.

Your dread assaults destroy me.

They surround me

Like a flood

All day long.

From all sides,

They close in on me.

You have caused friends

To shun me.

You have caused neighbors

To shun me.  

My companions are in darkness.”

Just like Job, the psalmist remains faithful despite all his sufferings. Thus this psalm ends with a direct appeal to Yahweh, over and over again. He cried out in the morning to God. Why was he cast off? Why couldn’t he see the face of God? He believed that his physical suffering was related to his spiritual sufferings. His whole life he has been close to death with his physical afflictions. He felt like he was surrounded with waves of water all around him. More than that was the fact that his friends and neighbors were now shunning him. The only friend that he had left was darkness itself. Wow! This is a dreary bleak psalm of agony.

The futility of death (Ps 88:11-88:12)

“Is your steadfast love declared in the grave?

Is your faithfulness in Abaddon?

Are your wonders known in the darkness?

Is your saving help in the land of forgetfulness?”

Now the psalmist asks a series of questions that indicate that if he died he could no longer show his love to God or tell people about God’s wonderful things. He would be in the grave. Abaddon is another name for Sheol, since there would be no contact with the living. If he died he would be in the land of darkness and forgetfulness.

At the doorstep of death (Ps 88:3-88:7)

“My soul is full of troubles.

My life draws near to Sheol.

I am counted

Among those who go down to the Pit.

I am like

Those who have no strength.

I am like

Those forsaken among the dead.

I am like

Those slain that lie in the grave.

I am like

Those whom you remember no more.

Thus they are cut off from your hand.

You have put me

In the depths of the Pit.

You have put me

In the regions dark and deep.

Your wrath lies heavy upon me.

You overwhelm me with all your waves.”

Selah

This psalmist is in bad shape, near death. He was full of troubles. He was counted as dead already. He was like a dead man with no one to help him. He was like a forsaken dead person that nobody cared about. No one remembered him. He sounds a little like Job. He was cut off from the hand of God as if he were already in the deepest pit in some dark area. God’s wrath had come upon him as he was overwhelmed with the waves. This section ends with the musical interlude meditative pause of Selah.

Prayer for help (Ps 88:1-88:2)

A song, a psalm of the Sons of Korah. To the choirmaster leader, according to Mahalath Leannoth, a Maskil of Heman the Ezrahite

“Yahweh!

God of my salvation!

At night,

I cry out in your presence!

Let my prayer come before you!

Incline your ear to my cry!”

Psalm 88 is a psalm of the sons of Korah, the Temple singers. However, this Mahalath Leannoth refers to some kind of musical instrument for those who were sick. On top of that this is called a maskil of Heman, the Ezrahite. Who is he? He may have been a grandson of Samuel, the man called Heman appointed by David to be a Temple Singer in 1 Chronicles, chapter 6. However, there he is called a Kohathite, not an Ezrahite. This is a cry of desperation. God is his salvation. He cries all night in the presence of God. He wanted his prayers to come to God. In the classical sense he wanted God’s ear to listen to his cry.

The atheist is a fool (Ps 53:1-53:1)

To the choirmaster leader, according to Mahalath, a Maskil of David

“Fools say in their hearts.

‘There is no God.’

They are corrupt.

They commit abominable acts.

There is no one who does good.”

Psalm 53 is another short psalm, much like Psalm 14.  At times, they are almost word for word the same.  This title has the choirmaster leader, a maskil or song of David, but there is an additional comment about “according to Mahalath,” which is also mentioned at the beginning of Psalm 88.  Although of uncertain meaning, Mahalath was the name of a wife of Esau and Rehoboam, here it probably refers to some kind of stringed instrument like a guitar.  This first verse is exactly the same as the first verse of Psalm 14.  Once again the question is posed what if there is no God.  The answer was simple.  Only a fool would say such a thing.  There was an ancient common belief in some kind of higher power.  Actually they only say this in their hearts that there is no God, since they are practical atheists.  They act as if there is no God.  They are the corrupt people who do terrible deeds.  None of them do good deeds.