Lord , you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry. I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength. I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care. You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. Your wrath lies heavily on me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves. You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them. I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, Lord , every day; I spread out my hands to you. Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do their spirits rise up and praise you? Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Destruction ? Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion? But I cry to you for help, Lord ; in the morning my prayer comes before you. Why, Lord , do you reject me and hide your face from me? From my youth I have suffered and been close to death; I have borne your terrors and am in despair. Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me. All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me. You have taken from me friend and neighbor— darkness is my closest friend. – Psalm 88:1-18
This is a confusing and challenging bit of water…but it starts out well. “The God who saves me”…that is a God I want to follow. The psalmist apparently does not think they have much longer on this earth…”my life draws near to death”. Does any of us know how much time we have on this earth? The underlying question in this psalm is what happens when we die. Do we proceed to an undiscovered country or oblivion? Is God present and active in both places?
The writer of the psalm seems to be in the depths of despair and is convinced that they are headed into oblivion. It almost sounds like it could be describing someone like Job in the midst of his “storm” – isolated from God being buffeted by wave upon wave. Job never gave up and eventually he emerged from the storm, God showed up, and restored his life. This psalm ends without such tidy resolution.
Then comes some interesting philosophical questions about death and dying (crossing over) and what our relationship with God will be like after we die… “Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do their spirits rise up and praise you? Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Destruction ? Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?
The writer of the psalm seems to be convinced that they will be “lost” in oblivion after death. They are consumed by terrors that surround them all day like a flood. This sounds like a depressed and hopeless person who is not sure about the existence of a reality beyond this earth; and has chosen darkness over light…”darkness is my closest friend”.
I am confident that souls who choose God are also chosen by God. Their spirits do in fact rise up and praise God when they are “poured out” of their bodies. I am less sure about the fate of those who choose to be free of God in life and after death. Do they still have a chance to choose God? I do not know. I am confident that all those who want to be found will be found, regardless of whether they are still in their bodies or “lost” in oblivion.
Prayer: God thank You for being a God who saves and preparing a place for those who choose it.