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Psalm 88 | Thoughts From a Davis Professor

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This is re-posted with permission from Dr. Snyder, Davis College’s Hebrew professor. Visit his blog here.

psalmsPsalm 88, perhaps is the most depressing of psalms. For instance, the last verse: “God has taken away friends and lovers, such that the only remaining confident is darkness.” With a friend like that, who needs enemies? So it can be understood why many commentators propose that the psalmist is on death’s door, hoping that God would hear and extend his life.

But whether death or deep despair, what strikes me is that the psalmist, in spite of his dire circumstance, continued his dialogue with God. A one way conversation would be a better way of expressing the words of the psalm, as there is no indication, as in all of the other lament psalms, that God has responded, let alone heard these insistent and tenacious cries. But then, could this not be an adherence to Paul’s admonition to “pray without ceasing”?

So I ask, when does one give up? Or better, when does one give up on God?

What does this psalm teach us? Here’s an initial thought: should the fact that God doesn’t answer deter the supplicant from his constant prayer? Does God give psalm 88 to encourage those in terminal situations to maintain dialogue in spite of and throughout the circumstance? When there is no hope, is there no God? Could not his silence, his non-responsiveness become his word of provision? Does this help explain Jesus’ words–of course his quoting a psalm–”my god, my god, why have you abandoned me” to mean that even in abandonment, God is there, God is near, God hears, and perhaps cries in silence?

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