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Commentary » Psalms 88:1-Psalms 88:18 » Family-Times.net
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The Depths of Despair

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Despair of ever being saved, “except thou be born again,” or of seeing God “without holiness,” or of having a part in Christ except thou “love Him above father, mother, or thy own life.” This kind of despair is one of the first steps to heaven.á … More


This Psalm is acknowledged by many as one of the saddest of all the psalms. The key to understanding it is to picture the writer as a leper who is suffering from a loathsome, disfiguring, and dreadful disease which has afflicted him from childhood. It could be described as life in the pits. It is the poetic groan of a man in extreme agony. There is scarcely a glimmer of hope anywhere; it is filled with dejection, despair and death. The psalmist lamented the terrible and fierce affliction that had brought him to the point of death. Yet he prayed steadfastly to the Lord day and night, basing his appeal on the fact that he would be useless to the Lord in the grave. The situation of the psalmist can be divided into four parts.

      1.   No future left (vv. 88:1-7) - The circumstances of life are closing in on the psalmist.

            A.  A despondent cry (v. 1) - When prayer seems hopeless because nothing is changed.

            B.  A despairing cry (v. 2) - It is a time of intense emotion.

            C.  A desperate cry (vv. 3-7) - He was weak, wretched and full of wrongfulness.

      2.   No friends left (v. 8) He was separated from his friends and only had the Lord to go to.

      3.   No foundation left (vv. 9-12) He was like a man being swallowed up in quick sand.

            A.  He demonstrates a hopeless attitude (v. 9).

            B.  He has a hopeless appeal (vv. 10-12).

      4.   No faith left (vv. 13-18)

            A.  He feels forsaken (vv. 13-14)

            B.  He is fearful (vv. 15-17)

            C.  His is friendless (v. 18)


When was the last time you experienced life in the pits? Did you think about the fact that God was right there with you? Suffering sours some souls; it sweetens others. Lord, help me to think of someone I know that is especially lonely and could use some encouragement today?

Psalms 88:1-18 (English Standard Version)

O LORD, God of my salvation; I cry 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 Sheol. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength, like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand. You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep. Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a horror to them. I am shut in so that I cannot escape; my eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call upon you, O LORD; I spread out my hands to you. Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you? Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon? Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you. O LORD, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me? Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am helpless. Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me. They surround me like a flood all day long; they close in on me together. You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness.

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