Douglas Wilson – Psalm 88: The Black Psalm


In a certain sense, all the psalms are Messianic, all of them point to Jesus. But because this psalm is particularly dark, some might want to argue that perhaps it is less the case here. But I think we should actually go the other way. This psalm is in fact dark, but consider the darkness Jesus went through for us. There may be lesser applications for us—wherever the Head is, the body is not far away—but we will consider this psalm as preeminently fulfilled in the moment when Christ was abandoned at Skull Hill for our sake.


“O Lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee: Let my prayer come before thee: Incline thine ear unto my cry; For my soul is full of troubles: And my life draweth nigh unto the grave . . .” (Ps. 88:1–18).


This dark psalm begins with the cry of faith—“God of my salvation” (v. 1). He is in great anguish, crying out day and night (v. 1). He wants his cry to come before the Lord because his soul is full of trouble and he is on the brink of death (v. 2). He is reckoned among those who descend to Sheol, down to the pit (v. 3). He is counted among the dead (vv. 4-5). He is in that pit because God has put him there (v. 6). The wrath of God rests upon him, and all the waves of God wash over him (v. 7). His friends and acquaintances have scattered (v. 8). He has called out to God daily, but to no effect (v. 9). Will the dead praise God (v. 10)? Will God’s lovingkindness and faithfulness be declared in the grave and underworld (v. 11-12)? He continues to cry out to God (v. 13). Lord, why do you cast me off? Why have you forsaken me (v. 14)? He has been ready to die from his youth on (v. 15). The fierce wrath of God overwhelms him (v. 16). God’s terrors envelop him like water (v. 17). God has ripped away from him those who are dear to him (v. 18). And abruptly the psalm ends there.

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