88:0This is a psalm by someone that was ill since he was a child. It may have been Heman himself, or someone that Heman knew. It is the saddest of the psalms. He prays, but God does not seem to listen. So he feels that he is already in Sheol. Sheol was a dark place under the ground. The Jews believed that people went there when they died. The worst bit of Sheol was the Pit. People that went there never came out. But nowhere does the psalm say that the writer had done something very wrong. Yet God was attacking him, doing very bad things to him. Why? God gives no reason. Yet Heman still says ‘every morning I pray to you’, verse 13. That is what the psalm teaches us. If things get bad – pray to God every morning!
Down Among the Dead Men
This song is a psalm for the sons of Korah.
The music leader must use music called ‘mahalath leannoth.’
It is a maskil by Heman the Ezrahite.
1 LORD, you are the God that makes me safe.
I always cry to you in the day and at night for help.
2 I want you to hear the words that I am praying.
Listen to my cry for help!
3 Because I have a lot of trouble
and my life is coming near to Sheol.
4 People say that I am among those that are going to the Pit.
I am like a strong man that has become weak and ill.
5 I am almost with those that are already dead.
I am like dead people lying in their graves.
You do not remember them any more
and you cannot give them help where they are.
6 You are putting me in the lowest Pit,
in a very dark and deep place.
7 You are very angry with me.
You are like a heavy sea,
pouring all over me and knocking me down.
88:7In verses 7, 16 and 17, Heman writes about water. His trouble is like the sea. It is heavy and pours over him. It is all round him like a flood. It makes him feel that he cannot move. It was like being in a prison, verse 8, and he cannot get out. We do not know what the prison was. Maybe he was so ill that he could not move. Maybe people put him in a place where they could not see him. This was because he looked so bad. His friends and the people that loved him did not want to look at him, verses 8, 18. He made them feel sick!
8 You have taken my best friends away from me.
You have made me seem very bad to them.
The place that I am in is like a prison that I cannot leave.
88:8Maybe the prison in verse 8 is Sheol itself. He is ‘near to Sheol’, verse 3, which means ‘almost dead’, verse 5. There is nothing that he can do, only pray: and God does not answer! He sends no help. Heman asks if God does miracles for the people in Sheol. The answer then was ‘No!’ But the story from Luke's Gospel at the top of the psalm says that for Christians the answer may be ‘Yes.’ Jesus made the widow's son alive again! He came back from Sheol. But this is not usual. We must make sure that we tell God that we believe in him and love him before we die!
9 My eyes are weak because I am so sad.
LORD, every day I pray to you.
I lift my hands up to you while I pray.
10 Do you do miracles for people that are dead?
Do dead people get up and say that you are great?
11 Do people talk about your kind love in the grave?
Do they say in Abaddon that you continue to be good to people?
12 Do they know about your miracles in dark places.
Do they know about the good things that you do
in the land where people forget everything.
13 But LORD, I cry to you for help.
Every morning I pray to you.
14 LORD, why are you throwing me away?
Why do you hide your face from me?
15 I have been ill and near to death since I was young.
You have let bad things happen to me
and I do not know what to do.
16 Your fury pours over me.
You are attacking me and destroying me!
17 The things that you do, they are all round me like a flood.
They are on every side of me.
18 You have taken away from me my friends
and the people that love me.
My only friend is darkness.