Introduction: Looking at Lament Psalms. We don’t talk about Lament psalms very often. It’s difficult to find material and examples to preach on laments. Because We don’t want to feel laments at Church.
44% of the Psalms are Laments.
If we’re going to look seriously at the Psalms, we have to explore this. We can’t just ignore something that is such a huge percentage of scripture.
I want to warn everyone up front you might not enjoy this sermon. You might walk away from today saying man that was a downer.
I was in a good mood before I went to church, but then we talked about sadness and lament.
I want to say from the outset, if you’re that person, this message is not aimed at you.
But I can guarantee that at least some of us here in the room, need to hear this.
A song. A psalm of the Sons of Korah. For the director of music. According to mahalath leannoth. A maskil of Heman the Ezrahite. 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.
This is a Lament Psalm.
Lament psalms are exactly that, they’re psalms of Lament. They’re psalms of grief and mourning and pain.
As we said before, 44% of the psalms are Laments, and I’d be willing to say Psalm 88 is about as low as it gets.
A lot of the lament psalms start out sad, but at the end they give you a little glimmer of hope.
Not this one. This one ends with
You have taken from me friend and neighbor— darkness is my closest friend.
Not a whole lot of hope going on there in that one.
One of the Lies we tell ourselves as Christians is this idea that since we’re Christians we have to act happy all the time no matter what. Even when you feel like Darkness is your closest friend we have this unwritten rule that you just need to put on a happy face, and show the world just how happy you can be.
And to be honest, that’s just not healthy.
The bible never says we have to be happy at all times.
It says we should be joyful in all circumstances, but joy and happiness are not the same thing.
Happiness is a short term emotion. Happiness is a temporary emtion.
Joy is a long-term thing. Joy is a state of being, not a fleeting emotion.
Which means you can have a joy filled life, and still feel sad from time to time.
Here in Psalm 88, the Psalmist is expressiong some of the rawest most painful emotions.
I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death.
Your bible Might say “my life draws near to Sheol”
Sheol is the hebrew equivalent of our english word Hell.
We often think of Hell as being a place of fire, we have the picture red in our mind when we think of hell.
But if we look closely at how the Bible describes Sheol
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.
I think hells a lot more like utter and complete darkness.
Like being being buried.
And the psalmist here is painting a picture of feeling like you’re in the darkest deepest hole, down in the pit, down in the grave here on earth.
That’s the image we get.
If you’ve ever experienced pain, or grief. Or depression. Or mourning.
That’s about what it feels like. LIke you can be in the middle of a crowd of people and still feel like you’re utterly and completely alone.
Like you’re in your own little hole. Surrounded by darkness.
But look what the psalmist does with that darkness. Go baCK TO VERSe 1
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.
He gives it over to God. He doesn’t put a happy face on, he doesn’t just try to fake it through the darkness. No he cries out. He lets it all out.
If you take absolutely nothing away from this message, I want you to know this: It’s OK not to be OK.
It’s OK to feel pain, and grief. It’s OK to take that pain and grief and give it to God, to cry out to God and say God I’m not OK.
More than that I think you absolutely should give those things over to god.
Your pain, your anger.
If you’ve ever gone through grief, you know that there’s moments where you’re so mad you just feel like you want to burn the world.
The 5 stages of Grief. Which is a lie by the way. The textbooks all talk about Grief as if it’s this linear process, Denial, then bargaining, then anger, then depression, then acceptance.
And they’re always like you go through all 5 stages of grief and then you’re all better, you don’t feel grief anymore.
That is utter and complete hogwash. Real grief is like a roller coaster where you go back and forth and up and down into anger and then depression then back to anger again,
And then you start to feel like you’re in the acceptance stage and something happens that pulls you right back into the grief stages again.
Don’t hide that. Give it to God.
I promise you, God is big enough to handle your anger, to handle your pain, to handle your sadness.
God’s even big enough for you to say that you’re mad at him.
The psalmist says
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;
This is a person who is crying out to God, and in a fit of pain is saying “you did this to me”
God is patient, and he is merciful.
Because here’s the thing, he didn’t do this to you.
-He didn’t cause your pain.
-Your pain is caused by the fact that we live in a fallen world that has death and pain and suffering and sin in it.
-God didn’t cause that, but he understands.
-he understands exactly what you’re going through because he’s gone through the exact same thing.
-Because he took on flesh and dwelt among us.
-He’s experience pain and grief.
-When Jesus found out Lazarus had died. He went over to mary and martha and said where is he?
-Where did you lay him?
They said come and see, lord. Come and see.
And they took him over to the tomb
The son of God, the firstborn over all creation, the alpha and omega, the one who speaks to the winds and the waves and they obey , that Jesus
Stood by the tomb of his best friend, and he wept.
-Think about this, Jesus wept even though he knew that in the end Lazarus was going to be OK.
-Jesus knew full and well that lazarus was going to be OK, but he still wept.
-Another Lie we tell ourselves is that if our loved ones are Christians when they die we’re not supposed to be sad.
-They’re in a better place we say.
-And it is true that they’re in a better place, but it’s not true that we’re not supposed to be sad about it.
-A while back one of my best friends passed away. And it was very sudden, very unexpected.
-And I know what his faith was, I knew that Jesus was his Lord. I have no doubt in my mind that he’s in a better place now, that he’s not in pain anymore.
-And I’ve worked through the anger, and the questioning, and asking God Why? Why’d you have to take him? Why now, why in this way.
-And I’ve processed through a lot of that, and Most days I’m fine.
-But every now and again, something happens that reminds me of him.
-And I miss my friend.
-I miss being with him.
-I don’t know who that person is in your life, but it’s ok to miss them.
-There’s not a prescribed amount of time that you are allowed to greive and then all of a sudden you’re supposed to be just over it.
It doesn’t work that way.
-Even when he knew That lazarus was going to be OK, Jesus still wept.
For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.
-When you go to God and say “God I feel distant from you” I’m in pain.
-God can honestly say, “I know how you feel” I’ve been there.
-Jesus knows what it feels like to feel like you’re just in a deep dark pit.
On the cross,
About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
Which is the opening Line to psalm 22
For the director of music. To the tune of “The Doe of the Morning.” A psalm of David. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises. In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. “He trusts in the Lord,” they say, “let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God. Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me. My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment. But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen. I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you. You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise him— may your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him— those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!
The beautiful thing about Psalm 22, which is our other Lament psalm today, is that Psalm 22 does 2 things.
Number 1, it clearly predicts the crufifixion of Jesus.
Right down to the fact that while Jesus was on the cross they were gambling for his clothes.
But the other thing that this psalm does is it shows us exactly what kind of pain Jesus was going through.
My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me.
Why have you abandoned me.
Why do I have to Go through this pain.
Jesus knew why. Jesus had full trust in the father’s plan.
But there was still pain.
And that’s where I think a lot of us are. I trust you lord, but this still hurts. I still wonder sometimes.
As read on in the psalm david knows who God is
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises. In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
David knows this about God, but he says
But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
I think a lot of us have been in that place. God you are holy, you are good, you’re in control, but. I’m still in this place of darkness.
Because a worm is about as low as you can get. Literally they live underground.
It’s more imagery of the grave, of sheol, of the pit, of the darkness.
And in fact if you read through the lament psalms, this picture of being in the grave is there all over the lament psalm.
Psalm 88:6-8 “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;”
And because this darkness is part of the human condition we need to talk with God about it.
And because Jesus was fully God fully man, he understands the pain and darkness of the grave.
And he can relate to that darkness because he’s been there.
When we are in the deepest darkest pit we can have solace in the fact that christ is with us right there in the grave.
And actually, when you think about it, It’s a lot more like we’re in the grave with him.
Because that cross, the piercing of his hands and feet, that’s only half the story.
The son of God standing by lazarus, weeping, that’s only half the story.
What happened next was that Jesus Got up. While the rest of the family was still weeping, while mary and martha were still beside themselves, Jesus Got up
He walked over to the tomb
and he said.
John 11:39 (NIV)
“Take away the stone,” he said.
You can almost here the dedication in his voice. The determination of our lord
Take away the stone.
And they argued with him. They said
“Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
Did he not tell us.
When Jesus says to roll the stone you roll that stone.
And Jesus said in a loud voice Lazarus. Come out .
And the dead man came out. Right up out of the grave
When Jesus had been crucified, when they had pierce his hands and feet, when they laid him down in the grave, they rolled a stone in front of it.
We don’t have an account what happened in the tomb exactly.
But I can tell you this much he was dead, he was in the grave, and he overcame death, and he got up.
And he sat up, and I’m guessing he looked at that stone and laughed.
You think that rock’s gonna hold me in here,
Roll away the stone.
and he walked right out.
If Jesus can call lazarus out of the grave, if he can roll away the stone, he can do it for you.
There is not tomb deep enough there is no grave dark enough to hold Jesus Back amen?
he beat the grave. He is alive
but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
Roll the stone away.
There ain’t no grave that can hold back Jesus
So when you’re in psalm 88, when you’re in Psalm 22, when you cry out to God, My god, my god why have you forsaken me, why have you brought me down into the pit why have you left me in this pain.
I want you to feel that grief, I want you to process those emotions.
But I also want you to know what comes at the end of psalm 22
Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!
It is finished.