Two years ago, March 30, 2018 on Good Friday, I lost my father. Even though the actual date passed nearly two weeks ago, somehow this day before Good Friday 2020, feels more like the anniversary of his death. My Dad, Roger Rose was active as a pastor for over 60 years, and I always secretly suspected he chose to die on Good Friday, wanting to follow his Savior and Lord in every possible way…all the way to the end. He was a most faithful follower.
Psalm 88 is perhaps the darkest song in the whole book of psalms. While we can find plenty of other dark prayers and laments, this psalm is the only song that ends without a hint of hope or praise or comfort at the end. It is a soul-complaint without resolution, a heart-cry without an answer.
The author of Psalm 88 is identified as Heman the Ezrahite, one of the famous sons of Korah (1 Chronicles 6:33). He was a man widely recognized for his great wisdom (1 Kings 4:31), musical abilities (1 Chronicles 15:17-19, 16:41-42, 25:1), exceptional children (1 Chronicles 25:5-6) and service to the King (1 Chronicles 25:6). It sounds like Hemen had a lot going for him…and yet he ends his song with one of the saddest lines in all biblical poetry, “darkness is my closest friend.” Hemen’s song reminds us that times of darkness can be very real and very devastating…even for the most faithful followers of God.
As I read this psalm on the eve of another Good Friday, I can’t help be make connections between Hemen’s anguished prayer and Jesus’ anguished prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, that night before his betrayal, arrest, abandonment, humiliation, flaying, and ultimate crucifixion. “I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death,” Hemen cries to God (vs. 3). While Jesus tells his disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” (Matthew 26:38).
I can’t read Psalm 88:14, “Why, Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?”without thinking of Jesus crying out from the cross, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(Matthew 27:46). Again, we are reminded that times of real and devastating darkness visit God’s most faithful followers…and even God’s most perfect and sinless Son.
Darkness does not have to be our “old friend,” like in the famous Simon and Garfunkel song, but it can be a frequent visitor…and sometimes it is a visitor that seems to long overstay its welcome!
Perhaps this is a dark time for you right now. It may seem like there is nothing but fear and uncertainty and death all around us. “All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me” (Psalm 88:17). But during the darkest times, we followers of Jesus can hold tightly to two amazing truths. First, that Jesus experienced an unimaginable darkness—he knows our fears and our frustrations, our loneliness and our pain…he bore all of that for every hurting person that has ever lived…and he did it because of his great love for us. And the second truth is even more hopeful than it is comforting. Jesus left the darkness of the tomb for the glorious light of resurrection! Jesus fought the battle with sin and death and gained the victory of life and salvation. And that light and life is available for ANYONE who will believe it and receive it! That is the Easter story we celebrate!
This week we have been on a “Journey With Jesus,” and sometimes the journey seems pretty dark…in fact it leads to the cross. But it doesn’t end in the darkness. To follow Jesus even into death means that we can follow Jesus into life! His resurrection that day secured the promise of our resurrection one day. And it means that we will always be with him every day. He is the way, the truth and the life; he is the Living Water. On this day and every day…stay thirsty for him.