Psalm 88 is a psalm of suffering. It depicts the suffering of the people of Israel in exile. Christians can see the suffering of Christ depicted in it. Its language is universal and its applications are limitless which makes its relevance timeless.
I am reckoned among those who go down to the pit; I have become like a man without strength,
Forsaken among the dead, Like the slain who lie in the grave, Whom You remember no more, And they are cut off from Your hand.
You have put me in the lowest pit, In dark places, in the depths…
You have removed my acquaintances far from me; You have made me an object of loathing to them; I am shut up and cannot go out.
My eye has wasted away because of affliction; I have called upon You every day, O Lord; I have spread out my hands to You.
Will You perform wonders for the dead? Will the departed spirits rise and praise You? Selah.
The psalmist is in a dilemma because the same God who is faithful, just, righteous, merciful, generous, and mighty to save leads him through trials that cause him to despair even of his life (remember Paul and his despair?). But he makes an important point about the dead that we see in other scriptures too including Ps. 6:5; 30:9; Is. 50:10; Hab. 3:17,18.
Dead men are silent and they can’t praise God. He appeals to God for the sake of His own glory if for no other reason. The psalmist’s picture of death is a gloomy one indeed.
As Christians we need to complete the picture by adding a gospel perspective. This Christian view of death is found in 2 Ti. 1:10; Heb. 2:14; 1 Cor. 15: 17,18, 51-57. It is one full of light and hope.
As Jesus said in Matthew 22, the Lord is the God of the living, not the dead. We who were dead are now alive in Christ. The psalmist’s problem goes away because there will always be people alive to praise God and give Him the glory and honor that is due Him.