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God’s Word for You

Psalm 88:3-5 my soul is full of troubles

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, July 30, 2019

3 For my soul is full of troubles,
  and my life approaches the grave.

From here to the end of the Psalm, Heman complains that his life is rushing away toward the approaching grave. His troubles are overwhelming. This emotion of dread is very real and all-consuming; Solomon compared the clutches of the approaching grave with the grip of love (Song of Solomon 8:6). He doesn’t number his troubles, because the specifics are unimportant when they all lead down to the grave, anyway. It is the fast approach of the grave that occupies his mind and his verses up through verse 6.

4 I am counted as one who will go down to the pit.
  I have become a man without strength.
5 I have been let go, with the dead.
  I am like the slain who lie in the grave,
  those you do not remember anymore,
  those who are cut off from your hand.

Heman says, “I may as well be dead already.” He is counted with the dead, he is powerless against death, he has been cut loose (“let go”) from everyone’s thoughts and lives as if he is dead. He is like the slain and like the forgotten. He is even like the damned.

For the Old Testament believer, death was an intruder into life. Death was a thief. It was the opposite of life, not a natural part of existence. These verses do not deny the possibility of the resurrection. Heman is simply showing us how life was seen in his time, and how alien a thing death was. How can a man staring death in the face think that God loves him and favors him? Only a man who knows Christ can think so. Only a man who knows Christ can understand that the Savior went into the grave ahead of us, blazing the trail which we will follow. But we do not follow Christ as if we are hunters, using our skills to discover Christ’s whereabouts in the land of the grave. No, we are helpless, and as even more helpless corpses, we will simply be raised from death as Jesus himself was raised. The path is easy. It is clearer than clear. For the Christian, there is no path even to notice, because Jesus is the Way, as he told us (John 14:6; Acts 24:22).

This is a foolish message to the world. Some people have been deceived into thinking that their salvation depends at least partly on them, and they accuse anyone who trusts in Christ alone of buying into ‘cheap grace,’ contrary to what the Word of God teaches: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Others have been deceived into thinking that there is no punishment for sin, contrary to what the Word of God teaches: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Others have been deceived into thinking there will be a reincarnation, contrary to what the Word of God teaches: “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Still others have been deceived into believing that there are many paths to heaven apart from Christ, contrary to what the Word of God teaches: “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). A person without the Holy Spirit “does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). And still others have been deceived in other ways, all contrary to what the Word of God teaches. Stand firm in your faith.  Be active in sharing your faith.  Strengthen your faith with the Word of God and the Sacrament.  Your faith in Jesus your Savior will carry you home in the end, to the new beginning that will stretch out into all eternity, and to everlasting, unending and undiminishing life.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.



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