Share This Episode
The Bible Study Hour James Boice Logo

The Dark Night of the Soul

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
The Truth Network Radio
January 13, 2022 7:00 am

The Dark Night of the Soul

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 586 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.

January 13, 2022 7:00 am

There’s an intense feeling of spiritual anguish when the believer feels abandoned by God. Psalm 88 reflects that anguish in what has been called the darkest and gloomiest of Psalms and a psalm filled with one wail of sorrow from beginning to end. But even this darkest of Psalms has a purpose. It reminds us that, despite our faith, our lives are sometimes filled with trouble andoftenthere seems to be no end in sight.

Matt Slick Live!
Matt Slick
Wisdom for the Heart
Dr. Stephen Davey
Running With Horses
Shirley Weaver Ministries
The Verdict
John Munro
Summit Life
J.D. Greear
The Christian Car Guy
Robby Dilmore

There is an intense feeling of spiritual anguish when the believer feels abandoned by God. Psalm 88 reflects that anguish and what is been called the darkest and gloomiest of Psalms in the Psalm filled with one whale of sorrow from beginning to end. Welcome to the Bible study our radio and Internet broadcast with Dr. James Boyce preparing you to think and act biblically even the darkest of Psalms has a purpose. It reminds us that despite our faith, our lives are sometimes filled with trouble and often there seems to be no end in sight. Let's join Dr. Boyce as he examines Psalm 88 and reminds us that while life doesn't always have a happy ending. Nothing happens in God's universe without purpose, and we are to continue to lay our requests before our faithful God studying Psalm 88 today and I've given the title the dark night of the soul. Lots of praise that is not very common today, but it was in the Middle Ages where it was common on the lips of the European mystics probably comes off through the title of book by their Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross book has a different title of English by the original title was that dark night of the soul describes that state of intense spiritual anguish in which the struggling despairing lever feels that he or she has been abandoned by God. I, Psalm 88 is about is not unlike other Psalms and also speak from my gloomy perspective bought the other Psalms, all more or less move toward resolution are two way happier outlook her and uplifting final note, and that is not what we have here. Psalm 88 begins with God. It's a prayer to God. If I that in the first line the word, O Lord, her several times throughout bonded and loose with blank despair. In the last word of the Psalm is darkness.

Kidner, the commentator said this is the saddest prayer in the Psalter who pulled another commentator said it is the gloomiest Psalm in the Scriptures's almost is is deeply in trouble when he is concluded is prayer is when he began it, and Stuart Perrone said this is the darkest, saddest of the Psalms that is one whale of sorrow from beginning and I was good. We have a song like this, but it's also good that we have just one say it's good that we have it because it's a reminder that life. Even the life of a Christian is filled with troubles and sometimes there are things in our lives that we just are unable to understand is no way to understand it at all so mediated by an inspired writer after all claim is given at the top.

His name is Heyman Lee Ezra height is one of the sons of Cora's song is been included in the Bible.

So God has placed it there in order to tell us that he knows that there are times like this in our lives is not the final word, but it nevertheless is a word we need to hear and it's honest time ago I was talking to somebody about Christian literature and the person I was talking to asked why there are so little outstanding Christian fiction today answer is that it's not true an afterlife. Somehow, when you read a Christian Bible or Christian essay.

It has to come out right. Somehow we have to do it right in a way that proves by the time you get to the end of it that everything really was good.

After all, now you can go to the other extreme, a lot of the literature we read today has no hope whatsoever and it's utterly pessimistic if it's meant to prove that there is no meaning anything Christians don't believe that we believe there is a meaning but we do not believe that you can always see it, and Psalm 88 is a proof that you can't always see it may be perfectly good moral from God's point of view. I believe it is likely that all of life as a divine purpose in going to see in one day but it doesn't mean they were going to see it now. Marvin take another commentator said Psalm 88 is a witness to the intent of the Psalms to speak to all of life to remind us that life does not always have happy endings. Martin Marty, another commentator says the Psalm as a scandal to anyone who isolates it from the rest of the biblical canon of pain than anyone of us tear it apart from more lively words extra. We want to look at what it says is we do we want to keep in mind that although this is true is not the whole truth under other things also to be said. Now how do we consider it. I suppose various outlines of been given fairly long Psalm after all 18 versus but probably the best way to deal with it is simply to take it in the sequence of it's not because it's building is a very emotional song, and JC how that thought flows along the best way probably is on the basis of the stances that are given to us in the new international version. Now the only hope the line in the whole Psalm is the first says all Lord, the God who saves me.

That's not to be dismissed likely to say that although this man is in despair and he sees nothing around but darkness and expects to die and he doesn't even have any hope. Then nevertheless. She's praying. So the fact that he begins by an address to God is not to be dismissed. On the other hand line is more or less a formal beginning, and from this point on, as we would say the path is all downhill writers calling on God. But God has an answer.

Not only is God not answer he's been calling on God for a long time. And God has an answer, he says. Verse 15 that is been afflicted from his youth, and yet God hasn't acted to remove the cause of suffering, sometimes it's interesting to try and connect the Psalms with other Psalms and there are phrases in this remind us of the very first of these songs of the sons of Cora. This is the next to the last one or more after we get out of this book in the fourth and fifth book of the Psalter. The very first of the songs of the sons of Cora was the 42nd wind much more hopeful salmon unless has phrases in it that are like this. My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long. Where is your God. Well, seem to be a lot of gloomy notes there.

Now we can't fault the Islamists for failing to believe in promises that he didn't have not yet received the promise of the resurrection kind of things that we know because we stand on the side of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But nevertheless, when we come to it. We remember that we do have this kind of promise. Here's a man who feels that he's been calling upon God, and God hasn't listened to live in hasn't answered Read that without remembering some of the things that Jesus taught about prayer. Remember that story of the persistent widow and the unjust judge here was a woman who had a case been bringing it before the judge and because he was unjust. She didn't have any money to bribe him so that he would hear her case and decide favorably simply been ignoring her and that she kept it up. She prayed and she prayed and she prayed, he prayed all of this in the form of a suit of the judge and finally he said to himself. Never just a social stop bothering me.

And then Jesus made a contrast between that and God is a lot is an unjust man who do it because this woman persists in her prayer, God do the same and suddenly Jesus point is that although it may seem to us a very very long time that God doesn't answer in the God is silent. Nevertheless, God is a hearing in prayer answering God he will answer so Jesus encouraged us to keep on praying we look at the next stanza is verses three through five.

It certainly gives us a clue early on as to where this is going because it just gets darker and darker, phrase by phrase look at how it works.

First, the writers soul is full of trouble or staff of verse three and is drawing near the grave. Second half of verse 330 is counted among the dead was that go down to the pit, perhaps even by his friends for things without strength and finally he is even set apart with the dead. Like the slain lion, the grave and you remember no more were cut off from all your care and that last section he sees himself almost as if he were laid out in the charnel house in the mortuary not only dying the dead and abandoned by all the living. This description of death.

According to one of the commentators is the central focus of the song.

CS Lewis has a little book on the Psalms which is very helpful. It's called reflections on the Psalms and is valuable because Lewis isn't afraid to tackle the problem areas we tend to read the Psalms that are easy and comforting filled with faith was does that too. But he also tackles the difficult ones, and as a chapter in that book that deals with the psalmists view of death. Sometimes it's helpful, but at other times it really seems gloomy and Lewis says when they talk about shield all of the grave. We tend to think well and all that's just the earthly grave in your diet.

You go to be with Jesus but that really isn't what many of the Psalms meant is that they speak up. She all the way somebody will talk about the grave. Today was no hope in the afterlife at all my thoughts about the grade. I mean it's over processed some of the sections of the Psalms seemed to say that lesson is what he says the clearest of all is the crying Psalm 89. That's the next one were going to look at verse 46 a. Remember how short my time is, why hast thou made all men for not. In other words, we all come to nothing. In the end, according CS Lewis again. Therefore every man living is altogether vanity 39 six or wise and foolish men have the same fate. Psalm 4910 Xiao the dust.

Give thanks.

Today Psalm 30 verse 10 for and death. No man remembers you. Psalm six verse five and then referring to the song that we're studying verse 12. Death is the land where not only worldly things, but all things are forgotten as I say we can't think that way because we stand on the other side of the resurrection we remember the words of Jesus. He said I'm going to prepare a place for you when I've done that outcome. Again I receive you to myself, that where I am there may be also just can never quite be this gloomy.

Although emotionally we may feel that way. We want to remember that even in the Old Testament. This is not the only testimony we have. How about David's well-known 23rd Psalm. He said even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for you are with me and again he said in the same Psalm. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life will dwell in the house of the Lord forever never left his people entirely without hope even though that hope was dimmer in the Old Testament. When it is today. God tests our faith never leaves it without a sure foundation in his word values that were darkness to refer to the second stanza, verses three through five, but it actually occurs for the first time in verse six. You've put me in the lowest pit in the darkest depths. What makes this depths of dark. According to this third stanza is that God is constant seen that many times in the Psalms before hers abandoned feels abandoned by God and praising God as an answer, but he hasn't lost faith in there being a God, he is a God's nevertheless in charge. That's what makes it so bad. Notice his references to God. Here you have put me in the lowest pit your wrath lies heavily upon me. You have overwhelmed me with all your waves you have taken from the my closest friends and if you run down. Later in the sound of the very last stanza. Verse 16 says your wrath is swept over me your terrors that destroyed me with noticing the similarities between the Psalm and Job, the story of Job. Joe was a righteous man but he lost everything, lost all of his possessions lost his family finally lost his health. Mary was sitting on the ashy in the posture of a mourner and his friends came and they tried to explain how this could happen. They had superficial answers.

Job knew that their answers were superficial, but he didn't have the right answer and so you go the whole way through that story of Job and the other seem to get the right answer.

All we get it because we have a introduction to the book of job that explains what this has to do with cosmic forces and we got to the end we find how things turn out, but the explanation is never given a job. Job simply called upon to trust God.

That's the kind of thing we have errors or man in the pits going through all of the suffering that some people know he's not getting an explanation. The similarity between some of the things that are said in Job and that are set in the Psalm is called one of the old commentators, at least to suggest that they have the same authority suggests that the person who wrote the book of Job. Was this man Haman the extra height. Well, I don't know whether that's true or not but I do see the parallel patriarch Job didn't know what was going on. The Manor was experiencing this kind of despair doesn't either.

Both works are present in Scripture to remind us that we do not necessarily know what God is accomplishing our own suffering, either, but we has a purpose, next stanza. This is the one from which CS Lewis got one of his quotations, showing that the ancient Jews didn't always reflect very much alike, beyond the grave. If they believe in it at all. Verse 10 seems to deny the resurrection verses 11 and 12 seem to say that the debtor not even awake or conscious enough to remember what is true, of course, we know that the risen life beyond the grave and even those who die without faith in Christ survived beyond the grave and punishment and what the Bible calls hell, it's not true but nevertheless it's true and offer my perspective that's what we have here what we have here is an honest reflection of the way it seemed. The man was going through.

And maybe it seems that way to you because of things that you're going for listeners what Derek Kidner 10 rights a commentary for inter-varsity says.

From the standpoint of God's congregation and his glory in the world. All that is said here is true among the living.

That his miracles are performed as praise and songs constancy and acts of deliverance exhibited death is no exponent of his glory.

His whole character is negative.

It's the last word in an activity, silence the severing of ties, corruption, loon oblivion New Testament concurs, calling it last enemy of nothingness to be gained by denying that the whole truth is I said as part of the truth and It Has Its Pl. in Scripture you're all looking very gloomy gets worse. But in the next stanza. Not only are the dead silent since they are unable to rise up and make God's wonders known, but God is also silent toward them so far as the psalmist knows is one reason he feel so close to death is good is that we might say that God is speaking to him now.

God's will rejected them on answering this bridge ever feel like that you do. You pray you don't seem to get answers if you seem far from God. If you experience what the mistakes of called this dark night of the soul. It's no wonder what Jesus said when he was tempted by Satan.

Satan wanted him to turn the stones to bread and Jesus said man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.

So if you seem cut off the word supersede from the mouth of God is no wonder you seem dead fear that are close to death, which is what this man experienced.

Now you come to the end that is verses 15 to 18 that this is the point where we learned to expect in the Psalm like this that something should become positive.

However, given the positive hope might be expected to say something like this.

Nevertheless, I know you hear me anyway. Imagine answer me before very long. Right.

Are we expected to say now I'm just going to wait and see what wonderful things you will do. We don't find that here not in Islam instead of optimism, we find the gloomiest darkest words of all, it's as if the psalmist looks about in every direction he can and he sees nothing but misery despair that tear and loneliness everywhere. Look at it. First of all, he looks back sometimes and things are going bad.

The psalmist looked back and they say God's been good to me in the past I got to remember that been good to me in the past will be good to me again, but the psalmist in his present state of mind looks back and he doesn't see anything to be encouraged by from my youth. I have been afflicted and close to that again. Rigali happy days to cheer them up and were so really can't think of any.

And secondly, looks forward is even worse when he does this say if you look forward and hope and say well not bad now, but things will get better. You can get your number when he looks forward only sees his death has every reason to suppose that these present bad circumstances will continue. They plunged them into the very pit of despair. Verse 15 and then he only has one other direction the locket look back a foot forward. Now he looks around at the present is very last words and there are no better than factor. The worst description yet he sees himself as having been destroyed by God.

Verse 16, surrounded and engulfed by God's terror. Verse 17 separated from his companions and loved ones. God is taken from him without God to be all by himself in the darkness. Interesting that in the Hebrew text started our English translation, but in the Hebrew text work darkness.

The very last word. Psalm ends by saying my closest friend darkness, so the Psalm ends while payments last word in the Psalm may have been darkness, but it doesn't have to be the last word for us because you see we have a gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ we have the assurance of things eternal and him what is true you're not in Christ. If you're not trusting Christ, the one died for your sin. If you're trying to lease it out in life on your own, and when they are going to stand before God trying to plead the merit of your own good works that darkness is the word for you is nobody's going enter heaven on the basis of his or her good works. A and result of that kind of life is hell.

Jesus himself, not mincing words scalded outer darkness forever.

So for a person in the state like that darkness is the final word because he doesn't have to be because Jesus Christ came to bring light in him we have the light of the gospel and we have the very life of God, bringing life out of spiritual death. I mentioned Derek Kidner a moment ago is very good in the Psalm, and he makes a number of points. The ends of these wrestling with the two and he says with darkness as its final word. What is the role of the Psalm in Scripture that he makes a few suggestions. These are the conclusions number one it's witness to the possibility of unrelieved suffering as a believer is a lot happy ending the most songs of this kind of seem to be a bonus not do. It's really perceptive use even as Christians we somehow think that God owes us a happier and a prosperous life. Often he does that is a gracious God. Many of us have enjoyed happy lives and prosperity. But God doesn't owe us that say what Gartner suggests is that it's a bonus. By the doing of God doesn't do it that does not mean that he is a band and also that he's not doing what is important in our lives with us. The withholding of a happy life from God's people is no proof of his displeasure.

Just as a happy life with the possession of riches is no sure proof of his favor. Number two. Psalm adds its voice to the groaning in travail, which forbids us to accept the present order is final words in spite of the kind of suffering described in this Psalm the Bible teaches that there is a moral order to the universe, and therefore, we look forward to balancing out of good and evil and Leanne Gartner says that the Psalm Psalm 88 is a sharp reminder that we wait for adoption as sons. Even the redemption of our bodies, imperfect world. Now is a sinful world. Now we don't look for the fullness of our salvation here and so a Psalm like this points us to the future number three the author like Job doesn't give up completes his prayer still in the dark and totally unrewarded. The talent does Job fear God for not is answered here once again by Joe author of the Psalm is received no final satisfactory answer, but also like Job, he does not curse God and die contrary, although he doesn't have an answer. He is still laying out his requests before God and then finally this lesson, the author's name allows us.

With hindsight to see that his rejection was only apparent his existence is no mistake, there was a divine plan bigger than the no place in it reserved most carefully for him. In other words, it's an important part of God's revelation because as gloomy Psalm expressing the dark night of the soul is nevertheless been concluded by God in holy Scripture us probably to his surprise as painful. Lament is included along with all the happier songs and sacred Scripture. I don't know your heart.

I don't know how you react to something like this but I do know that there are many people who go through very terrible times that may be true of you and you may be saying to God, give me an answer. You have no answer. You may saying to God relieve me in a certain way and God is not done it is Psalm like this tells you that God knows what you're going through and furthermore that it is not without purpose. Even if you can't see it in the present life. So it encourages us to do exactly what the psalmist is done and that is to continue to let your requests before God, who knows what God might quickly answer from heaven they can sell very real to you once again. Father, we thank you for the honesty of your word. We know there are people who look upon Christians and Christianity as being utterly unrealistic.

Pollyanna's in the midst of the grim world so it's a healthy thing for us to study a Psalm like this to realize that although there is much in which we do have hope in their promises that are sure of the redemption which is beyond the ability of human bones to express nevertheless is the acknowledgment of the dark times that we thank you for the honesty pray that you would give us grace to be that honest in our prayers to you and even our sharing with one another. Also, we might be found faithful enough to continue to trust you and pray even in the dark times as psalmist did pray in Jesus name, amen. Thank you for listening to this message from the Bible study our listener supported ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals. The alliance is a coalition of pastors, scholars and churchmen who hold to the historic creeds and confessions of the reformed faith and who proclaimed biblical doctrine in order to foster a reformed awakening in today's church. To learn more about the alliance visit alliance and while you're there, visit our online store reformed resources. You can find messages and books from Dr. Boyce and other outstanding teachers and theologians, or ask for a free reformed resources catalog by calling 1-800-488-1888.

Please take the time to write to us and share how the Bible study our has impacted you. We love to hear from you and pray for you. Our address is 600 Eden Rd., Lancaster, PA 17601. Please consider giving financially to help keep the Bible study our impacting people for decades to come. You can do over the phone at 1-800-488-1888 or send a check to 600 Eden Rd., Lancaster, PA 176014 Canadian gifts mail those to 237 Hills Dr., Scarborough, ON.

In one scene, 299. Thanks for your continued parents, and for listening to Bible study.

Our preparing you to think and act

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime