I call Psalm 88 the Psalm of the terminal man.
Yes, in a sense we are all terminal, but sometimes, life ends long before normal. Such seems to be the case of Heman the Ezrahite.
This psalm too is a lament and you will notice it is entirely different from the next one in our reading – though written by the same man. Psalm 89 is written in behalf of David. But Psalm 88 is personal.
The writer is consumed with death. Whether this illness ended in death we do not know, but Heman thought it would. He tells us he has been sickly all his life (vs. 15) and it would appear that his infirmity has gotten the better of him at this point. God could rescue him if He would. But He hasn’t and because of that, the writer feels abandoned by God.
The psalm reminds me of those I’ve watched die due to terminal illness. Friends come to call for a while, but after a bit, the sight, the smells, the helplessness, keep most of them away.
Who wants to watch that, right?
If you find yourself going through similar illness, this psalm is for you. But just as good, if you know someone going through this, the psalm an be infinitely instructive. This is the way your helpless friend feels. Get over yourself. Help him or her feel the compassionate presence of God through your own presence. You don’t have to say anything. Just be there.
To be in the presence of the dying child of God is to be in the presence of the Lord. For all he felt, in his mind, Heman knew that God was there, listening.