“I was afflicted and about to die from my youth on;
I suffer Your terrors; I am overcome. Your burning anger has passed over me;
Your terrors have destroyed me”(Ps. 88:15-17).
The Psalmist writes that these horrors, rather than being something having abruptly overtaken him, have haunted and harassed him all his life. He says “I suffer your terrors; I am overcome,” referring to the notion that he has endured God’s terrors continually, to the point of being utterly helpless and exhausted. His whole life has been one of continual and unending torment.
“Your burning anger has passed over me.” The idea of being “passed over” is comparable to that of a flood (compare with v. 7). The word “terrors” used here is different rom that used in v. 15, even though the English may render them the same. It is used in Job 6:17 and 23:17 and has the idea of “exterminating” or “extinguish.” It is as though the fire of his life has been smothered into non-existence by the waves of God’s fury.
Verse 17 continues the notion of God’s anger being like a flood which suffocates and overwhelms the Psalmist: “They have surrounded me like water all day long;
They have encompassed me altogether.” Matthew Henry’s comments on vv. 10-18 are instructive:
“Departed souls may declare God’s faithfulness, justice, and lovingkindness; but deceased bodies can neither receive God’s favours in comfort, nor return them in praise. The psalmist resolved to continue in prayer, and the more so, because deliverance did not come speedily. Though our prayers are not soon answered, yet we must not give over praying. The greater our troubles, the more earnest and serious we should be in prayer. Nothing grieves a child of God so much as losing sight of him; nor is there any thing he so much dreads as God’s casting off his soul. If the sun be clouded, that darkens the earth; but if the sun should leave the earth, what a dungeon would it be! Even those designed for God’s favours, may for a time suffer his terrors. See how deep those terrors wounded the psalmist. If friends are put far from us by providences, or death, we have reason to look upon it as affliction. Such was the calamitous state of a good man. But the pleas here used were peculiarly suited to Christ. And we are not to think that the holy Jesus suffered for us only at Gethsemane and on Calvary. His whole life was labour and sorrow; he was afflicted as never man was, from his youth up. He was prepared for that death of which he tasted through life. No man could share in the sufferings by which other men were to be redeemed. All forsook him, and fled. Oftentimes, blessed Jesus, do we forsake thee; but do not forsake us, O take not thy Holy Spirit from us.”