Pariah of Prayer: A Son of Korah

Introduction: Last week, we talked about Paragons of prayer. Those were characters in the Bible we should emulate in prayer. We saw examples of Jesus, Elijah, Paul and Moses. 

I ran out of time before I could talk about one more example. Hannah, Samual’s mom and wife of Elkanah, who prayed so intensely (fervently) for a baby that Eli, the priest, thought she was drunk. She was not and Eli said that her petition would be granted. Visit my website, mikemoody.com, for some insight into a prayer that God answered “not yet.” Her prayer was answered, but not immediately. 

This week, I’d like to look at the opposite side of that idea. We will explore the Pariahs of Prayer.

In the context of this study, a pariah is something to be avoided. As you can imagine, finding a prayer to be avoided in the Bible is a difficult task. But after a providential encounter with Josh Sipper, there it was — the inspiration I needed. An example created by found in Pslam 88. 

While looking at the prayer in Psalm 88, try to image the situation this person is in. That is really the underlying lesson here. We’ll explore what is said in this prayer and how to avoid the situation this person found himself.

Now let’s talk about He-man!

No, not the He-man from the cartoon of my childhood, but of a character named Heman, the Ezrahite. 

    • You remember the story of Korah’s rebellion found in Numbers 16. (VBS. David Allen)
      • Korah was of the tribe of Levi and he was not happy. He thought that Aaron was only made high priest because of His brother, Moses. He was DEAD wrong.
      • Korah gathered his followers to challenge Aaron and Moses and was ultimately proven wrong and then was swallowed up by the earth. This is where Psalm 88 comes in.
    • To understand a Psalm, many times, you can read the description that precedes the Pslam. I have often wondered where that came from. Why is it not  numbered like a verse? If it is not a verse, why is it in there?
    • Now as we look at Psalm 88, we need to look closer at the title of this Pslam. A title is a description that precedes most Psalms.
      • I finally found the most comprehensive answer on a website (donaldboyd.org) that really helped explain this idea. Bible verses were not numbered in the earliest manuscripts and there was no distinction between the title and the remainder of the Psalm and were a part of the inspired scripture. The verse numbers were added in the 16th century. The first Bible in English to use both chapters and verses was the Geneva Bible published in 1560.
      • In the description, or title, of Psalm 88 it reads, “A song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil of Heman the Ezrahite.”
        • This is a Psalm about the sons of Korah, or in honor of the sons of Korah.
        • It is given to the choirmaster or director of music to be played like a song.
        • It appears to be written by someone named Mahalath Leannoth. This person is a maskil, which is an expert writer or scholar of Hebrew.
        • Leannoth was employed by Heman the Ezrahite.
        • My interpretation of this title is that it was written as if from the perspective of a son of Korah.
    • As we look at this Psalm, it describes what a son of Korah was feeling at the time of his “downfall.”
      • Verses 1-5 describe his hopeless situation.
        • 1 O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you.
        • 2 Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry!
        • 3 For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol.
        • 4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength,
        • 5 like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand.
        • DISCUSSION: How sad it would be to be without hope. Hope that the troubles of this life, the stresses that keep us down and the road blocks that the devil continues to toss at us will all be over once we reach heaven.
          • Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
          • It is because of hope that we pray and believe that God’s will is working in our lives
          • If we trust in the promise of eternity, we can never be hopeless.
      • Verses 6 thru 9 reveal that this man knows his fate.
        • 6 You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep.
        • 7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah (forever. musical break. 71x)
        • 8 You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a horror to them. I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
        • 9  my eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call upon you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you.
        • DISCUSSION: This man has turned away from God. At what point does someone turn away from God? 
          • I believe at the point someone stops feeling remorse for sin, they have become lost. 
          • Some may deny it or ignore it but if they truly came to themselves, like the prodigal son in Luke 15, they would realize the state they are are in.
          • If we remain faithful, not perfect, we can know our eternal destination is assured through grace. (Ephesians 2:8-9) For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
      • Verses 10 thru 15 show a man who is making his last pitch to God and almost dare God to save him.
        • 10 Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
        • 11 is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
        • 12 Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
        • 13 But I, O Lord, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
        • 14 O Lord, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me?
        • 15 Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
        • DISCUSSION: When we feel like the world is against us, do we strike out at those around us? This also applies to God.
          • When a loved one passes away or something bad happens in our lives, it’s easy to blame God for taking that loved one or causing that bad thing to happen to us. We need someone to blame. It’s in our nature.
          • When we bargain with God, we are denying his deity and his power over this world. Yes, he set this world in motion. Yes, bad things happen to good people. But unlike the Greek gods, the one true God does not delight in the perils of man.
          • God has created this world as an example of free will so that we would not be forced into serving him. It must be our choice. We brought sin into this world. God had to sacrifice his only son to build a bridge between our carnal, imperfect lives and his perfect existence. (James 1:13-16) Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.
          • Fix blame on the devil. It is his will that the bad things that happen to you will bring you down and others around you.
      • The final verses, 16 thru 18 are the last thoughts of a lost soul who realizes the sentencing that has taken place and is resolved in the verdict. He is guilty and he knows it.
        • 16 Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me.
        • 17 They surround me like a flood all day long; they close in on me together.
        • 18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness.
        • DISCUSSION: Do we comprehend death? In studying this idea, I happened upon an article on PetMD.com that asks the question, “Do animals understand death?”
          • At some level, animals seem to understand the concept of death. From elephants who grieve for the loss of a herd member to whales who won’t leave their dead babies behind, many species react to death in much the same way that people do. 
          • I remember a long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away) I was at home on Spann Place (Karen’s and my first house) and I heard a commotion in the front yard. A cat was attacking a bird. I lunged at the cat and it ran off. The bird sat there, motionless. I sat there with it. If it was going to die, I would bury it. It it were going to live, I would try to help it. After a while, it started turning its head, and then moving. A little while later it moved its wings and, eventually, flew off. As I thought about that experience I came to realize the bird had succumbed to death. It was ready to die. 
          • Out of this entire sad prayer, the only part we can truly identify with are these last three verses. This man was ready to meet his fate. Are we?
          • If we have become faithful Christians, shouldn’t we live resolved in the fact that we are going to heaven. Doubt is another one os the arrows the Devil keeps in his quiver. 
          • (Romans 8:38-39) For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
          • This passage tells us we can be assured of our salvation. 

CONCLUSION: The young man in the prayer was in a no-win situation. For him, it was too late to repent. Today, we still have that option. We are gathered in this building as the children of God linked together with a common bond. We are family. We need to talk to each other and pray for each other. (James 5:16) Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Next week we will look at some more Pariahs of Prayer if time permits

  • The Pharisee and tax collector found in Luke 18:9-14
  • David’s prayer after Nathan’s visit in Psalm 51
  • Jonah’s prayer in Jonah 2

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