Drinking Deeply

Saturday, July 08, 2006 at 8:01 AM

Psalm 77

Someone brought Psalm 77 to my attention today, and something jumped out that I wanted to share. As a side note, one issue with the ESV on Biblegateway (in addition to the fact that it's mysteriously missing a few verses in the first chapter of Philippians) is that it doesn't distinguish the titles of the Psalms (which are translator inserted) from the introductory sentences (which are in the original languages, like “to David”), meh.

Psalm 77

In the Day of Trouble I Seek the Lord
To the choirmaster: according to Jeduthun.[a] A Psalm of Asaph.

1I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.
2In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
3When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints.

Psalm 77 begins with Asaph crying out to God. He's under some sort of persecution, some sort of attack. Maybe his cities are being waylaid, or maybe his enemies are out to kill him. It's certainly a “day of trouble” and it seems like there's something wrong, since his “soul refuses to be comforted.”

4You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
5I consider the days of old,
the years long ago.
6I said,[b] "Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart."
Then my spirit made a diligent search:
7"Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
8Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
9Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?"

What's going on? He's thinking about God, but he's trapped. Has God forgotten him? Has God stopped loving him? He's so troubled that he can't sleep, can't speak.

10Then I said, "I will appeal to this,
to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”

(footnote:Or This is my grief: that the right hand of the Most High has changed )

If we take the translation given, this marks the turning point of the Psalm. If we take the footnote, this marks the conclusion of his meditations.

11I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
12I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.

Asaph decides to meditate not on what God hasn't done, but upon what God has done. What wonders of old, what work, what mighty deeds.

13Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?

14You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
15You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph.

What does he conclude? God is holy. God is great. God has redeemed his people. There is one thing that jumped out about this to me though, it is the character of God more than the works of God that pulls us to worship. He had just been lamenting that God had forgotten him. He had known what God had done previously. He was wondering if God had forgotten.

16When the waters saw you, O God,
when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
indeed, the deep trembled.
17The clouds poured out water;
the skies gave forth thunder;
your arrows flashed on every side.
18The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
your lightnings lighted up the world;
the earth trembled and shook.
Affirming that God is sovereign over the oceans, Steve Lawson pointed out that raging waters are often symbolic of rebellious people. (A good example would be Isaiah 17) I think it fits here. The waters saw God and they were afraid. And what does God do? God judges the waters. God pours out water from heavens, sends lightning from the skies. And the earth trembled and shook. This is what God has done in the past, and this is what God will eventually do to those who persecute Asaph. They will be judged in much the same way.

19Your way was through the sea,
your path through the great waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.[d]
20You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

And Asaph will be delivered through the sea (rebellious people), through the waters. Even though God's footprints were not seen, even though Asaph wondered where God was, and if God had heard, the Psalm ends with faith. A faith in the unchanging character of God.

I think we can generalize this: if we're struggling with depression, with despair. If we are wondering where God has been, and if God had remembered. Yes, think of what God has done, but also think of who God is. Without and understanding of the unchanging and steadfast nature, without a conception of the faithfulness, the holiness, the goodness, that God will ultimately judge the unrighteous and set all things back to right, then to remember what God has done will only continue to drive us to despair, to wondering “Has God forgotten?” We need to rebuke ourselves and say “Why are you downcast O my soul? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” We need to remember that God is faithful, that He is unchanging, and that He has promised to carry His work to completion. That even when we can't see His footprints, He is leading us. The Lord is our shepherd, and he anoints our heads with oil in the presence of our enemies.

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