1 I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me.
2 In 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.
3 When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah
4 You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
5 I consider the days of old, the years long ago.
6 I said, “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?
8 Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah
10 Then I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
12 I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples.
15 You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
16 When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled.
17 The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side.
18 The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook.
19 Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen.
20 You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
From diligently seeking hearts come questions to which most will ask for one reason or another- from Christians in search of answers to new atheists in a vain sarcastic proof, and all those in between.
vs7: Will the Lord spurn forever and never again be favorable?
vs8: Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time?
vs9: Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?
As we look in thought upon these questions, you cannot help but to nod in agreement with the asking. These are real thought provoking, theologically seeking, philosophically engaging life questions. It is impossible to be a Christian looking upon your spiritual walk and the world in which we live, and not wonder why God seems to be so ever absent. Why he seems not to keep the promises of scripture- caring for the innocent nor punishing the wicked. Asaph makes the statement in Psalm 73:
“But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (vs 2, 3)
In our minds eye it can be very hard to see God at work in our lives and world. Especially after reading the promises of scripture toward the righteous and the wrath which we thought should be raining down over the wicked. This so nearly caused Asaph to go the way of sinners. Here in Psalm 77 he is struggling over the same apparent absenteeism of a sovereign all-knowing God. The five questions he asks here in Psalm 77 are all questions which wonder at the apparent missing Lord, one who seems to have turned his back on the goings of the world.
These questions can come from different places in different people. For Asaph, he seems to be in a place of anguish, a place in which his heart is being tormented. He is crying to God with a soul that cannot be comforted (vs 2). He is sleepless (vs 4) and troubled (vs 2). Vs 3 seems to point towards confusion and frustration- to which I much sympathize. But our comfort in this Psalm can be found in the way which Asaph finds comfort and in the conclusion to which he comes. However, we must remember that the answers to these questions cannot be philosophically deduced. There is no secret theological answer found in scripture to satisfy our inquiring minds. The answer lies somewhere on the other side of eternity and is to be grappled with on this side with a hard fought faith. So how does Asaph grapple?
“Then I said, ‘I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.’ “(vs 10)
Asaph resolves to look at what the Lord has done- if the Most High appears to be absent, he will look to a time when he knows He was very much present.
“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on you mighty deeds. (vs 11, 12)”
And to do this he does what we would all do well to practice, he looks to scripture. And in scripture he looks to the redemption of God’s people from Egypt- when the Lord delivered Israel from bondage, leading them through the sea and through Sinai to the land of promise. The Lord was very clearly acting for His people in this “mighty deed.”
But could God’s people, while they waited and crossed the sea, see God’s favor or God’s promises working? As they camped along the shore of the great sea they saw the enemy approaching- meaning them harm and being trapped…
“they feared greatly. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, ‘is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” (Exodus 14:10-12)
They very well could have asked the five questions of Asaph in Psalm 77. But Moses answers them….
“fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today…. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:13, 14).
What faithful leadership during trying times to reassure the people of God’s eternal plan and protection. And through this leadership the Lord speaks…
“why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through on sea on dry ground.” (Exodus 14:15, 16)
The angel of the Lord moves to the rear of the camp to separate and protect them from the pursuing Egyptians, telling Moses to lead the way and “go forward” through the raging sea on dry ground. (Just try and imagine this dramatically tense scene and the emotions of all involved). Then Exodus 14:30….
“Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.”
Here is Asaph’s comfort- “Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters (vs 19).” The Israelites would have never thought that their mighty God would bring them through the storming sea. They could not see him on that path. Just think of this wonderful verse in terms of Asaph’s dilemma and ours- “Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen vs19.” But the Lord was there the whole time, holding the enemy and the waters back- just as he is in our lives protecting and guiding us, however seemingly unseen. And as if that were not enough- he raises up men through whom he will guide and lead us upon this unforeseen way. “You lead your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron (vs 20).”
One of my favorites:
Thy way not mine O Lord- by Horatius Bonar
Thy way not mine O Lord, however dark it be! Lead me by thine own hand, choose out the path for me; smooth let it be or rough, it will be still the best; winding or straight, it leads right onward to thy rest.
The kingdom that I seek is thine; so let the way that leads to it be thine, else I must surely stray. I dare not choose my lot; I would not if I might: choose thou for me, my God, so shall I walk aright.
Take thou my cup, and it with joy or sorrow fill as best to thee may seem; choose thou my good and ill. Not mine, not mine the choice in things or great or small; be thou my guide, my strength, my wisdom, and my all.