For the director of music. For Jeduthun. Of Asaph. A psalm.
I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.
I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.
You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
‘Will the Lord reject for ever?
Will he never show his favour again?
Has his unfailing love vanished for ever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?’
Then I thought, ‘To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.’
Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
The waters saw you, God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
The clouds poured down water,
the heavens resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
You led your people like a flock(Ps. 77:1-20 NIV)
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
The remembrance of the Lord eventually encourages the Psalmist, but initially he groaned at the thought of all that God has done; he meditated and that caused him to grow faint. His memory of past grace made his present suffering all the more difficult to bear. This meditation caused more pain, leaving the Psalmist sleepless and longing for grace of former days. God is named as the source of the Psalmist’s sleeplessness. This negative outcome from meditating helps correct any simple formula that we might have, that if we bring our distress to God, just meditating upon God’s work of salvation makes it all feel better. God is sovereign and He gives in His time. The Psalmist couldn’t sleep and he couldn’t speak. He had tried every which way to describe the problem and he is exhausted, out of words, and just prostrate before the Lord. He thinks of former days, the years of long ago. The church that we went to when we were at University had no children’s work. The subject of children’s work was raised a number of times, and one of the older members always talked about the heyday of the church, back in his youth when there were 200 children in the Sunday school. ‘It will never be like that again’ he said. Because it would never be like it once was, this reminiscing about the past resulted in the people not being willing to do anything in the present. Thankfully we managed to get over that argument and started a children’s work from the neighbourhood. We need to be careful about living on past experience. But here the Psalmist puts to good use the meditation on the past.
The Psalmist remembers the songs that he sang at night, songs of praise to God, and the memories led him to ask ‘Will the Lord reject forever?’ The implied answer is, No! He sang songs of God’s faithfulness, His unfailing love, and His covenant care. All these salvation themes must inevitably lead to the conclusion that the Lord will come to the aid of His people. Can unfailing love vanish? How can it, if it is unfailing? God’s promises cannot fail because they are God’s promises. God is love – how can he cease to be merciful and compassionate towards His people? It is out of mercy and compassion that He has disciplined His people.
The Psalmist realises he has a case to make, grounds for an appeal – God’s covenant love. He appeals to the years when the Most High stretched out His hand in salvation. He thinks of the deeds and the miracles of God. The works of God display the character of God, and so the Psalmist takes heart as he reflects on God’s character.
The Psalmist acknowledges that God’s ways are holy. Even the action of disciplining His people is an act carried out in holiness. The power of the Lord is so great that no other gods can compare, especially the false gods of the enemy that took them into exile. God redeemed His people out of Egypt. The great waters of the Red Sea saw the people of God trapped and surrounded by Pharaoh’s army. What looked liked certain death became certain salvation and certain judgement on Pharaoh’s army as God parted the Red Sea. The Lord was unseen as He parted the Red Sea. The people of God had to move forward in faith. Think of the sight of a wall of water on either side of them! God left no footprints, but He was there every moment.
Lord every action we attempt to take can either encourage or discourage us. We meditate on Your salvation and past dealings with us and it leaves us discouraged because we don’t see the same activity today. But You are Sovereign in Your power and timing. We cannot manipulate You with our prayers. We pray and we wait upon Your time. We always wish Your time was now. Remind us Lord that our prayers are not Sovereign, but it is Your will that determines the outcome. Lord teach us to trust You as we wait for You. Help us to understand that Your way is best. Be pleased to come to the aid of Your people. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.