There is one thing you can appreciate about the psalms of Asaph: he is straightforward and honest. Asaph writes down his emotions while dealing with his problems and reading about his situation helps us relate to the feelings he has. We have read Asaph questioning God about the life circumstance he found himself living with. In Psalm 77 Asaph is in crisis again and we will read about how he deals with the situation.
Cries In The Night (77:1-2)
Asaph begins the psalm by recording how he was crying out to the Lord. The first two verses describe how Asaph was seeking after the Lord in the midst of his turmoil. Any person who has ever endured a trial, endured suffering, endured emotional pain, or endured any life difficulties relates to the words of Asaph in the first two verses. Asaph is literally crying to God for help. Emotionally broken and spent, Asaph is in distress reaching out to God for help. The last clause of verse 2 especially describes the nature of the suffering: “…and my soul refused to be comforted.” Nothing can be said to Asaph that will make him feel better. The ordeal is so great that there is no place to find comfort. With the diagnosis of Prader-Willi Syndrome of our daughter, there was no comfort for a few days. There was simply a sharp emotional pain that is simply indescribable that rested upon me. I felt numb toward everything except that pain. We do not know what Asaph is enduring but we can relate to the circumstance where we could not find any comfort or release.
Remembering The “Good Old Days” (77:3-6)
Verses 3-6 seems to be Asaph recalling what we often call “the good old days.” In verse 5 Asaph says, “I thought about the former days, the year of long ago; I remembered my songs in the night.” It is amazing how often trials set apart a new time of life. I have two major life chasms that have forever changed my life. Life events that cause a person to try to remember back to before the ordeal started. Asaph seems to remember back to before his ordeal, a time that seems to be so long ago. He remembers the former days when he had pleasure in the night (songs). But now Asaph has tears and distress in the night.
Six Rhetorical Questions (77:7-9)
Asaph records the feelings of every person in the middle of a difficult trial. These feelings are recorded as six questions to which he seeks the answers.
- Will the Lord reject forever? It is hard not to have the feeling of being rejected by God in the middle of difficulties.
- Will he never show his favor again? One of the difficulties of a trial is that it seems like the trial will never end. We feel rejected and that things will never be good again.
- Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Asaph wonders if the blessings of God’s love will return.
- Has his promise failed for all time? One of promises God was that he will never leave or forsake his people (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5).
- Has God forgotten to be merciful? Asaph wonders if God’s mercy has run out. Has he used up all of God’s mercy so now he must enduring suffering? Asaph feels like it, and in the midst of trial we often feel the same way.
- Has he in anger withheld his compassion? We may even feel like we are experiencing the wrath of God because of the circumstances we are enduring. So, while in the midst of suffering we are going to read about what Asaph did to overcome these feelings.
What I Will Do (77:10-12)
Verses 10-12 record Asaph’s determination in the middle of the trial. There are three things that Asaph says he will do:
- Remember the deeds of the Lord. We have repeatedly been instructed in the psalms that it is important to remember the past deeds of God while in distress. We will see Asaph instruct us more about this in a moment.
- Remember the miracles. Asaph also remembers the history of God’s love toward his people. The followers of God did not have miracles in their own day to look for. They had to recall the miracles of the Exodus and of the conquest of Canaan and know that God continues his love for them because of what God did in their past.
- Meditate on all of God’s works and consider all God’s mighty deeds. Think of the past and think of the current good things that God is doing in your life. It is easy to only dwell on the negative problems that are taking place right now. But we must move past and think about the many blessings we are still experiencing.
Remember God (77:13-15)
To endure his suffering, Asaph recounts the attributes of God. By thinking about God rather than himself, he is able to be proper centered to get through the distress.
- God’s ways are holy. We have to remember that holiness is not simply about purity, but about how God is separated from everything else. Therefore we are not simply talking about how God’s ways are righteous. Asaph is asking us who we are to question God because his ways are different than our way of thinking. Who are we to question the ways of God? Who are we to declare that we should not have to go through a trial? Who are we to say that we have learned the lesson of the trial and our faith has been refined? Our ways are simply not the ways of God. God knows what we need. God has promised that we will not be tested beyond what we are capable of enduring.“No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13; NRSV).
- God’s greatness is incomparable. God is able to put his holy ways into action. God has the power to accomplish his ways. God’s purposes will be accomplished. We do not have control over our own lives and cannot always accomplish our purposes. But God does have control over our lives and has the power, far above all else, to help us in our distress.
- God’s power is visible. It is easy to forget about the power of God because we close our eyes to all that God has done. We forget God’s power in creation. We forget about God’s power in salvation. We forget about God’s power to change lives. We forget about how God’s power has been at work in our lives to make us better people than we were before.
- God’s work as Redeemer. Asaph also remembers how God redeemed his people. This is a remembrance of the exodus. One of the earliest times that we read about the need for redemption is in the exodus and Passover which spared the firstborn of Israel. All the firstborn were to die. God had redeemed, or bought back, the firstborn from the dead. Israel had been delivered from Egyptian slavery and the firstborn had been spared death. How much more can we bring this to remembrance when we are in a trial! God has worked great things as our Redeemer. He has delivered us from the slavery of sin and has purchased us from the death that was owed to us for our sins. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18-19; NIV). We must remember that God has done so much for us in redeeming our lives. We need to stay focused on what really matters: God’s spiritual blessings and spiritual workings for us.
God, The Redeemer Of The Exodus (77:16-19)
Remembering God as his redeemer causes him to think about the great acts of God in redeeming Israel from Egyptian slavery. In verse 16 Asaph records the mighty working of God to part the waters for deliverance from the Egyptians. Verses 17-18 seem to remind Israel about the pillar of cloud and fire that led the people to deliverance as well as protected the people from the Egyptians as they crosses the Red Sea. God was leading the people through that trial, though God’s footprints were not seen. God was with them through the whole event, even though the people did panic, believing they were about to die. God does not leave us to cope with our suffering alone, but leads to the light at the end of the tunnel.
The Lord Is Our Shepherd (77:20)
Asaph concludes his psalm speaking of God as a shepherd who leads his people by his servants. One of the favorite images that God uses to picture his relationship with us is that of a shepherd. The picture is that God is in charge and we are supposed to follow him. One cannot help but think of David’s famous Psalm 23 which speaks of going through the valley of the shadow death, but God still leading us. We will go through difficult times. We will go through frightening times. But God is still leading us to the pasture. God is still walking in front of us, protecting us from danger.
When in distress:
- Remember all of God’s mighty deeds in your life.
- Remember the attributes of God. His ways are not our ways and God has the power to accomplish his purposes.
- Remember that God has redeemed you by the precious blood of his son. He will not leave you alone when he has done so much to give you every opportunity to be with the Lord forever. (NIV)