Strength from Psalm 77
There are times when life is so hard, when those who are against us appear to be so powerful that we fall into a state of utter despair. We feel our earthly bosses or enemies have such control over our lives and fate that we begin to doubt whether even God has the power to save us from this disaster brought upon us by fellow humans.
When we find ourselves in situations like that, the Bible tells us to go back to history; to remember what God has done to save his servants who found themselves in similar or worse situations.
Consider, for example, how Daniel was thrown into a den of lions, but escaped unharmed, because the Lord shut the mouths of the lions (Daniel 6:1-28). Consider how, in the New Testament, the apostle Peter is reported to have miraculously escaped from prison (Acts 12:1-19).
Some of the psalms teach us how remembering what the Lord has done to save his servants can serve as a source of strength and hope; how, putting our faith in the God who protects and defends the innocent, we can restore our sanity and peace of mind.
The psalm opens with the cry of someone in utter despair:
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.
There are times when our troubles are so heavy that God appears to have turned a deaf ear to our requests; when prayer seems so ineffectual that we begin to doubt the existence of God.
In the case of the psalmist, the intensity of his distress was such that as he meditated on God, his spirit grew faint, and he was too troubled to speak. This took his mind to the past, and he found himself asking in despair whether the Lord was so angry and disappointed with him that he had withdrawn his love and forgotten to show some of the attributes we associate with a merciful God:
Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favour again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?
At this point the psalmist thought of a plan recalling those occasions in history when the Lord performed miracles, and he 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.
This memory brings hope and sanity to the psalmist. He remembers that God’s ways are not our ways; that God’s ways are holy, and that there is no god like our God, the God who performs miracles.
He remembers how God performed that amazing miracle at the Red Sea when he parted the waters so that the descendants of Jacob and Joseph could cross on dry land with a wall of water on the left and a wall of water on the right; and brought the waters together again to drown the Egyptian warriors and their horses and chariots. He paints a vivid picture of how God displayed his power on that day so that even nature recognised the Creator’s power and obeyed his command:
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.
Indeed God’s path led through the sea, through the mighty waters, though his footprints were not seen.
The psalmist’s depiction of the event here reminds us of the actual historical event as recorded in Exodus 14.
When, at the command of the Lord, Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land, enabling the Israelites to cross; and when at daybreak Moses stretched out his hand again, the water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen the entire army of the Pharaoh drowned, and not one survived (Exodus 14:21-30).
When the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the powerful Egyptians, they feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in his servant, Moses (Exodus 14:31).
An important lesson from Psalm 77 is that when we are in distress and despair, let us recall or read about some of the miracles of the Lord and this will help to revive our faith and confidence in him.
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