RECOUNTING THE PAST
Lord, thank You for accommodating even our complaints.
Read PSALM 77
For the director of music. For Jeduthun. Of Asaph. A psalm.
1 I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
2 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.
3 I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.[b]
4 You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
5 I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
6 I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
7 “Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”
10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
13 Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
16 The waters saw you, God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
17 The clouds poured down water,
the heavens resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
19 Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
20 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
a Psalm 77:1 In Hebrew texts 77:1-20 is numbered 77:2-21.
b Psalm 77:3 The Hebrew has Selah (a word of uncertain meaning) here and at the end of verses 9 and 15.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“The thoughtful believer recalls God’s faithfulness in the past when confronted by any new threat. Part of spiritual maturity is a strong sense of one’s own history.” (Max Anders, b. 1947)
Here is a comforting reflection in a time of distress. Asaph is in anguish, beyond comfort; he even doubts in God’s goodness and faithfulness (7–9). This is a crisis of faith and hope, a situation that all of us can relate to from time to time. However, the song turns somewhat in verse 10, as Asaph begins to recall God’s past faithfulness. The psalm then becomes a litany of God’s mighty acts from the Exodus, culminating in the miraculous parting of the Red Sea, which continually reminded the Israelites of God’s power, protection, and love.
In periods of crisis it can be difficult to see a way through. At times this becomes so intense that we even doubt God’s good character – and the psalms seem to permit this kind of questioning. In times such as these, the most profitable thing we can do is to recount God’s past goodness and faithfulness to us, just as Asaph does. What we cannot see in the future, we can often see clearly in the past. We recall that God has rescued and provided for us, and we can be confident that he will do so again. He is the same unchangingly faithful God, no matter what the circumstances are telling us.
Memories of God’s miracles and faithfulness sustained Israel through their painful difficulties. In the same way, recalling God’s previous works can give us courage to continue on our own journey. We are reminded that God is totally capable and totally trustworthy, both able and willing. In the midst of a trial, keep intentionally reviewing how good God has been to you. This will strengthen your faith.
What specific testimonies of God’s goodness do you carry with you? Remind yourself of these stories of grace and provision. And if you are in a particularly dark time right now, be honest with God and choose to meditate on the truths about God that these stories speak about, allowing Him to strengthen and sustain you.
Lord, Your past faithfulness sustains me during present times of stress.