Reader: “This is my fate; the Most High has turned his hand against me.”
Response: “But then I recall all you have done, O Lord.”
Scripture: Psalm 77
I cry out to God; yes, I shout.
Oh, that God would listen to me!
When I was in deep trouble,
I searched for the Lord.
All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven,
but my soul was not comforted.
I think of God, and I moan,
overwhelmed with longing for his help.
You don’t let me sleep.
I am too distressed even to pray!
I think of the good old days,
long since ended,
when my nights were filled with joyful songs.
I search my soul and ponder the difference now.
Has the Lord rejected me forever?
Will he never again be kind to me?
Is his unfailing love gone forever?
Have his promises permanently failed?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he slammed the door on his compassion?
And I said, “This is my fate;
the Most High has turned his hand against me.”
But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;
I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.
They are constantly in my thoughts.
I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.
O God, your ways are holy.
Is there any god as mighty as you?
You are the God of great wonders!
You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.
By your strong arm, you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
When the Red Sea saw you, O God,
its waters looked and trembled!
The sea quaked to its very depths.
The clouds poured down rain;
the thunder rumbled in the sky.
Your arrows of lightning flashed.
Your thunder roared from the whirlwind;
the lightning lit up the world!
The earth trembled and shook.
Your road led through the sea,
your pathway through the mighty waters—
a pathway no one knew was there!
You led your people along that road like a flock of sheep,
with Moses and Aaron as their shepherds.
Reader: The word of the Lord
Response: Thanks be to God.
How often has this psalm been your prayer? One cannot but help notice the progression of emotions from the opening cry to the closing thoughts. There is a lesson for us here. The first section is completely internally focused. There are seven “I’s,” a “me” and a “my,” and God is referred to in the third person five times. What is clear is a frustrated passion wanting soul comfort. In our encounters with the Lord, we often begin the same way, starting with ourselves, our perspective, our feelings. “God, where are you?” I certainly have prayed this prayer more than once! I don’t know how significant the “Interlude” is, but it almost seems to say, “time out, get your thoughts together.”
Apparently the “time out” didn’t change much of anything. In this next section there are still seven references to I, me, and my with seven references to the Lord in the third person with only one reference in the second person where God is addressed directly. (I mention this only to point out the progression of the prayer.)
Several years ago I had a difficult upcoming meeting with the senior pastor. I truly didn’t know what to pray. I couldn’t formulate a thought or a word to offer to God so I just said, “Lord, you’ll have to do this. I don’t have a clue about anything!” He was faithful in the meeting and brought great clarity!
Asaph, the one praying begins to harken back to the good old days while wondering what has happened. Notice then the verbs associated with God’s relationship to Asaph as Asaph perceives―rejected, never again, gone forever, permanently failed, forgotten, slammed the door, and turned his hand against. Notice when we are down and self-focused how we turn to absolute negatives to express our feelings . . . never, forever, permanently. Then comes the four word perspective . . . “But then I recall.” God is no longer addressed in the third person, but in the second person. There are twenty-one references addressing God directly in the rest of the psalm. There is only one direct reference to the Lord in the first ten verses. There are but three “I’s” and one “my” in the last 10 verses as opposed to eighteen in the first ten. These later “I’s” have the verbs “recall, remember, cannot stop thinking” in contrast to the negative responses in the early part of the psalm.
In the end of the psalm, Asaph turns his attention to what God has done in the past. He looks to the Lord’s history of caring for his people to regain perspective. Then there is one quiet line that is so powerful. “Your pathway through the mighty waters―a pathway no one knew was there!” That is our great God! The next time you or I feel ourselves falling into the first part of this psalm, be sure to read the last half. The Lord knows the way through the wilderness, even when there are no paths we can see! Reminder―we’re not God!
Music: “Out of the Depths” The Genevans
“My Lord Knows the Way through the Wilderness” (Old childrens’ song, cute)
A dad and his children sing this song. Note the little girl when dad is talking at the end!
Prayer: Don’t talk today in prayer, listen to the Lord’s words of truth spoken to you for this day.
Let nothing disturb you; let nothing dismay you; all things pass: I never change. Patience attains all it strives for. The one who has me finds they lack nothing: I alone suffice.
―adapted from Teresa of Avila, Eerdmans’ Book of Famous Prayers, p.51