(Originally posted 6-1–17)
I love Psalm 77. When I was first starting out writing music and specifically, worship music, I would go to the Psalms. Of course this was where any budding songwriter would go because the book is literally chapter after chapter of verses that were set to music. It’s an inspiring book! I looked at Psalm 77 and wrote some lines that turned into a worship song, inspired by the verses therein. Regrettably (and probably fortunately), I’ve misplaced some of the verses and forgotten the melody. So I’ll spare you the ordeal of listening to it! It was an early work so I like to think I’ve gotten at least a little better at writing since then. I’m still waiting for that songwriter publication deal! But I digress…
If you look at Psalm 77 you basically see two worlds; two seasons of the soul if you will. All within one person. All one heart crying out to God. And almost a 180 degree turn by the time the passage is over.
The first 10 verses are tough to read. The Psalmist (Asaph we are told) is crying out to God. He’s in tough shape and even says when he thinks of God, he groans (vs. 3). He lifts his hands to God, but no comfort comes to him. He says God keeps him awake; he can’t even sleep…he is troubled of soul (vs. 4). He considers some of his previous days and remembers his music (as a choir director, it’s the thing that he loves). None of it seems to bring comfort to him. He is a desperate man.
So what’s the deal? Why is Asaph so down, so discouraged?
We don’t know all the details and one could argue he is hurt over the state of his country; that he is broken for Israel. But I feel that his words are too personal, too individual to be pointing to concerns of a national level. No I believe his words are that of a heart-broken and hurting man. Someone who has experienced deep pain or loss.
As a creative-type, I identify with Asaph. I love to dream and explore things creatively and I love when people appreciate and get pumped up about the same things I enjoy. And I think to a great extent we all can feel this way. We go through seasons of our lives where we feel on top of the world. God is good. Our family is good. Our work is good. Everything is coming up roses. And to be honest, it’s those moments we long for. We long for the peace that comes when life is on-track and the blessings are flowing down.
But we know life gets messy. We know in Christ we aren’t promised only good and the chance to live on the mountain-top everyday (read my blog Coming Down Off The Mountain for further insight). I think in the first ten verses of Psalm 77, Asaph is experiencing a real low moment, a place where he thinks even God can’t reach him.
Aren’t you glad that great stories with God never end there? I can’t think of a story in the Bible where God leaves the hero in the pit, left to suffer and die without hope. There is always hope and redemption is always made available. It’s the story of Christ after all.
Verses 11-20 are the 180 degree turning point that takes place for Asaph. And I believe it’s primarily because he chooses to do one thing: He remembers.
I will remember the Lord’s works;
yes, I will remember Your ancient wonders.
I will reflect on all You have done
and meditate on Your actions.
In all of his despair, what is the one thing Asaph has forgotten to do? He has forgotten to remember! He has forgotten the power and majesty and awe of the God he serves. He has forgotten that this isn’t God’s first rodeo. God knows Asaph and He knows how to deliver him. And Asaph closes out the Psalm going back to stories that tell his soul “Wake up, take heart! God parted waters before…He’ll do it again!” He talks about the waters shaking and trembling before the Lord, recalling the miraculous parting of the Red Sea and the deliverance of Israel from the hand of Pharaoh:
Your way went through the sea
and Your path through the great waters,
but Your footprints were unseen.
You led Your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
By the end of the Psalm, Asaph is left with nothing else to do but give praise to God. He knows where his help comes from. He is stirred to remember and meditate on the goodness of God because it is His character. His nature is true to Himself.
So how long is your memory today?
For most of you, I don’t know your story and the blows that life has dealt you. And I don’t want to minimize anything you might be facing today by offering a trite phrase like “Trust God, He’ll work it out.” But I believe often the thing we do (at least what I’m guilty of) is that we allow trials to shut us down and keep God’s truth from penetrating our hearts. When we turn inward and believe God has rejected us, we start to spiral just like Asaph did.
It’s our forgetfulness of God’s strength that we must overcome. Is He or is He not still the God Who parts waters, the God Who moves mountains, the God Whose arm is strong enough to save? If your walk with Him is short and you don’t have years and years of experience to draw from, read the great stories of His deliverance in the Bible. Read about Daniel in the Lions Den or Paul’s deliverance from prison or even the whole book of Esther! The Bible has so much to offer us in our time of discouragement and doubt and I believe helps pull us through those times because God will do it again.
I’m impressed to leave a link at the close of this blog to a song that has offered much support to me as I’ve been facing my own doubts that God can move and act again in my current situation. It’s a song by Elevation Worship entitled “Do It Again” off their album There Is A Cloud; you can listen to it in the attached YouTube clip. It is the bridge lyric that especially resonates and I hope brings encouragement to you as well:
I’ve seen You move
You move the mountains
And I believe
I’ll see You do it again
You made a way
Where there was no way
And I believe
I'll see You do it again
God bless you as you seek Him this week! He is the God who can “do it again!”
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Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17
Other blogs for futher reading
Passing The Baton
Guided By Patience (The Fruit Series)