Psalm 77 In the Day of Trouble I Seek the Lord To the choirmaster: according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph. (1)I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. (2)In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. (3)When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah (4)You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. (5)I consider the days of old, the years long ago. (6)I said, "Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart." Then my spirit made a diligent search: (7)"Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? (8)Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? (9)Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?" Selah (10)Then I said, "I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High." (11)I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. (12)I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. (13)Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? (14)You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. (15)You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah (16)When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled. (17)The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side. (18)The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook. (19)Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. (20)You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
Psalm 77 is titled: The Consoling Memory of God’s Redemptive Works (NKJV), Comfort in Trouble from Recalling God’s Mighty Deeds (NASB2020). To the Chief Musician: some believe this is the worship director in the tabernacle/temple, others believe it’s a song written to God Himself. Maybe it is both!
To Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph. Jeduthun was one of the men assigned to lead temple worship during David’s reign as king in Jerusalem. Read about Jeduthun in 1 Chronicles 16:37-43 and 1 Chronicles 25:1-3. Asaph was the great singer, musician, and prophet during David and Solomon’s time. Read about Asaph in 1 Chronicles 16:4-7, 1 Chronicles 25:1-2, 2 Chronicles 29:30.
Some scholars understand this psalm as a “national lament,” and others think of it as the lament of an individual; but the simple truth seems to be that it is indeed the lament of an individual brought about by the terrible fate of the kingdom which was in the process of being providentially destroyed.James Burton Coffman, pastor, 1905-2006
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. Interlude Psalm 77:1-3 NLT
Psalm 77 is a sad song. Asaph is in great need. He runs to the Lord in prayer. He cries out and shouts for help; he moans and lifts his hands to heaven in great longing. His heart and soul are in deep trouble. There is one thing that Asaph needs; His Father.
Days of trouble must be days of prayer; when God seems to have withdrawn from us, we must seek him till we find him.Matthew Henry, English minister, 1662-1714
Then you will call upon me and go and pray to me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13 NKJV
Selah. Interlude. A pause to reflect and speak to God in our hearts.
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? Interlude Psalm 77:4-9 NLT
The night causes a worried heart to weary and anguish. Asaph feels as if God is keeping him awake. He has no respite from his worry and pain. God is far away. Asaph cannot find him. In his heart, he grasps at memories of times better, to no avail. He is weary. Will he ever be the same? Where is God? He has abandoned His people and His promises.
Some scholars place this psalm during the Babylonian exile and this author being a “son of” Asaph. If this is indeed the timeframe, the author is a remnant of believers in the kingdom. Israel had fallen into sin, had refused to turn back when told to, and now faced exile from the Promised Land, and a Father who looked away. But…there were still believers there. The author is one of them who continued to plead for God to relent His punishment.
If this is the timeline, then Jeremiah’s words from God are essential:
For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you," says the LORD. "I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land." Jeremiah 29:11-14 NLT
For a heart that feels lost and abandoned, the answer is to seek God. We must seek God until we find Him, until He reveals Himself to us. He will. For of course, God never leaves us. It is us who turn away, who walk away, and get lost in the process. The Father knows where we are always. He waits for us in the place we left Him.
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. Interlude Psalm 77:10-15 NLT
Is the author finding his faith again? He is searching for God. Is God revealing Himself?
Asaph is realizing the things he accused God of are his own shortcomings, his own faithlessness. He recalls the Holiness of the Lord. He remembers God faithfulness and His mighty deeds. Instead of his own worries, Asaph dwells upon the Lord’s great wonders of old and His redeeming power.
Some believe that later versions of the Bible have weakened the translation of verse 13. Here are some of the older versions:
Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God? KJV (King James) Thy way, O God, is in the Sanctuarie: who is so great a God as our God? GNV (Geneva) O God, thy way most holy is within thy sanctuary: and what god is so great in pow'r as is our God most high? MP1650 (Songs of David in Metre: the Scottish Psalter) God, thy way was in the holy place; what God is great as our God? WBMS (Wycliffe)
The answer is clear in these old versions of the Bible: when we feel lost and alone and as if God has abandoned us in the time of our greatest need, we must enter into the sanctuary. We must run to His sanctuary. Literally and figuratively, God can be found in His sanctuary. This world will pass away, but God is enter and in His sanctuary is a reminder of His love and faithfulness. It is refreshing. It is hope.
Selah…Interlude. Pause and reflect and enter into His Holy Sanctuary.
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. Psalm 77:16-20 NLT
Here we remember God’s miracle at the parting of the Red Sea found in Exodus 14.
In his remembering of God’s faithfulness, Asaph dwells upon one His greatest miraculous works recorded in the Bible. God saves His people from the dreadful Egyptians soldiers behind them by have them walk through the Red Sea. A test of faith of the people. And a miracle still talked about and sung about in Asaph’s time.
The Bible doesn’t record an earthquake of lightning bolts, but maybe Jewish tradition told more of the story back then. Or maybe Asaph is using those things to describe God’s power in words as a poet does.
But the bottom line is: God was present, and He was mighty when His children needed Him most.
Asaph uses this miracle to rebuild his faith. God was faithful then, He will be faithful again.
God was the mighty deliverer, who then led His people along the road like a Good Shepherd.
The song ends abruptly here, as if he can say no more. The words have left him. He is overwhelmed remembering God’s faithfulness and power.
The psalmist has reached the climax of his strain, he has found relief from his sorrow by forcing his thoughts into another channel, by dwelling on all God’s mightiest wonders of old; but there he must end: in his present intensity of passion he cannot trust himself to draw forth in detail any mere lessons of comfort. There are seasons when even the holiest faith cannot bear to listen to words of reasoning; though it can still find a support whereon to rest, in the simplest contemplation, in all their native grandeur, of the deeds that God hath wrought.Joseph Francis Thrupp (citedy by Spurgeon), English author, 1827-1867
The New King James version of the Bible says this:
Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters, and Your footsteps were not known. Psalm 77:19
Do we see God around us? Sometimes He leaves “footprints,” sometimes He does not. What is a believer to do during the times we cannot see Him? During the times when we just don’t understand or when we feel God has gotten it wrong, how do we reconcile the promises of God and His apparent absence at times?
“And thy footsteps were not known” (verse 19): The strong suggestion here is that men cannot certainly know the purposes and intentions of Almighty God. His ways are above our ways; he has not revealed to men the reasons behind any of his actions; his deeds, as far as men are concerned, are indeed inscrutable.
Even today, when men are tempted to doubt because of conditions in the world which seem contrary to all truth and righteousness, it is the duty of all believers to “trust where they cannot see.”James Burton Coffman, pastor, 1905-2006
Father in heaven, thank you for your word and the promises that it holds even today. Thank you that even when we don’t see your footprints or feel your presence that you have not abandoned us. You are real and present. You will defend and protect. You do not sit idly while bad things happen. Help us trust when we just don’t understand. Strengthen us today to do all that you ask of us. Amen.