Psalm 77

Psalm 77[a]

Lament and Consolation in Distress

1 For the director.[b] For Jeduthun. A psalm of Asaph.

2 [c]I cry aloud to God,
for when I cry out to God, he hears me.[d]
3 In the time of my distress I seek the Lord;
at night I stretch out my hands unceasingly,
and my soul refuses to be consoled.
4 [e]I groan as I think of God;
my spirit grows faint as I meditate on him. Selah
5 You keep my eyes from closing in sleep;
I am much too distraught to speak.
6 I reflect on the days of old
and recall the years long past.
7 At night I meditate in my heart,[f]
and as I reflect, my spirit questions:
8 [g]“Will the Lord cast us off forever
and never again show us his favor?
9 Has his kindness[h] vanished forever?
Has his promise ceased for all time?
10 Has God forgotten how to be merciful?
Has he shut up his compassion in anger?” Selah
11 [i]And I say: “This is my grief—
that the right hand[j] of the Most High has changed.”
12 I will remember the works of the Lord;
I will call to mind your wonders in the past.
13 I will reflect on all your deeds
and ponder your wondrous works.[k]
14 O God, your way is holy.[l]
What god is as great as our God?
15 You are the God who works wonders;
you have displayed your might to the nations.
16 With your strong arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.[m] Selah
17 [n]When the waters[o] beheld you, O God,
when the waters beheld you, they writhed;
the very depths trembled.
18 The clouds poured forth their water,
the skies thundered,
your arrows[p] flashed back and forth.
19 The crash of your thunder resounded in the heavens;
your flashes of lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and shook.[q]
20 Your path led through the sea,
your way, through the mighty waters,
though none could trace your footsteps.[r]
21 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.[s]

Footnotes

  1. Psalm 77:1 During a difficult period that the people of Israel are experiencing after the return from the Exile, more than one fervent Israelite can think that God has abandoned his own. But the Lord does not act after the fashion of human beings: has he not from Egypt to Canaan, by means of the wonders of the Exodus (vv. 14-20), transformed a motley group of slaves into a people of his own?
    The striking evocation of the passage through the Red Sea and the coming of God at Sinai enables the psalmist to rediscover the great certitude that God still guides his people. Such a certitude is present even when one must realize that God’s ways are mysterious. Hope is reborn, purified by adversity and more unshakable than ever.
    This psalm is a reminder of the Father’s faithfulness toward Christ and calls us to remain faithful ourselves in times of distress and spiritual dryness. “Let us remain firm in the confession of our hope without wavering, for the one who made the promise is trustworthy” (Heb 10:23). We must imitate the ancients and, even more, Christ, by remaining faithful even in the darkest of times, for “we are not among those who draw back and are lost. Rather, we are among those who have faith and are saved” (Heb 10:39).
  2. Psalm 77:1 For the director: these words are thought to be a musical or liturgical notation. Jeduthun: see note on Ps 39:1. Asaph: see notes on Pss 73–89.
  3. Psalm 77:2 To the psalmist, God seems to have deserted his people; he no longer responds to appeals for help in time of distress and intense prayer.
  4. Psalm 77:2 The psalmist looked to God as the sole comforter of his distressed soul (see Gen 37:35; Jer 31:15). He cried out ceaselessly in prayer with hands outstretched—but remained uncomforted. Soul: see note on Ps 6:4.
  5. Psalm 77:4 Sleeplessness and dryness in prayer lead the psalmist’s faith to be shaken, but he puts his mind on the origins of his people as God’s people and attempts to rediscover hope (see Ps 119:52; Deut 32:7ff).
  6. Psalm 77:7 Heart: see note on Ps 4:8.
  7. Psalm 77:8 These verses follow the style of laments (see Pss 74:1; 89:47ff; Isa 63:15; Lam 3:21-24, 31ff). The prophetic word had ceased (see Ps 74:9); still God remained faithful to his promises, inscribed in the ancient writings on which the psalmist meditated endlessly (see Pss 1:2; 105:3ff) to convince himself that God had not changed in his love for his people (see Isa 49:14ff; Mal 3:6).
  8. Psalm 77:9 Kindness: see note on Ps 6:5.
  9. Psalm 77:11 The psalmist takes up the Book of History, so to speak, and meditates upon the great deeds of the Lord, the miracles he wrought in the past. He is so captivated by the reading that, in meditating on the glorious deeds that the Lord did for Israel in former times, he obtains peace of mind and forgets his present distress.
  10. Psalm 77:11 The psalmist remembers the years when God—by means of his right hand—provided strong guidance and protection for his people (see Pss 17:7; 18:35; Isa 41:10). And, he laments the loss of this protection once accorded them by their God.
  11. Psalm 77:13 The psalmist reflects on the Lord’s works in their great variety—in creation, redemption, judgment, and salvation. See also note on Ps 9:2.
  12. Psalm 77:14 Your way is holy: see Ps 18:31; Deut 32:4. Another translation is: “your ways are seen in the sanctuary” (see Ps 63:3).
  13. Psalm 77:16 Descendants of Jacob and Joseph: those who emigrated to Egypt (Jacob) and those who were born there (Joseph’s sons) (see Ps 81:5ff; Gen 46:26f; 48:5).
  14. Psalm 77:17 The miracle of the crossing of the Red Sea is presented in a cosmic perspective, possibly to heighten the description of God’s majesty in bringing his people from slavery to freedom, which led to the Passover. For Christians, the culminating miracle was God’s deed in bringing Jesus from death to life after the crucifixion (see Mt 28:2; Eph 1:18-22), which led to the Christian Passover, Easter.
  15. Psalm 77:17 The waters are at the mercy of the Creator (see Pss 89:10; 93:3f; 104:7; 106:9; 114:3; Job 7:12; 38:10; Nah 1:4; Hab 3:10).
  16. Psalm 77:18 This verse is inspired by Hab 3:11. See also Pss 18:16; 68:9; 144:6. Arrows: i.e., lightning bolts.
  17. Psalm 77:19 This verse evokes the theophany at Sinai (see Ps 97:4; Ex 19:18).
  18. Psalm 77:20 See Neh 9:11; Wis 14:3; Isa 43:16; 51:10. God’s action reveals his invisible presence as Shepherd and Savior (see Ps 78:52; Isa 63:11ff; Mic 6:4).
  19. Psalm 77:21 The conclusion to the thought expressed in verse 16: God led his people through the wilderness under the care of Moses and Aaron.

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