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Psalm 77 wrestles with the practical application of some of the attributes of God that define the Greatness and Goodness of God. Asaph, the psalm writer – a music director under King David — begins from a perspective of questioning What is Wrong with God as he struggles with a sense of God rejecting both himself personally and himself as symbolic of God’s nation of Israel as a whole. He asks a number of searching questions – ones that all of us have entertained in difficult times – ones that call into question the validity of the very attributes we have been studying…

But he is able to transition from a state of confusion and discouragement to a state of active meditation on the Greatness of God and His powerful redemptive works in the past on behalf of His covenant people…

He ends up in a state of praise to God for the consistency and faithfulness of His character and His good works – comforted by His connection to the God who has Redeemed His people and the God who continues to Shepherd them and make known His powers and His wonders.

The psalmist never has to deny the reality of his troubles – he remains honest about his sufferings; but more importantly he maintains his confidence in the Greatness of God.



Satan always wants to use hard times to tempt us to question God’s goodness towards us — remember Job’s wife – “curse God and die”

In 20 short verses the psalmist travels through 3 very different states of mind: Life is not all a bed of roses by the end of the Psalm – but his outlook on life is vastly different – He has come to grips in a practical sense with what the attributes of God mean to him in the day-to-day reality of where he lives


Think about that – How can that be so??

How can seeking after God increase our pain????

  • When we know God is listening but not delivering (:1)

At least he turns to God in prayer – He is seeking help and answers from the right source; but he feels his prayers are falling on deaf ears – no response, no deliverance

This cry of distress is couched in terms of personal experience but it obviously expresses a corporate sense of confusion and anguish

How can seeking after God increase our pain????

  • When my knowledge of Who God is disturbs me instead of comforts me (:2-3)

We are always quicker to seek the Lord in “the day of our trouble” than in the day of our prosperity = one reason trouble is so necessary

Remember the simple chorus: “What He’s done for others He’ll do for you” – Who says???

How can seeking after God increase our pain????

  • When our troubles just won’t go away and there is no relief from the pressure (:4)

Can’t even get any rest or sleep; can’t even close the eyes. Pressure welling up inside; not even any ability to voice the concerns and get some relief that way; has degenerated from voicing his complaints to just being beside himself – can’t even speak; overwhelmed with the situation

Troubles are designed to bring us closer to God

Illustration: cf. How a vine clings to an oak tree — wrapped around it; when the storm comes —

2 possibilities:

  • if the storm hits the vine directly, it just presses it closer to the oak tree

  • if the storm hits from the other side, the oak tree protects the vine

In some of the storms of life, God intervenes and shelters us; while in others He allows us to be exposed, so that we will be pressed more closely to Him — B. M. Launderville

How can seeking after God increase our pain????

  • When we compare our present distress with our former joy (:5-6)

2 possibilities here:

bitterness — pity party = I used to have it so much better than I ever will again. cf. The new temple vs. the old temple

hope – God has blessed me this way in the past; I know He can bless me that way again

How can seeking after God increase our pain????

  • When we question God’s love (:7-9) – 6 troubling questions:

    • Will the Lord reject forever?

    • Will He never be favorable again?

    • Has His lovingkindness ceased forever?

    • Has His promise come to an end forever?

    • Has God forgotten to be gracious?

    • Has He in anger withdrawn His compassion?

Plenty of revelation to address each of these questions; intellectually we know the right answers; but we have difficulty comforting our soul with the truth

Lam. 3:19-32 (very parallel passage to message of Psalm 77)

Jer. 3:12 “Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the LORD; ‘I will not look upon you in anger. For I am gracious,’ declares the LORD; ‘I will not be angry forever.“

Issue = God’s Unchanging Character and Faithfulness to His Word


A. (:10) State of Resolve: Coming to Grips with the Reality of My Troubles – Ordained by my Sovereign God for a Specified Season of Life: “then I said It is my grief, that the right hand of the Most High has changed”

Very difficult to sort out the meaning of the translation in the Hebrew – and this is an important verse since it is part of the hinge on which the entire psalm turns;

Whatever it means .. it involves some level of sorrow, of grief, of suffering.

The one disputed word can be taken 2 different ways:

  • a verb that means “change” NASB

  • a noun that means “years” — many other translations

God has the power to do what He purposes to do; nobody frustrates His purposes

As long as you consider your situation some type of cosmic mistake – some type of aberration that should never be – you have trouble dealing with it

Illustration: A young man was trying to establish himself as an apple grower. He had worked hard and invested his all in an apple orchard which blossomed wonderfully; then came a hard frost. He did not go to church the next Sunday, nor the next, nor the next. One of the elders went to visit him to find out what was wrong. The young man explained: “I’m not coming to church. Do you think I can worship a God who cares for me so little that He will let a frost kill all my apples?

The elder answered wisely: “God loves you better than He does your apples. He knows that while apples do better without frosts, it is impossible to grow the best men without frosts. His object is to grow men, not apples.” – Christian Worker’s Magazine

B. (:11-12) State of Meditation: Commitment to Remember and Meditate on the Greatness of God and His Mighty Works

Chiastic structure – A B B A

Deeds / wonders / work / deeds

Progression from just remembering to meditating on; contemplating


A. (:13) Greatness of God Recognized in His Holiness

2 aspects to the Holiness of God

  • transcendent nature – different than us

  • moral purity

(:14-15) Greatness of God Recognized in His Mighty Work of Redemption

Redemption by the Power of God (Red Sea experience in mind)

What type of wonders does God work??

  • Creation

  • Flood

  • Destruction of Sodom; turning Lot’s wife to salt

  • Appearance to Moses in the flaming bush

  • Plagues in Egypt

  • opening up the waters at the Red Sea

  • Pillar of cloud and fire to lead the Israelites in the wilderness

  • providing manna in the wilderness; sandals didn’t wear out

  • Thundering and lightening on Mt. Sinai in the giving of the law

  • Fall of Jericho

B. Greatness of God Recognized in Nature (:16-19)

Still focusing on the events of the Exodus and the parting of the Red Sea.

God is in control of the forces of nature

As impressive as the forces of nature in their most violent state; God is far greater and far more impressive

God’s ways are not always seen or understood – “your footprints may not be known“

C. Greatness of God Recognized in the Providential Shepherding of His People (:20)

God is forever the Shepherd of his people – has promised to lead, guide, provide, protect, feed

God’s people need to stick together like a flock and be dependent on God and obedient to His direction

God works through divinely appointed undershepherds


Nothing is wrong with God! God is Great and greatly to be praised!

God wants to bring us through our troubles in a way that will give us a testimony that will bring praise and glory and honor to His name; He has not written us off; He is building our character so He can use us in more powerful ways.


What was it that changed the attitude of the psalmist so drastically between verses 10 and 11?

What was God’s purpose in initially being unresponsive?

In what way is it helpful to remember the “good old days”? In what way is it unproductive?

Which of the six searching questions in vv.7-9 is your favorite when you are feeling the blues? What other questions do you tend to stir into the pot?


Stedman: “it is evident that he is confronted here with two problems, not just one. There is, first of all, the distressing circumstances that have brought him to God, reflected in Verses 1-2; but, in Verses 3-4, there is a second kind of problem that grows out of the first: there is the apparent failure of God to respond to his plea for help. Of the two problems, this is the greater one. That is why he says in Verse 3, ‘I think of God, and I moan…‘ It only makes him feel worse. Why does not God do something? This is the cry that comes welling up out of the depths of his anguish. “I think of God and it makes me ask, Why doesn’t he help me? I moan, I meditate, and my spirit just melts away…

This whole psalm is nothing more than a wonderful commentary, told through the experience of one man, on that verse I have already quoted to you from the New Testament. ‘There has no temptation taken you but such is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape [not to escape from the pressure, but to escape from the defeat caused by the pressure], that you may be able to bear it,‘ {cf, 1 Cor 10:13 KJV}…

The sign of a Christian’s growing up is that he becomes stable, steady, dependable. He still has the feelings, but they do not govern him any longer. His is no longer an up-and-down experience, up one moment and down the next, but he becomes steady, stable, dependable, faithful, reliable as God is.

We would never get to that place if God instantly responded to us. We would depend upon our feelings for everything. So God deliberately hides himself at times. If you are going through an experience like that it will help to realize that it is because God is teaching you a lesson you need to know. Thus he forces us to operate as man was intended to operate: from the head, not from the heart; with all the facts, not merely a part of them; beginning with God in our thinking, and not with man, or ourselves; moving from meditation to prayer, and not the reverse; realizing that the way we were intended to operate was first, to think about God and then on that basis, to pray unto him with confidence and quietness and expectation. That is the way God intended man to live.”

MacDonald: “Someone has described the flow of thought here in four words:

  • Sighing (vv. 1-4)

  • Sinking (vv. 7-10)

  • Singing (vv. 11-15)

  • Soaring (vv. 16-20)

The psalm is an illustration of the well-known aphorism:

  • Occupation with self brings distress.

  • Occupation with others brings discouragement.

  • Occupation with Christ brings delight.”

Kidner: Re vs. 7-9 – “This is a clear example of the value of confessing one’s doubts to God. As the broad misgivings of verse 7 are spelt out more precisely in verses 8f. their inner contradictions come to light, and with them the possibility of an answer. If steadfast love is pledged in His covenant – it can hardly disappear, or his promises come to nothing. The words for ever and for all time underline the point.”

Leupold: “Two extremes are to be avoided as we delve deeper into the lesson that is presented. One is to regard the material offered in the psalm as though it presented a complete solution, ready and final in all its parts, as though before the end of the psalm is reached the poet had fully recovered his balance. Such an approach is scarcely warranted.

The other extreme is to insist that the tension described in the first half of the psalm is still present in unmitigated force by the time the end of the psalm is reached. We have indicated our position by the wording that we gave to the title of the psalm.: ‘Faith Waning and Faith Partially Restored.’ That is another way of saying that we regard the writer as being well along on the road to recovery by the time the end of the psalm is reached. He has discovered a remedy; he has applied it; it has begun to work; a sure bit of solid ground has been recovered; from this vantage point the writer will be able presently to rehabilitate himself spiritually.”

G. Campbell Morgan: “The message of the psalm is that to brood upon sorrow is to be broken and disheartened, while to see God is to sing on the darkest day. Once come to know that our years are of His right hand, and there is light everywhere, and the song ascends.”

Leslie McCaw: The endurance of a Godward trust during long periods of desultory waiting is a major element in a mature faith (cf. Rom. 15:4; Heb. 10:36; 12:1ff; James 1:2-4). Five great periods of disciplined waiting in steadfast faith are:

  • Abraham’s childlessness (Rom. 4:17-21)

  • the bondage in Egypt (Ex. 2:23,24)

  • the exile in Babylon (Ps. 89)

  • the Inter-Testamental period (Lk. 2:25b; Acts 26:7)

  • the Church’s waiting for His return (Heb 9:28b, 6:19-20)

Allen Ross: So the implication of this praise-filled meditation is that God will again miraculously rescue His people, people whom He has redeemed to Himself.

Stedman: Some time ago I read an account of a Swiss-French pastor who was imprisoned by the Nazis. This man said, “I was not able to stand firm except by remembering every day that the Gestapo was the hand of God — the left hand. The worst of tyrants and the last of cowards will only end by accomplishing Christ’s will.” That is what keeps men in days of pressure and times of trial, when everything seems to be going wrong and nothing is in accord with what is expected, the realization that every force, natural or human, is under the control of God.

Stedman: Here is a man who is really trying to be honest. He says, “I have analyzed my situation: I tried prayer all night long. In the past I have been given help, but no help has come now. God has made my heart to sing in the past, but it is empty, barren, and cheerless now. Why is this? I have thought about it: I searched my own life, my own heart, and these questions have come to me, and I cannot answer them…

Apparent unresponsiveness from God is not unusual. All of God’s saints have experienced this from time to time. This is part of the standard program God has for disciplining and training His own. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear” (1 Corinthians 10:13a). The faithfulness of God is deliberately put into contrast with the statement, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man” because every one of us tends to suffer from the feeling that what is happening to us is unique. But many have experienced similar temptations if they are seeking to live the life of faith.

The prophet Isaiah declares the reason this is true. Isaiah reveals what God says. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8). That is, God says, “My reason is above yours. You understand so little of life compared to what I see in it. My thoughts are not your thoughts”; therefore, you can expect there will come times when you will not understand but will be perplexed. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts; as the heavens are above the earth, so much greater is His vision of what reality is. If we are limited then to the tiny section of life that we can grasp with our puny understanding, it is only to be expected that there will come times when we do not understand what God is doing. So do not be troubled by these times of perplexity. They are normal experiences coming to all in the life of faith.