For the Love of God, Volume 1/May 23
From Gospel Translations
Numbers 32; Psalm 77; Isaiah 24; 1 John 2
ASAPH MUST HAVE GIVEN A LOT of thought to the question of what believers should remember. Psalm 75, we saw yesterday, commends the power of godly “recital”— a retelling of what God has done so as to bring near God’s “name.” The importance of remembering and retelling is at the heart of Psalm 78. And here in Psalm 77, Asaph highlights yet another element in this theme.
Asaph finds himself in great distress (77:1). Its causes we do not know, but most of us have passed through “dark nights of the soul” when it seems that either God is dead or he does not care. Asaph was so despondent he could not sleep; indeed, he charges God with keeping him from sleep (77:4). Memories of other times when circumstances were so bright that he sang with joy in the night hours (77:6) serve only to depress him further. Bitterness tinges his list of rhetorical questions: “Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” (77:7-9).
What Asaph resolves to focus on is all the ways God has disclosed himself in power in the past. He writes: “To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High” (77:10)—in other words, he appeals to all the displays of strength, of the deeds of God’s “right hand,” across the years. “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds” (77:11-12). So in the rest of the psalm, Asaph switches to the second person, addressing God directly, remembering some of the countless deeds of grace and power that have characterized God’s dealings with the covenant people of God. He remembers the plagues, the Exodus, the crossing of the Red Sea, the way God led his people “by the hand of Moses and Aaron” (77:13-20).
Christians have all the more to remember. As Asaph “remembered” the Exodus by reading Scripture, so we have even more Scripture. We remember not only all that Asaph remembered, but things he did not know: the Exile, the return from exile, the long years of waiting for the coming of the Messiah. We remember the Incarnation, the years of Jesus’ life and ministry, his words and mighty deeds. Above all, we remember his death and resurrection, and the powerful work of the Spirit at Pentecost and beyond.
And as we remember, our faith is strengthened, our vision of God is renewed, and the despair lifts