In my last Post I quoted the first part of Kidner’s thoughts on Psalm 77. Here is the full statement:
“All who have known the enveloping pressure of a dark mood can be grateful for the candour of this fellow-sufferer, but also for his courage. The memories which at first brought only tormenting comparisons are resolutely re-examined, no longer coloured with the present despair but allowed to shine with their own light and speak with their own logic.” (# 29)
Kidner is here referring to what the psalmist says next:
10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
The key words here being, will remember…will consider…will meditate. And what does he remind himself of but the deeds of the Lord… your miracles of long ago… all your works… all your mighty deeds.
A useful exercise for us all to do when things are difficult. Remember the words of Jeremiah in Lamentations when he was in the midst of affliction…wandering…bitterness. He tells us that at this time his soul [was] downcast within him,which suggests to me he was having a pretty dark time. But that was not the end of the story. He then says, Yet, this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail…great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:19-23)
Having also done this, the psalmist is then able to, by faith, proclaim:
13 Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
The dark mood has now lifted, in the light of recalling in his dark days what was known and believed about Yahweh in the good days.
But the psalmist is not finished yet. Broyles says: “Verses 16-19 appear to interrupt the natural narrative sequence of this recital…the perspective, characters, and their roles are very different. We see God not as redeemer and shepherd of his people, but as the God of the skies at whom the cosmos quakes.” (# 4)
The psalmist continues:
16 The waters saw you, God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
17 The clouds poured down water,
the heavens resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
19 Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
Kidner suggests, “The tremendous events at the Red Sea and at Sinai fire the poet’s mind…Not only is his trouble dwarfed and forgotten, but our picture of the world is given a corrective against any impression of autonomous forces and an absentee creator…it is a true picture of God’s sway over nature.” (# 29) A truth worth holding on to in the midst of pandemic.
It reminds us of a later event in the Scriptures when Jesus was with his disciples and they were on a boat when,
37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:37-41)
Our God is awesome!
And so, the Psalm comes to an interesting end. As Kidner says, “if it is an anticlimax, [it] is a calculated one. Displays of power…are means, not ends; God’s overriding concern is for his flock.” (# 29) So the psalmist concludes:
20 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
Thank you, our awesome God, that you are all-powerful – “the God of the skies at whom the cosmos quakes.” The One who “even the wind and the waves obey”. But you are also the One who leads us and protects us along life’s journey. Help us to always trust you. Amen.