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Sunday, June 10th, 2018 - PM - O God, Our Help, Part One (Psalm 77)

Savoring the Psalter  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  1:07:20
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Stop looking at yourself, and look to the Lord in remembrance and faith.

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Psalm 77:10–20 KJV 1900
And I said, This is my infirmity: But I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High. I will remember the works of the Lord: Surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings. Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: Who is so great a God as our God? Thou art the God that doest wonders: Thou hast declared thy strength among the people. Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah. The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid: The depths also were troubled. The clouds poured out water: The skies sent out a sound: Thine arrows also went abroad. The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: The lightnings lightened the world: The earth trembled and shook. Thy way is in the sea, And thy path in the great waters, And thy footsteps are not known. Thou leddest thy people like a flock By the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Introduction:

One thing you have to say about Asaph: He tells it like it is. He is respectful. But if he is unhappy or puzzled about what God is doing (or not doing) in the lives of his people, he says so. And he also describes his own state of mind—his doubts and struggles, his questions and his inability to find satisfying answers to life’s great problems.
In Psalm 77 this honest poet of Israel is remembering the past. His memories are troubling. He has a long historical memory, and he remembers how graciously God used to deal with his people, and with himself as well. He remembers how God cared for him, how he fulfilled his promises and showed him mercy. He even remembers how he used to sing about God during the long hours of the night. But there has not been any mercy for a long time now, at least so far as he can see. God seems to have rejected both him and his people, and the rejection is so complete that it looks as though it is going to go on forever. When he compares his life in the present with the past, his memories of the past drag him down, depress him, and keep him from being comforted.
Have you ever gone through times like that? If so, you will find Asaph’s psalm helpful. As he thinks about the past the focus of his remembering shifts from himself and what he experienced and now fails to experience to God, and he begins to move upward to trust and quiet confidence again.1
[Walter C. Kaiser writes, “Before verse 10 the psalmist had been too subjective and had looked only within himself in attempting to determine the mystery of God’s dealings. The psalmist was thinking solely in light of his own experiences. Accordingly he experienced deep despondency. But when the psalmist’s meditation (hagih) focused on the works of God, then he remembered that great deliverance of God experienced in the Exodus, which was a pledge of every other deliverance experienced by individuals or nations. Thus the text of the psalm emphasizes that it is a matter of great concern how one meditates and on what he fixes his heart and mind. Some meditation can be harmful, but biblically approved meditations strengthen” [(Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., “What Is Biblical Meditation?” in John D. Woodbridge, ed., Renewing Your Mind in a Secular World (Chicago: Moody, 1985), 42–43.] [James Montgomery Boice, Psalms 42–106: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005), 637–638.]]
THE ADDRESSEE OF THIS PSALM—It is addressed to Jeduthun (Ethan), one of David’s three Choir-masters (Chief Musicians).
THE AUTHORSHIP OF THIS PSALM—It is ascribed to Asaph, another of David’s three chief Musicians
[Verse 15b suggests that we should date the psalm at the time of the divided kingdom. [Peter A. Steveson, Psalms (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 2007), 295.]]
THE PROPHETICAL NATURE OF THIS PSALM—By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Asaph speaks words that will be spoken by the suffering remnant of righteous Jews in Palestine during the Great Tribulation as they await the coming of their Messiah-Redeemer.
THE THEME OF THIS PSALM—The seeming indifference of God to the sufferings of His people. The complaints of this psalm will be voiced in the end-time by the suffering righteous remnant of Jews in Palestine, for they will have difficulty in understanding why God does not help them in their hour of trouble. [Roy E. Gingrich, The Book of Psalms (Book Three) (Memphis, TN: Riverside Printing, 1995), 11.]
The psalm begins with the lament of a troubled man pleading with God (verses 1-3 ). He then continues to lament and reflect upon himself (verses 4-9 ). He then meditates upon God (verses 10-15 ). Finally, he abruptly closes the psalm by remembering the victory of the Red Sea (verse 16 ). The psalm tracks the condition ofa backslidden 'Christian' as he is convicted and then turns back to fellowship with God. [David H. Sorenson, Understanding the Bible, An Independent Baptist Commentary - Job through Psalms, vol. 4, Understanding the Bible, An Independent Baptist Commentary (Northstar Ministry, 2007), 509.]

I. Asaph's Sorrows (Ps. 77:1-9)

A. The Jewish Remnant Crying to the Lord for Help (Ps. 77:1-3)

Psalm 77:1–3 KJV 1900
I cried unto God with my voice, Even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: My sore ran in the night, and ceased not: My soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah.
As we go through the Psalm, pay close attention to the pronouns (I, me, etc.), and note the change especially after verse thirteen.
Verse 1 - "With my voice toward God, I cried; with my voice toward God, He listened to me"
In the day of trouble, (Jeremiah 30:7), the time of “the Great Tribulation,” Revelation 7:14, the godly remnant of Jews in Palestine will be in great trouble, they will be overwhelmed with sorrow, they will cry out to God for help, and they will refuse to be comforted (note the conflicting emotions voiced in these verses). They will believe that God hears their prayer, yet they will be full of doubts and fears. [Gingrich, 11.]
Noteworthy is that his prayer was audible and his cry intense. In this day, few thus cry aloud to God. Yet, such prayer caused the Almighty to hear His prayer. It is not that God needs loud prayer to hear. Rather, the principle is that such prayer evidences great faith. It is a form of effectual fervent prayer which availeth much. The thought closely parallels Psalm 3:4. ...When convicted, Asaph sought the Lord. Some seek Him as a last resort. Far better it is to seek Him as the first resort. The second phrase, "my sore ran in the night," is of interest. The word translated as sore (יָד yawd) is overwhelmingly otherwise rendered as 'hand' and by way of metaphor may refer to one's strength. The word translated as ran (נגר naw-gar') essentially refers to being 'poured out.' The thought may be how that as he cried out to God his very strength was poured out in the night to God. He ceased not to cry unto God. Like Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, Asaph lamented his trouble to God. [Sorenson, 509.]

B. The Jewish Remnant's Meditation in Times of Trouble While Searching for Comfort (Ps. 77:4-6)

1. They will lie awake at night (77:4a)
Psalm 77:4 KJV 1900
Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
2. They will pray silently (77:4b)
- They will be so troubled that the voiced prayer of verses 1–3 will be replaced by silent prayer.
3. They will remember their happier past (77:5, 6)
Psalm 77:5–6 KJV 1900
I have considered the days of old, The years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: And my spirit made diligent search.
- This recollection of their former blessings will temporarily cheer them but then it will cause them to diligently search for a renewal of these blessings and to question why they are now withheld. [Gingrich, 11.]

C. The Jewish Remnant Struggling With Doubts - "Has the Lord Rejected His People Forever?" (Ps. 77:7-9)

Psalm 77:7–9 KJV 1900
Will the Lord cast off for ever? And will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? Doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah.
The Lord’s inaction in helping them will cause the godly Jews to question God’s faithfulness, His favorableness, His loving-kindness. His promise, His graciousness, and His tender-mercifulness. [Gingrich, 11.]
When we have drifted from God, we will come to doubt His goodness. Doubt is a foul fringe benefit of backsliding. Of course God will never forget to be gracious or merciful. The problem was Asaph had fallen away from faithfulness and service. And, now as the bitter harvest of his backslidden condition was coming to fruition, he even doubted God's grace. What a terrible place to be! [Sorenson, 511.]
It isn’t a sin to question God, for both David and Jesus asked the Lord the same question (22:1; Matt. 27:46), but it is a sin to demand an immediate answer or to suggest that God needs our counsel (Rom. 11:33–36). Asaph asked six questions, all of which dealt with the very character and attributes of God.
Has He rejected us? No! He is faithful to His Word (Lam. 3:31–33).
Will He ever again show favor to Israel? Yes! (Ps. 30:5. Isa. 60:10)
Has His unfailing love vanished forever? No! (Jer. 31:3)
Have His promises failed? No! (1 Kings 8:56)
Has He forgotten to be gracious? No! (Isa. 49:14–18)
Is He so angry, He has shut up His compassions? No! (Lam. 3:22–24)
It has well been said that we should never doubt in the darkness what God had told us in the light, but Asaph was about to do so. No matter what His hand is doing in our lives, His heart has not changed. He still loves us and always will. [Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Worshipful, 1st ed., “Be” Commentary Series (Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communications Ministries, 2004), 250–251.]

II. Asaph's Song (Ps. 77:10-20)

A. The Jewish Remnant's Resolve to Meditate on Past Works of the Lord (Ps. 77:10-12)

1. They will remember “the years of the right hand of the most High” (77:10)
Psalm 77:10 KJV 1900
And I said, This is my infirmity: But I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High.
Admitting that their doubts are due to their infirmities, they will seek to strengthen their weak faith by calling to remembrance the years during which the people of Israel were in the place of blessing, at God’s right hand.
2. They will remember the works of the Lord (77:11a)
Psalm 77:11 KJV 1900
I will remember the works of the Lord: Surely I will remember thy wonders of old.
These “works” include God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt, His preservation of Israel in the wilderness, and His establishing of Israel in the promised land.
3. They will remember God’s former miracles (“wonders”) (77:11b)
These “wonders” include the ten plagues of Egypt, the opening of the Red Sea, the miracles performed in the wilderness, the opening of the Jordan River, and the miracles of the conquest period and the Judges period.
4. They will meditate upon all of God’s works and talk of His doings (77:12) [Gingrich, 11–12.]
Psalm 77:12 KJV 1900
I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.

B. The Jewish Remnant's Praise - God Works Wonders & Redemption for His People! (Ps. 77:13-15)

When they begin to remember God’s past works and wonders in Israel’s behalf they will praise God:
1. They will praise God for His [house and His] holiness (verse 13 [could be translated]: “Thy way, O God, is holy”) (77:13a)
Psalm 77:13 KJV 1900
Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: Who is so great a God as our God?
2. They will praise God for His greatness (77:13b)
3. They will praise God for His miracles and manifested strength (77:14)
Psalm 77:14 KJV 1900
Thou art the God that doest wonders: Thou hast declared thy strength among the people.
4. They will praise God for His powerful redemption of His people from Egypt (77:15) [Gingrich, 12.]
Psalm 77:15 KJV 1900
Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah.

C. The Jewish Remnant Rehearsing Their Red Sea Redemption - The Waters Tremble Before God (Ps. 77:16-17)

1. The Lord caused the waters and the depths to be afraid of Him and to do His bidding (77:16; Exodus 14:21)
Psalm 77:16 KJV 1900
The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid: The depths also were troubled.
Exodus 14:21 KJV 1900
And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
2. The Lord delivered Israel through the Red Sea in the midst of a great hurricane and earthquake (77:17, 18)
Psalm 77:17–18 KJV 1900
The clouds poured out water: The skies sent out a sound: Thine arrows also went abroad. The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: The lightnings lightened the world: The earth trembled and shook.
This is not mentioned in the older “Exodus” account of the passage of the Red Sea.
3. The Lord led the Israelites [with Power] in a path that He made through the sea (77:19)
Psalm 77:19 KJV 1900
Thy way is in the sea, And thy path in the great waters, And thy footsteps are not known.
The waters then closed up (after the Israelites were safely across the sea) and the way (the path) through the sea was no longer known to man. The Lord will open a similar path of deliverance for the end-time remnant out of their bondage and afflictions.
4. The Lord led His people (His flock) [with Power] through the sea by the hand of His shepherds, Moses and Aaron (77:20)
Psalm 77:20 KJV 1900
Thou leddest thy people like a flock By the hand of Moses and Aaron.
He will lead the end-time remnant through their “sea of trouble” by the hand of their Messiah-deliverer, Christ. [Gingrich, 12.]
The greater point is that God is a God of salvation. He delivers His people. The thought also hearkens back to verse 16. The psalm thus is a classic picture of a backslidden `Christian' away from God. He was miserable in his sin and conviction. He even began to doubt God's goodness and His promises. Yet, as he turned his focus back to God's Word and His work, he was compelled to get right with God and return to fellowship. In so doing, he soon turned to praising God. [Sorenson, 513.]

Conclusion:

THE LESSONS TAUGHT BY THIS PSALM
1. Every Christian goes through times of great trouble.
2. Every Christian is tempted to question God’s love and faithfulness.
3. Every Christian may strengthen His wavering faith by meditating upon God’s past works in his behalf. [Gingrich, 12.]
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