“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?” – Psalm 77:7-9
I might talk about this topic or similar ones often, but that is because scripture does as well.
God knows how difficult life can be and how many challenges we will face. The writers of scripture experienced many difficulties in their lives and they wrote about those trials.
Our circumstances can become bleak enough that we don’t see God in the midst of them. We wonder where He could be and why He isn’t showing Himself yet.
Does He still love us? Is He going to keep His promises? Is He angry with us and punishing us?
Theses questions and others are what the writer of this Psalm–Asaph–was wrestling with. Verse two and four tell us that he was awake late at night in anguish before the Lord and unable to rest. Though he was crying out to the Lord for help, his spirit grew faint (vs. 3).
Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” – Psalm 77:10-12
In this moment of pain and doubt, despite what felt like unanswered cries for help, he chooses to “remember the deeds of the Lord” and to “remember your miracles of long ago”. Asaph essentially says to the Lord, “I cannot see your hand now, but I can look back at those dark days of the past and see what you did. I will remember those times when it seemed all hope was lost and you rescued and redeemed your people.”
Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples. 77:13-14
Here Asaph acknowledges that God is far above us and though we may not see or understand His ways, they are right and holy. Isaiah 55:8-9 and Romans 11:33-36 contain similar truths.
Faced with extreme difficulty, Asaph at first doesn’t understand why he can’t see God’s hand at work, which causes him to doubt. Instead of remaining in that doubt, he thinks back to times in the past when God was at work, but His hand may have been difficult to see. He specifically mentions when God led His people through the Red Sea.
Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen. – Psalm 77:19
Exodus 14 contains this story. At first the Israelites are trapped between the sea and the advancing Egyptian army and they are sure they are going to die. They cry out to Moses, asking why he led them there to die.
“Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.” – Exodus 14:13
The Lord then miraculously parts the waters and allows the Israelites to pass through on dry ground, but the Egyptian army is swallowed up as they pursue.
This story relates to Asaph’s situation for a number of reasons:
- The people felt that they had been led into a situation by God and Moses in which there was no way out and they were going to perish. From a human perspective, there were no options. They did not know what God had planned. To them it seemed that they had been abandoned there to die. Asaph too felt like he was left by the Lord in his circumstances despite his cry to the Lord for help.
- Though there seemed to be no human solution and they could not see what God was doing, God is a “God who performs miracles”. The Israelites’ salvation was at hand even though they could not see it. Asaph is encouraged in his own situation knowing that he serves the same God that can part the waters and that his own salvation could be just as close though he is unaware.
- The Israelites came through this circumstance with a deeper trust in the Lord and in His mighty hand. Not only did they escape from their pursuers, but their enemies were destroyed completely. Their salvation was both miraculous and more complete than they could have anticipated. Not only were they saved from their immediate danger, but they did not have to worry about the Egyptians ever pursuing them again. This is also the hope of Asaph.
“And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.” Exodus 14:31
Our circumstances may not appear to have a solution. We may not see a way out and might be unaware of what God is up to at the moment. We too might be questioning God the way Asaph was, the way the Israelites were, but we too can make the decision that Asaph made. We can look back at the past and see where God’s hand was clearly at work, even when we may not have seen it at the time.
Instead of dwelling on the bleakness of his situation, Asaph chooses to “meditate on all [the Lord’s] mighty deeds.” He chooses to think about all of the times that the Lord has shown Himself faithful and strong. He fills his mind not with worry or despair, but with the hope that comes from knowing the same God that parted the Red Sea is the same God that he relies on, the same God we rely on.
Though God’s footprints may not be seen, He will lead us through the mighty waters.