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Psalm 77:1-15
It was a lot of fun on Wednesday participating in the Mom’s program.
I was giving hay rides to the kids and their moms.
It was so cute when the ride was over a number of the moms came alongside the tractor and asked their children, “What do you say?” and most of the children responded, “Thank you.”
It was clear that the moms wanted their children to learn to say “thank you” and we commend such a plan.
Why is it important to say thank you?
It is important because it recognizes the source of a blessing.
They said thanks to me because I was the one who had given them a ride.
It acknowledges the grace of giving.
They said thanks because they were glad that I had taken the time to do this for them.
We also recognize that it is appropriate as a courtesy.
Today is Thanksgiving which is a day on which we “thank you” to God.
It is important to do so for all of the same reasons.
Saying thanks acknowledges God as the source of all our blessings.
It recognizes that He has been gracious in giving us so many good things and it is simply the right thing today.
Today I would like to look at Psalm 77 in order to discover another reason why giving thanks to God is important.
I would like to invite you to read Psalm 77:1-15 with me from the screen.
I.                   Life’s Difficult Realities
We do not know what kind of difficulty the writer of this Psalm was experiencing, but whatever it was, it was clearly giving him a lot of trouble and was very deep.
However, we notice that he was doing everything right as He faced his trials.
He prayed, approached God and sought God, but nothing seemed to help.
!! A.                 Unanswered Prayer
In the opening verses, we read the prayer of the Psalmist.
The expressions in these verses are expressions of desperate prayer.
He writes, “I cried out to God” and “I sought the Lord” and “…at night I stretched out untiring hands.”
The prayers he prayed came from the depth of his soul.
They were cries of need.
He was praying.
He was not looking for answers in all the wrong places but was seeking the Lord.
He did not give up in prayer, but was untiring in his prayers even at night.
What was the outcome?
Verse 2 ends, “my soul refused to be comforted.”
Not only did he not get answers to the issue that he was dealing with, but he also did not find peace in his heart.
He seems to encounter the silence of God.
And so it is at times.
Not every prayer is answered.
Sometimes we struggle and are in anguish and even though we pray desperately and deeply it doesn’t seem to help.
This is an uncomfortable reality and in his commentary on this Psalm Spurgeon attributed this struggle to unbelief.
Yet all the evidence in the Psalm does not suggest this.
It is hard for us to accept the reality that sometimes prayers aren’t answered.
Yet we know that this is the reality we experience.
!! B.                 Unfulfilling Worship
In verses 3-6 we see another thing which the writer did right.
He remembered God.
In verses 3 and 6 we have the word “remembered.”
I believe that these words lead us to consider that the Psalmist is faithful in worship.
He remembers God; he remembers his songs in the night, probably thinking about those night time worship times.
He thinks about the former days, possibly reflecting on all that God has done in the past.
Worship is acknowledging the character and deeds of God.
As the Psalmist remembers who God is and as he thinks about the former days he may well be considering all the things which God has done.
Once again, however, not only does this reflection and worship not relieve the burden, it seems to make things worse.
He remembers God and groans.
Why would remembering God make him groan?
Possibly it is because the experience of the greatness of God which had formerly caused him to rejoice and worship God now does nothing.
He remembers what God has been and what He has done, but in the present he has no sense of God’s greatness.
He thinks about the past acts of God, but sees none of them in the present and feels as if God is causing the difficulty he is experiencing and in spite of this faithful worship he is now too troubled to speak.
Once again he is experiencing the absence of God.
VanGemeren writes, “The present distress seems contradictory to the history of God’s involvement and love for his people.
The more he muses on the divine perfections, the louder he speaks, and the more his spirit “grows faint” within him.
His active remembrance of God does not give comfort but has the opposite effect: groaning and spiritual exhaustion.”
Have you ever asked, “What happened to the parting of the Red Sea?” We read the Bible and hear about all the amazing miracles, but our current experience is far from that.
Our present circumstances lead us to wonder where the miracles are today.
!! C.                 Unanswered Questions
As he encounters the silence of God his mind is filled with questions.
Verses 7-9 are a compact and intense list of difficult questions that are very real for his soul.
Notice the expressions of feeling God’s absence in these verses as the Psalmist uses words like, reject, never show favor, unfailing love vanished, promises failed, mercy forgotten and compassion withheld.
Several times in the last few weeks we have had fog in the morning.
Yet it isn’t very long into the day before the sun burns off the fog and by mid morning you have no more memory of it because it has vanished.
The writer considers that the unfailing love of God is like the morning fog.
Yet how can “unfailing love” vanish?
Unfailing love is something that is always there, it is “unfailing.”
It is contradictory to say that it has vanished, which tells something of the depth of feeling that God is gone.
These questions also express hopelessness regarding the future.
The writer questions whether all of God’s goodness and compassion are gone forever.
Repeatedly he expresses this hopeless feeling that nothing is ever going to change.
The difficulty is the permanent reality and God is not ever coming back.
The writer focuses most on the characteristics of God which we find most comforting.
He feels that the favor, the love, the promises, the mercy and the compassion of God are all gone.
He feels that once God helped, now He isn’t helping and questions, “Is it always going to be like that?” Spurgeon reflects, “He painfully knew that the Lord might leave his people for a season, but his fear was that the time might be prolonged and have no close.”
The Importance of Thanksgiving
Sometimes it is just that deep.
We pray and meet with silence.
We worship and feel coldness.
We meditate and focus our attention on God, but all we have is hard questions.
What do we do?
As we read on we discover thanksgiving as an important response.
!! A.                 The Right Hand Of the Most High
Verse 10 is a difficult verse and I have to admit that I am not certain of the interpretation I am giving it.
It clearly provides some kind of a transition to what follows, which focuses on themes related to thanksgiving.
NASB translates, "Then I said, ‘It is my grief, that the right hand of the Most High has changed."
Good News, "Then I said, ‘What hurts me most is this— that God is no longer powerful.’"
NIV translates, "Then I thought, ‘To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.’"
In these different translations we see some of the different interpretations.
New American Bible interprets this to mean that my grief is so great that I can’t think straight.
Good News takes a completely different approach and interprets it to be an extension of the lament and a conclusion that God is not powerful any more.
In the context, I prefer the NIV translation, which interprets it as a transitional statement.
After acknowledging his lament in the early verses of the Psalm, there is a change towards thanksgiving in the last part of the Psalm.
This verse provides a transition by functioning as a determination, a decision on the part of the Psalmist.
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