♣ The Occupation of His Perspective
Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?
Has His steadfast love forever ceased?
Are His promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?
Then I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.” – Psalm 77: 7-10
This Psalm of Asaph bears similarities to his previous in chapter 73 which I’m sure many can relate to our present day events; the wicked and ungodly are always at ease, increasing in riches and yet for nothing I seem to have kept my heart and ways clean; they pursue sin and reap rewards, I pursue righteousness and get the raw end of the deal!
Sounds like a chord is being struck? If we’re honest I think we will all face situations in life where these questions of this nature are bound to rise, unless of course one is detached from reality. It’s one of the many aspects I love about the Psalms; they are downright honest! There is no façade but rather hearts expressed in the actualities whether it be joy, hope, success, deliverance and victory or either one of frustration, pain, calamity, turmoil and a feeling of abandonment where one is driven to ask, “God where are You?”
The Christian is not immune to experiencing that somehow God ‘seems’ to have withdrawn; is silent; circumstances worsen even though one is more earnest in prayer and God just doesn’t ‘seem’ to intervene. One can surely relate to Asaph as he expresses, “Has God forgotten…are His promises at an end…has His steadfast love ceased?”
It’s not always the case that what we sometimes contend with is a result of sin. Many of the Psalms reveal that such was the case and we have some seeming indication of it here in Psalm 77 that implies that. Yet on the other hand and overall this whole theme depicts the testing of the righteous as well.
While being honest with what we face, how we think and feel there is the temptation to ‘lean upon our own understanding’ and thereby suffering the consequences of being misled; there is a facing of reality and enduring (rather than jumping to conclusions) until one arrives at facts as they actually are, not by what ‘seems’ to be. We see this explicitly in verses 3-5 “When I remember God I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints…You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak…I consider the days of old, the years long ago.” The Psalmist is being honest but only on the level he perceives. Remarkably, Asaph goes to another level and in verse 6 he states that he will remember his song in the night, he will meditate in his heart, but still that wasn’t enough. “Then my spirit made a diligent search…” All seems serious but no satisfaction is gained, no rest is given until in verse 10 Asaph is brought to the very frontiers, “THEN I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.” It was a patient enduring, one who was not content with half measures; “Then I said…” Asaph saw the Most High in view; a shift from unrealities to reality; Reality of all realities. Oswald Chambers in his book, ‘Moral Foundations of Life’ states, “If we have been living in unrealities, we shall find ourselves faced with great impatience when we endeavor to face reality, and we are apt to behave like caged wild beasts. We have to take a grip of ourselves when we come to the true center of things, and it means discipline AND DISCIPLINE, until we face nothing but realities.”
Again in Psalm 73:22, Asaph, when after facing things as they really were in the presence of God – the sanctuary of God – declared, “I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward You.” To appeal the doubts and faith-void questions is to confidently and reverently approach the ‘mount’ of God and walk the recesses of the deep and to rightly declare with David, “…in Your light do we see light.” (Psalm 36:9)
It’s in the light of the Most High that Asaph was able to ‘see’ once again in Psalm 77:11-12, “I will remember… I will ponder… I will meditate…” Focus on what? The actual fact of God’s revealed positive goodness. In Psalm 103, David immediately breaks out into praise, “Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me, bless His holy name!” and then proceeds, “…FORGET NOT all His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagles”. Forget not; we are so quick to forget and are in constant need of reminding no matter how good our memories are intellectually; we need to meditate (an art that is lost with today’s unnecessary fast-paced demands) until His word speaks to our circumstances; we do not indoctrinate ourselves because we feel great after wards; this is not an intense exercise of positive thinking because one will not face reality; we meditate to walk in reality! This is God’s word, the absolute authority above all other words and powers. If we paid as much time and interest to our bible studying and meditation as we do to our newspapers, public forums via the web, and our television programs, I really believe Christians would be facing their problems with a spring in their step – I’m convinced of it.
In 1 Samuel 30:1-31, King David faced extreme heartache when the Amalekites overcame and burned the village of Ziklag, taking captive its women (including David’s two wives) and children. He and his men wept until they had no more strength to cry. They had hit rock-bottom! Everyone was so bitter in soul that they were a hairbreadth away from stoning David – his own men; talk about unspeakable distress! One particular verse grips me in this passage after all these events, “But David strengthened (encouraged) himself in the Lord His God.” There were no friends to help him, they were as good as dead; no special manifestation of God’s presence – no ‘Psalm18’ wonders, just silence and agony but David stopped, stilled himself and remembered God, brought to remembrance all the acts and wonders of God. Out of that silence and stillness before God, he was able to inquire of Him for the next move ahead. David arose a renewed man with vision inspiring 600 of his men to accompany him in recovering all that had been taken in addition to the spoil for compensation.
God in His providence seems to withdraw in these instances so that faith recalls – the refining of your faith – but we are never left alone to fend for ourselves; His eye is never removed from us as sure as His promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you…behold He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep… He will keep your life” God’s eye is ever on us. He will not forget us; our walls are continually before Him. Indeed, we have been engraved in the palms of His hands.
Psalm 103:7 speaks of acquaintance with God’s ways that is a challenge and calling to every Christian, “He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel.” Just being familiar with his acts is something God will not allow us to settle for.
Your way was through the sea,
Your path through the great waters;
yet Your footprints were unseen.
You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
– Psalm 77:19-20
The words, “…yet Your footprints were unseen” remind me of William Cowper’s hymn, ‘God Moves In a Mysterious Way’ (I’ve used this hymn in a previous note).
“He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm”
We don’t always see God’s footprints unless He reveals them, just like the well known poem ‘Footprints in the Sand’, “…child, it was then that I carried you”.
“Your way was through the sea,
Your path through the great waters…
You led your people like a flock”
Recall the passage in Exodus 14:11, “…what have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt… for it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness”. The Egyptians had the Israelites hemmed in; a dead-end situation; all hope had died; the people prepare for the inevitable: death. But Moses’ response in verse 14 said, “The Lord will fight for you, and you only have to be silent”.
“… you only have to be silent.”
Initially, such a response seems absolutely ludicrous in the given situation, but Moses response was for the people to turn from their unbelief. In the stillness of knowing that He is God, their doubts would have been put to flight.
“Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain…”
How are we in dead-end situations? How do we react when we are faced with a ‘no-way-out’ scenario? How are we when the long delays set in day in and day out, month after month, year after year? Delays are some of the most intense trials especially when all the odds are greatly against us and God is… silent… and seemingly ‘uninvolved’. Do we give up and throw in the towel because God has not given us what we asked for; because God seems cruel and uncaring; we ask Him for help and deliverance but our ‘Egyptians’ just seem to be getting larger and larger in view while ‘our’ perception of things scream, “God has abandoned us!”
“Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.”
God is also the God of no-end situations, no way out scenarios even though we’re driven to the ‘cliff edge’ and our demeanor is one of paralyzing dread.
“Ye faithful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds that ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head”
“Your way was through the sea
Your path through the great waters”
– Psalm 77:19
What an overwhelming sight for the Israelites to behold these great waters parting; a wall of water to the left and to the right; the great sea bed was made dry – GOD’S WAY was opened up before them – “YOU led Your people like a flock.” Just as He leads His children in His paths of righteousness, even though for a season, one has to walk through dark valleys and through the great waters with no visible parting of the sea, we have the promise:
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.”
– Isaiah 43:2
The furnace fires may be intensified at the point we expect deliverance, but we shall see that because the Lord God is with us in the midst of the flames, we are not consumed. And even when our hearts at times may seem to give way, we will know our feet standing on the Rock that is greater than anything that opposes or threatens us. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” Psalm 34:19
Why the affliction, why all the pain, why all the grief and tears, and why all the unanswered questions and unanswered prayers? Is it necessary? What is the point in it all? Without being brought low, we can never be exalted; without affliction we cannot know deliverance; without opposition we cannot know victory; without grief and tears we cannot cry with others; without bitter moments we cannot taste in full the sweetness God has prepared for us.
When God deals with a soul, He makes that person real and effective for HIS purposes in the lives of others.
“Life is not as idle ore; …
But iron dug from central gloom;
And heated hot with burning fears,
And dipt in baths of hissing tears
And batter’d with the shocks of doom to shape and use.”
– Lord Alfred Tennyson
It’s not for us to read God’s purposes in His dealings with us, and that’s where so many of us spiritually derail. Our focus is to remain absolutely loyal to Him when everything is hidden from view and human logic is defied; God will make it plain in HIS time.
“His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.”
“I will remember…I will ponder…I will meditate” on all Your past dealings with me, of all Your faithfulness and goodness. And even though I am in the thickest darkness, I know You are with me to stay and to walk through it with me. I will say with the Psalmist, “…we went through fire and water; yet, YOU have brought us out to a place of abundance.” – Psalm 66:12
Be greatly encouraged in Him!