The Righteous One Finding Strength
Through Remembrance

A brief study of Psalm 77, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 20 February 2009

Psalm 77 is another psalm which churches and individual believers may use when dark clouds appear over our lives.

It is written by Asaph, who is most probably, one of the sons of Asaph. Hengstenberg suggests that this Psalm was written during the days of Josiah. His reason is that this Psalm bears a very striking resemblance to the Song of Habakkuk recorded in the third chapter of his prophecy. He says:

Our Psalm is related in such a striking manner to the 3rd chapter of Habakkuk, that the agreement can only be explained by the supposition that the one writer made use of the expressions of the other.

Habakkuk ministered during the days of Josiah. He had dedicated his song “to the chief singer on my string instruments” (Hab 3:19). It is very probable that Asaph as the appointed cantor edited the song to include it into the book of Psalms, the official hymnbook of the Church. While Habakkuk’s song is inspired and remains in his prophecy, it is not inspired for the church to sing in public worship in that form. The form that it finally took for public worship is in Psalm 77.

Who then is the first person, ‘I’ in this psalm? Is it Habakkuk or is it Asaph? Well, whoever the writer is, this Psalm is no doubt inspired by the Spirit of Christ, and may be used by God’s people corporately or individually. We may use it in union with Christ who must have sung and meditated on this psalm during the dark days that He went through.

Andrew Bonar expresses this thought beautifully:

Asaph’s harp’s strings are moaning to the chill night-wind. Instead of triumphing in the Mighty One, whom all must fear, Asaph is full of unkindly fears, fears arising from clouds around his soul. Our Lord on earth had such changes in his soul as we find in this Psalm. One day, under the opened heavens at Jordan; another, in the gloom of the howling wilderness; one evening, ascending the Transfiguration hill; another entering Gethsemane. And so with every member of his body. Not that the love of their God varies toward them, and not that they themselves feel that love exhausted; but providences and trials of strange sort, and temptations buffeting the soul, hide the sun by their dark mists.

We may entitle this psalm: “The Righteous One Finding Strength Through Remembrance.” The Righteous One is first of all Christ, and by extension, the Church of Christ and every member who is united to Him by grace through faith. This psalm is not for non-Christians. Only a Christian can identify with the sentiments expressed in it.

It has, essentially, two parts. In the first part (verses 1-9), we sing of our problem, which is the distress in our soul. In the second part (verse 10-20), we sing of the solution, which is the remembrance of what God has done.

1. The Problem

Now we often think of problems in terms of the trials that afflict us. But if you think about it, you will realise that the real problem is not the trial, but how we react to the trial. After all, if we believe in the word of God, then we must be convinced that all things are working together for our good. If that is so, how can it really be a problem? What then is the problem? It must be our reaction to trials, isn’t it?

This is what we are taught in this psalm.

1  I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me.  2 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. 

It is good and right for a child of God to cry out to the Lord in prayer when he is faced with troubles. Likewise it is good and right for the church to be earnest in pray when faced with particular trials such as during the days of Josiah.

However, while God hears our prayers, He does not always bring immediate relief. Indeed, are there not times when God appears to withhold his hand of mercy so much so that the more we pray, the more anxious we get? Look at verse 3—

3 I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah.

The word ‘selah’ reminds us to pause to think about it. Is it not true that sometimes the more we complain to the Lord, the more our spirit gets overwhelmed?

And is it not true that often the more we think about it, the more sleepless nights we get, and the more perplex we get, verse 4—

4 Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak. 5 I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. 6 I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search.

I sometimes suggest to those who cannot sleep at night to seek the Lord in prayer. But is it not true that sometimes we are so troubled we don’t know what to say even though we can’t sleep because we keep thinking about the issue that troubles us (cf. v. 4)?

We think about all that the Lord has done in the past for us (v. 5). We think about our prayers and songs (v. 6). We check our heart, and search to see if we are asking amiss (v. 7). But instead of comfort, we get more questions. Notice the many questions from verse 7-9—

7 Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more? 8 Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore?  9 Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?

Is this not the way we think whenever we are perplexed? The more we think, the more questions we raise, and more doubts begin to arise in our heart. And as we begin to doubt God’s and his favour, mercy, grace and promise, we begin to spiral further and further into a pit of anxiety in our mind.

Herein is the problem. It is a problem of wrong thinking. Now, our Lord was tempted at all points like as we are, yet without sin. He would not have entertained doubt, but the questions that tempt him to doubt would almost certainly have assaulted his holy soul.

Now, the line between temptation and sin is not so clear for us. Most, if not all of us, when faced with temptation to doubt, will actually fall into doubt at least momentarily. And so we add to our perplexity, guilt; and it is easy for us to spin into depression.

Indeed, I sometimes wonder if many of us fall into depression because we feel that the Lord is not answering our prayers or that the Lord is looking upon us with disfavour and anger rather than mercy and love.

But we must realise that this is our problem. God never changes. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He will never leave us nor forsake us. He does not love us yesterday and hate us today.

But the problem remains. How to deal with the problem? Consider the solution in the second part of this psalm:

2. The Solution

The first step of the solution to the problem is none other than recognition of the problem, verse 10—

10a And I said, This is my infirmity:

How apt! How many believers are suffering pain and sorrow in their soul with apparently no way out because we fail in the first place to recognise the problem.

The problem is with others, we insist. Or the problem is with work. Or the problem is with the family. Or the problem is with the church.  Or even the problem is with God. And even if we acknowledge that we are part of the problem, it is only a cursory admission often not sincerely acted upon. When this happens, the problem is compounded with guilt.

Asaph shows us a different way. Unless we acknowledge wherein the real problem lies, we will not find the real solution.

But now having recognised the problem, we must look at the solution. The solution simply stated is to remember who the Lord is and what the Lord has done in the history of redemption. Now, take note that it is not remembering what the Lord has done for us individually, but what the Lord has done for the church in days of old. What the Lord has done for us individually may encourage us to some degree. But very often, in times when we are already discouraged and doubting God, those experiences of pass deliverance may not help that much. Why? Because we begin to wonder if it is a co-incidence that we were helped or if the present situation warrants help from the Lord etc etc.

On the other hand, remembering what God has done in canonical history, helps us to see God objectively. So verse 10b—

10b but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High. 11 I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. 12 I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings. 13 Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary [i.e. in holiness]: who is so great a God as our God? 14 Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people.

When we are confronted with problems and perplexities in our souls, it is important for us to turn away from the wind and the waves, and from others and from ourselves, to look at the Lord. It is important to think about him and to talk about him (v. 12). “A meditative man must be a talker otherwise he is a mental miser” says Spurgeon.

We must meditate and talk about the greatness of our God. Only God is unchanging and perfectly reliable. Only God has the power to do what is right all the time. Who is so great as our God?

But it is important not only to think in general terms what the Lord has done. It is necessary for us, rather to recall in very specific terms what He has done. So we find Asaph leading us to meditate specifically on the great events surrounding God’s redemption of His people out of Egypt.

15 Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah. 16 The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled. 17 The clouds poured out water: the skies sent out a sound: thine arrows also went abroad.  18 The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook. 19 Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known. 20 Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

The Exodus was a very great event. God worked in a very mighty way to redeem His people out of Egypt. Not only did he send the Ten Plagues, he parted the Red Sea in a very dramatic display of His power. There was, as it were, mighty lightning and thunders. The earth trembled and shook. But God led his people through the Red Sea upon dry land. The people were like a precious flock being led by their shepherds Moses and Aaron.

Did the people deserve what he did for them? No, not at all. Remember how they even after they were redeemed they were full of murmuring and complaints. God led them out because He loved them as His covenant people.

Today we may look at the Exodus event and get encouraged—not only by what God did for our fathers in the Faith, but by our own redemption from Spiritual Egypt.

How does mediating on the exodus account help us when it seems so remote to us? How does thinking about how God redeemed us help us? How do they help us when we are troubled individually or as a church? They help us because they remind us of the power of God and of His covenant love. God was at work in the lives of His people. He is still at work in the lives of his people. He worked redemption in all case not according to how much his people deserve his intervention, but according to His great love for them. While individually, we may not see any dramatic intervention of God in our lives, we must know that He is the same God who redeemed Israel out of Egypt.

If He has not delivered us from our trials according to our petition, we must still believe that He is able to do great things. Only in this way can the problem of our heart be truly solved.


What is this psalm to you beloved brethren and children? Are you facing a discouraging problem in your life? Remember that the solution is not to be found in introspection not in murmuring and grumbling. It is to be found rather in remembering. Remember all that the Lord has done for His people. Remember all that the Lord has done for you. Learn to rejoice in what He has done. Learn to see His power and the big picture of what He is doing. Herein is a solution to many of the problems that make us discouraged, weak and weary Christians. Let us remind ourselves of this solution by singing this psalm with understanding. Amen.

—JJ Lim