Rob Dingman | 25 May 2018
It's one thing to bring your troubles to God. It's another when the trouble is God Himself.
When I remember God, then I am disturbed; when I sigh, then my spirit grows faint. Selah. You have held my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. Psalm 77:3-4
It’s one thing to bring your troubles to God. It’s another when the trouble is God Himself. If God is causing the problem, who in the world is going to help you?
This is the situation Asaph found himself in.
He was a contemporary of both David and Solomon. He prophesied under the direction of David, and he was among that first generation who ministered in the newly-built temple, precious beyond value, filled with the very glory of God. Israel was at the height of its power, in the reigns of its greatest kings. There was peace all around, and such prosperity that silver was accounted as nothing.
In the midst of this fabulous blessing Asaph began receiving visions from the Lord. They are recorded in Psalms 74, 77, 79, 80, and 83. He saw Jerusalem defiled and sacked, the enemies of God putting up their standards in the midst of the smashed, burned, and destroyed temple. He saw a conspiracy of all the nations around Israel to wipe Israel out as a nation. He saw all the meeting places in the land burned, the worship of God suppressed. He saw God’s people oppressed, afflicted, poor and needy. He saw an end of prophecy from God, that He would simply stop communicating with His people, no more answer to prayer. No end in sight, either. He cries out, “How long, O God, will the enemy revile?” (Psalm 74:10).
Asaph openly asks questions that are a contradiction for anyone who trusts in the living God:
Will the Lord reject forever? And will He never be favorable again? Has His lovingkindness ceased forever? Has His promise come to an end forever? Has God forgotten to be gracious, Or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion? Psalm 77:7-9
Asaph thought and pondered, trying to figure out what all this ruin and destruction he was seeing meant, even as he was living in the height of peace, prosperity, and the nearness of God. And he came to an inescapable conclusion:
Then I said, “It is my grief, that the right hand of the Most High has changed.” Psalm 77:10
What else can it mean? We’re dead, we’re doomed! God has changed His mind! He will abandon us! We’re all dead! Dead! Dead! Dead!
But Asaph doesn’t stop there. At least, the Holy Spirit did not let him stop there. Evidently Asaph could not accept that conclusion that he had thought out. So he did something else. He meditated on the word of God.
I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds. Psalm 77:11-12
What good will meditating on the word of God do? What difference will that make with these visions of certain destruction from God?
For one thing, Asaph begins thinking about God’s existence.
Your way, O God, is holy; what god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; You have made known Your strength among the peoples. You have by Your power redeemed Your people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah. Psalm 77:13-15
Because he thinks about all God’s works, he has to start at the very beginning: God created the heavens and the earth. Why did He create? Because He is good; His steadfast love endures forever. What god is like the living God? Answer: there is no other god. Every other power is dependent upon God. He alone is the self-existent God who was and is, and is to come. He is, from eternity to eternity.
Then Asaph considers that particular work of power God accomplished in redeeming Israel from slavery in Egypt. This was in public, a historical intervention of the power of God, smashing flat Egypt and killing all the firstborn, propelling Israel out of bonds and oppression. Israel exists because God is.
Then Asaph says something profound as a result of his meditation:
Your way was in the sea and Your paths in the mighty waters, and Your footprints may not be known.
Paths are usually made by repeated beating down of vegetation by people’s steps in a way that is seen and known. But God only ever went through the Red Sea once, and His steps may not be known. He doesn’t think like us, He cannot be figured out. He is unfathomable, beyond finding out.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9
God showed Asaph visions, had him write them down, and then did not explain them. Some of those visions were fulfilled centuries in the future. Others have not yet happened, even thousands of years later. But figuring out what God was up to was not part of Asaph’s job. Ultimately he had to trust in God, be satisfied with what God had revealed, and not necessarily understand what God was doing.
If you’ve ever tried to figure out what God is doing in your life and your ministry, you know that it doesn’t work. It’s super-turbo-hyper frustrating, too. You can ask God, “Why?” till the cows come home, but He won’t budge one inch. God is unfathomable, which means you can’t get to the bottom of what He is doing. It doesn’t matter what kind of genius you are, here your intellect will fail you.
But you can think differently by meditating in the word of God. And you can start now and do it every day.
Then when God does something in your life that is outrageous, and you try to figure it out, and come up with an answer that contradicts everything you know about God, you have a legitimate way out of your dilemma.
You can think deeply on all His acts and wonders. You can be at peace. You can be humbled. You can even grasp God’s thoughts and His ways. You don’t understand everything, but in a significant and growing way, you do know God.
That’s more important. Don’t you think?
— Psalm 100 v5