Daily Devotional

July 23, 2020

Daybreak: Psalms 75:1 through 77:20

“And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High. I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.” (Psalm 77:10-12)

For many years it has been my privilege to watch my now ninety-year-old aunt model the words of today’s focus verses. For example, some months ago when health problems made it clear that she needed 24/7 help, we persuaded her to move temporarily to an adult foster care home. Then the doctor broke the news that she needed to stay in such a facility permanently. Her face fell, and she looked so distressed for a moment that my heart ached. Yet after a brief interval, she said, “Well, I have a lot to be thankful for…,” and began reciting blessings and remembering “the works of the Lord” in her past.

My aunt regularly approaches disappointments in this way. She acknowledges that she misses the independence of driving, but always adds that she has so much to be thankful for. She was sad to leave her apartment where she could look out the window at the Portland church campground, but she has so much to be thankful for. And the list goes on. 

This pattern is one my aunt has practiced for many years, and I suspect she may have begun thinking this way when she was quite young. The challenges of aging are not her first bumps in life. Over thirty years ago, she needed neck surgery, and it left her unable to use the index finger of her left hand. That meant no more viola playing in the church orchestra, which made her sad, but she was thankful to still be able to type at the church office in spite of the stiff finger. Her husband had Parkinson’s disease and suffered a lengthy physical decline, yet she expresses gratitude for the fact she was able to help him until he passed away. My aunt has chosen to dwell upon what God has done in all situations, and the result has been a life of contentment. 

In Psalm 77, part of today’s text, Asaph cried out to God in a hard time when he felt overwhelmed. However, as he expressed his requests to God, his focus changed from his problems to gratitude for God’s miracles and previous works. Memories of divine goodness sustained him and reminded the psalmist that God was not only able to help, but also was completely trustworthy.

Do you have concerns today that are burdening your heart? Are you facing perplexing situations for which you see no solution? Review the good things God has done for you, and meditate on how He has come to your aid in times past. Thank Him for His awareness of your needs, and for being a God who hears and answers prayer. Verbalize to others your trust in God and appreciation for His help. You will find strength for the journey, peace for your fears, and renewed confidence that God is on the scene and walking with you through the situations you face.

Background

Psalm 75

Asaph was the author of Psalm 75. The Hebrew word Al-taschith in the psalm’s superscription literally means “destroy not.” It may refer to a particular tune or chant. Bible scholars identify the form of the psalm as a hymn of praise which includes prophetical allusions.

In verses 4-7, “fools” means those who boast, the “horn” is indicative of strength, while a “stiff neck” denotes arrogance. The inference is that the wicked should not brag about their accomplishments or arrogantly use their might to intimidate because it is God who determines who is exalted or put down. 

The psalm closes with a focus on divine retribution, bringing out that those who maintain their sinful ways will face a time of accounting. In verse 8, the “red wine” signifies God’s wrath, and “full of mixture” indicates its intoxicating strength. The “dregs” represent the most potent portion of God’s judgment, and are reserved for the wicked. In contrast, the righteous will declare God’s goodness and will be exalted.

Psalm 76

The word Neginoth in the superscription of this psalm means “stringed instruments.” Although no historical setting is identified for this hymn of celebration, it commemorates a mighty deliverance in Salem (a reference to Jerusalem). It may have been associated with Judah’s victory over Sennacherib, the Assyrian, described in 2 Kings 19. This would have placed the origin after Israel’s division into two kingdoms, with verse 1 indicating that God was especially known in Judah, but His Name was great throughout all of Israel. 

In verses 2-3, the word translated tabernacle means “pavilion” or “dwelling place,” affirming that it was God’s presence in Jerusalem and Mount Zion which caused the enemy to be defeated. Commentators offer varying interpretations of verse 4. The “mountains of prey” may be a reference to the mountains surrounding the city, which offered a haven of hiding places for the enemy. Alternatively, it may be a metaphorical reference to the invading armies, who were comparable to mountains in greatness, but less glorious and excellent than the God of Israel.

After a description of the defeat of the foe and the awesomeness of God’s wrath upon the wicked, the psalm concludes with the psalmist exhorting Israel to fulfill their vows to God, and the surrounding nations to bring gifts to the One who should be respected and feared. 

Psalm 77

Psalm 77 is dedicated to Jeduthun, one of the chief musicians who served under David. (He is also named in the titles of Psalm 39 and 62, and in Psalm 88, where he is identified as Heman the Ezrahite; his name was changed after the appointments at Gibeon which are described in 1 Chronicles 16.) Although this was a personal lament, it may also express the sentiments of the nation of Israel. 

The phrase “my sore ran in the night” in verse 2 could be rendered as “my hand was stretched out in the night,” indicating that although the psalmist continually prayed, it did not bring the comfort he desired. In verses 7-9, he posed six heart-rending questions regarding whether God’s favor and mercy would ever be extended on his behalf. Commentators interpret verse 10 in various ways, but many feel it meant that in the midst of personal trial, the author was determined to meditate on God’s previous deliverances. Then the author proclaimed a series of commitments to God, indicated by the repeated phrase, “I will…” 

In recollecting the past faithfulness of God, the psalmist found assurance for the future. He concluded his lament with the realization that the Good Shepherd who successfully led His flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron would also be his Shepherd in his time of trial. 

Amplified Outline

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I.    Book I (1:1 — 41:13)
II.    Book II (42:1 — 72:20)
III.    Book III (73:1 — 89:52)
IV.    Book IV (90:1 — 106:48)
V.    Book V (107:1 — 150:6)

A Closer Look

  1. In Psalm 75, where does the psalmist say promotion does not come from? Who, then, sets down one and puts up another?
     
  2. Though we know God is merciful and loving to those who trust in Him, Psalm 76 speaks of God being angry. Why is it so important to recognize this aspect of God’s nature as well as His mercy and kindness?
     
  3. After Asaph voiced a series of questions in Psalm 77:7-9 that reflected his discouraged and overwhelmed state, what steps did he take to move from distress to faith? What can we learn from his actions that will help us when we face overwhelming circumstances?

Conclusion

Looking back to God’s blessings and deliverances in the past will help us stand strong in the midst of the problems and adversities we face today. 

Reference Materials