The event that defined Israel as a nation was the exodus, when God led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. This event established Israel’s identity for all time. The book of Psalms continually refers to the time God brought the plagues upon Egypt and then miraculously opened the Red Sea and led the Israelites to safety and freedom. God fed them during their journey, leading them by a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night.
The details of these events were well-known throughout the ancient world. After a time in the desert, when the people of Israel came to the edge of the Jordan River and were about to enter the Promised Land, they found that word had spread—the inhabitants of the land were already terrified of them—and this paved the way for Israel to take over the land.
It’s possible that Asaph was thinking about the exodus when he wrote: “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds” (psalm 77:11–12).
As Christians, we too can reflect on God’s amazing deeds and remember the works of Jesus and His miracles. We can meditate on His teaching, healing, and raising the dead, as well as His work of dying on the cross and rising from the grave.
The apostle Paul testified to this same historical heritage before King Agrippa when he said of the death and resurrection of Jesus, “None of this has escaped [the king’s] notice, because it was not done in a corner” (acts 26:26). The historic fact of the death and resurrection of Jesus was a well-attested event that many people witnessed and knew of. The risen Lord didn’t appear to only one or two people but to dozens, and to over 500 people at once on one occasion. These people all testified to the resurrection.
God has acted in history. The story of Jesus is not a myth. God became flesh and lived among us, was crucified, and rose again. The Bible is grounded in history. Christianity would never have survived if it were based on lies. [shareaimage1]The resurrection is the central fact of human history. We can say along with the psalmist, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord.”
The Greatness of God
The psalmist goes on to tell us what will result when we meditate on who God is and what He has done: “Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. With your mighty arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph” (vv. 13–15).
Our faith will stand firm as long as we are convinced of the two towering truths the psalmist expresses here: God is holy and God is great. Asaph is filled with a sense of awe regarding the perfection, majesty, and power of God.
We like to celebrate our own greatness. We think we are powerful because of technological advances like nuclear power, space exploration, and iPhones. But how does this power compare with the power of God?
Our sun works on the same principle as nuclear power—generating energy by fusing the nuclei of hydrogen atoms. But did you know that our sun unleashes the equivalent of 100 billion nuclear bombs every second? What’s more, the sun, 300,000 times the size of planet Earth, is just one of about 100 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, which is just one of more than 100 billion galaxies in the known universe! In other words, at any given instant of time, God’s universe is unleashing trillions and trillions of times the energy of humans’ most powerful invention!
The next time you think of human greatness, remember the greatness of a God who could create such a universe as ours. It helps to keep things in perspective.
The Reality of Miracles
The psalmist writes: “You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples” (psalm 77:14).
Some skeptics argue in a complete circle: “There is no God, so there can be no miracles. Since there are no miracles, there is no God.”
But this kind of thinking is begging the question. It’s the fallacy of basing a conclusion on an unproven assumption. You can’t logically say, “Miracles can’t happen; therefore miracles have not happened.” You first have to prove that miracles can’t happen.
If we look at the events of the Bible as a record of eyewitness accounts given by honest, sincere men and women, then the Bible constitutes strong and convincing evidence for miracles.
The God of the psalmist is a God who created a universe out of nothing, a God who leads a nation out of bondage by taking them through the depths of a parted sea. This same God breathed life back into the dead. He is a God who displays His awesome power. It is precisely because these events are supernatural that people find them convincing evidence of the reality of God.
The God of Redemption
Asaph makes another profound observation about the deeds of God. His works are not simply great; they are redemptive. God did great works that saved His people. Asaph writes, “With your mighty arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph” (v. 15).
The word redeem means to restore, to buy back something that has been lost. I can’t redeem you from your sins. I can’t even redeem myself. Redemption is God’s special work, and everything He does in our lives is focused on our redemption, on restoring us to belong to Him.
The miracles of the Bible are redemptive. The miracles God did in Egypt redeemed the people of Israel from bondage and moved them to a place of usefulness for God in the Land of Promise. The miracles Jesus did in the Gospels—the transformation of water into wine, the healings, and the feedings—were all designed to impress people with a truth that would transform their hearts: Jesus is the Messiah.
The miracle of the resurrection was, of course, the most redemptive miracle of all, for it was the supernatural event that made it possible for us to be saved from sin and death. In the crucifixion and resurrection, God paid the price for our redemption. He bought us back from the pawnshop of sin and death, and He restored us to relationship with Him.
Everything in the life of our Lord Jesus focused on redemption. The apostle Paul wrote, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 corinthians 8:9). Note the phrase “for your sake.” That is an expression of our Lord’s redemptive love. For us He left heaven and became poor. For us He was beaten and crucified.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (5:21). God the Father made the Sinless One, Jesus, responsible for our sin, and He paid the penalty for sin in our place so that we could be redeemed. Jesus was crucified and raised so that we might be set free from sin. Scripture tells us that at this very moment Jesus is interceding for us in heaven—again, for our sakes! As we read in Hebrews, Jesus “is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (7:25).
Notice that the psalmist writes, “With your mighty arm you redeemed your people” (psalm 77:15). No one is redeemed without their knowledge or against their will. Redemption is for God’s people, for those who respond to His invitation and act upon His Word.
The proclamation of God’s redemptive love demands a response. The book of Hebrews tells us, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (11:6).
You might say, “But I don’t know if God exists. I can’t find Him. How can I believe in Him if I don’t know if He is real or not?” Answer: Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. That is always the promise of Scripture. If you sincerely and earnestly seek Him, you will find Him. Those who truly want to find Him will do so.
Are you responding to God’s redemptive call? Or are you sitting in sullenness, waiting for God to do something to you in spite of yourself? With His mighty arm, He has redeemed His people. He is still redeeming His people today. Seek Him, draw near to Him, and respond to His invitation so you can say with the psalmist, “What god is as great as our God?” (psalm 77:13).
The Thing You Fear
This psalm opens with a cry of doubt and despair. But the psalmist has traced his way to faith and triumph. Now in the closing lines of Psalm 77, he writes: “The waters saw you, God, the waters saw you and writhed; the very depths were convulsed” (psalm 77:16).
The psalmist returns to that pivotal event in Israel’s history when God parted the Red Sea and led His people out of Egypt.
Asaph recognizes God’s control over all human activities and over nature: The waters of the Red Sea saw God and trembled in fear before His might. This is a moving poetic image of how the waters responded to the mighty power of God.
Imagine the fear of the Israelites when they reached the edge of the sea. The Egyptians were close behind and the impassable sea loomed ahead. Their situation seemed hopeless. Yet the very thing that closed off their escape, the thing that virtually ensured their death or reenslavement—the water of the sea—was afraid of God!
God commanded Moses to stretch out his staff, and the sea parted. The waters stacked up on either side, held back by the hand of God. The Israelites went down into a dry channel between the waters. They were afraid of the waters, but the waters were afraid of God. The sea didn’t dare touch those whom God protected. In the psalmist’s poetic imagery, the water saw God, and it writhed and convulsed in fear.
The very powers and forces that frighten us are themselves under the command of God. The thing you fear fears Him.
Through the Depths of the Sea
Next the psalmist tells us that the forces of nature are nothing but instruments in God’s hands. He writes: “The clouds poured down water, the heavens resounded with thunder; your arrows flashed back and forth. Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked” (psalm 77:17–18).
If you have ever been through an electrical storm, you know what the psalmist is describing: the soul-shaking roar of thunder, lightning flashing across the heavens like fiery arrows, the earth trembling in response. All of these forces are under God’s command. No power, natural or human, can operate except by permission of the Almighty.
In the last hours before Jesus went to the cross, forsaken by His friends, betrayed by Judas, and denied by Peter, Jesus stood alone and seemingly powerless before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. When Pilate questioned Jesus, the Lord gave him no answer. Exasperated, Pilate asked Him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? . . . Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above” (john 19:10–11).
All of the world’s forces, systems, and authorities are under God’s control.All power belongs to God. Nothing can touch us without the permission of God Himself.
Asaph goes on to say: “Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen” (psalm 77:19).
The people of Israel didn’t know where God was leading them, but God had prepared the way. He knew what He was doing. As the psalmist ponders this miraculous event, he discovers a second great truth: The fact that we don’t understand what God is doing does not mean He isn’t at work.
This is a difficult concept to wrap our minds around. We want God to explain all of His plans and actions. And unless God constantly reassures us, we fret and panic, just as the Israelites did when they reached the edge of the Red Sea.
In Exodus 14 the Israelites were camped in the desert near the sea when they saw a cloud of dust and heard the thunder of horses’ hooves and chariot wheels. Pharaoh’s army was coming. The people cried out to the Lord; then they panicked and blamed Moses for their peril. “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (vv. 11–12).
The people of Israel had lost faith in Moses and in God. Moses had to give them a pep talk: “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today” (v. 13).
If we had been in their sandals, would we have reacted differently? In desperate situations haven’t we prayed, “Lord, there’s no way out! I’m trapped! Why don’t You do something?” I confess that I have prayed that way many times. That is not a prayer of faith. That’s a prayer of panic.
What the people of Israel didn’t understand and couldn’t imagine is that this was part of God’s plan all along. His plan of deliverance never even entered their minds! Though His footprints were unseen, God knew exactly what He was doing.
This is a principle we all need to remember in those times when hope is fading and there seems no way out of total disaster. We need to place our confidence in Him, trusting that He has a plan that is perfect. We can’t imagine what God will do, but we can trust that whatever He does will be the best thing for us; and in the end, it will be amazing!