Psalm 77 – The Trace of Your Steps Was Not Seen
“I remember, I muse, and I ponder” (vv. 12-13)—such expressions convey the action of Psalm 77. This prayer-poem take us into the heart and mind of one who broods over a situation of affliction, for himself and for the people. A clear sense of lamentation marks his words, yet strangely enough, and in contrast to so many of the psalms, no explicit request or appeal is articulated, even though the Psalmist addresses God directly and forcefully. We might call this psalm a “heart to heart conversation with God.” The Psalmist’s language gives the impression that he feels that God has not heard, or at least has not responded, to his prayers. Crying aloud day and night, he cannot rest in the absence of interior comfort, but only groan (vv. 1-4). This inner turmoil without relief raises desperate questions (vv. 8-10): Will the Lord’s rejection never end? What has changed our relationship? Where are the mercy and compassion that marked the covenant communion of the past? The Psalmist reminds God of the past, when the relationship was strong. “Never have your people known any divine power other than you; you have worked great wonders and brought us redemption” (vv. 14-16). The Psalmist brings this redemption into sharp focus before God by alluding to the wonders of the saving event experienced by the children of Jacob in the Exodus, with special reference to the crossing of the Sea of Reeds (vv. 17-20). In that event, God manifested his power over nature: the winds blew, the skies pronounced God’s message, the waters parted, and the people passed through on dry ground (Exodus 14-15). And an important message emerges in the Psalmist’s words here: the trace of God’s footprints was not seen there, but his divine power was surely at work (v. 20). So often in the spiritual journey, God acts on and for us in ways that are quiet and unassuming. We might want “visible proof” of God’s grace and presence in our lives. But we are reminded of that scene on Mount Horeb when Elijah learned that the divine word was not manifest in earthquake, wind, or storm, but in utter stillness and silence (1 Kings 19:11-12). Our work is to be still and patient in prayer, trusting that God’s word will be revealed to us; though painful at times, it is a sacred state, for God speaks profoundly there . St.Paul addresses this problem of the spiritual life. He writes, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words” (Rom 8:26). Whatever path we follow in search of God, we can be assured of the divine presence that awaits us and leads us in the ways of holiness.
Psalm 77 (76)
1 For the Choirmaster. Intoned like “Jeduthun.” Of Asaph. A Psalm.
2 I crý alóud to Gód,
cry alóud to Gód that he may héar me.
3 In the dáy of my distréss I seek the Lórd.
In the níght my hands are ráised unwéaried;
my sóul refúses cómfort.
4 As I remémber my Gód, I gróan.
I pónder, and my spírit fáints.
5 You kéep my éyes from clósing.
I am tróubled, unáble to spéak.
6 I thínk of the dáys of long agó,
and remémber the yéars long pást.
7 At níght I múse within my héart.
I pónder, and my spírit quéstions.
8 “Will the Lórd rejéct us foréver?
Will he shów us his fávor no móre?
9 Has his mércy vánished foréver?
Has his prómise cóme to an énd?
10 Has Gód forgótten his mércy,
or in ánger withdráwn his compássion?”
11 I said, “Thís is what cáuses my gríef:
that the right hánd of the Most Hígh has chánged.”
12 I remémber the déeds of the Lórd,
I remémber your wónders of óld;
13 I múse on áll your wórks,
and pónder your míghty déeds.
14 Your wáy, O Gód, is in the hóly place.
What gód is as gréat as our Gód?
15 Yóu are the Gód who works wónders.
Among the péoples you shówed your pówer.
16 Your strong árm redéemed your péople,
the descéndants of Jácob and Jóseph.
17 The wáters sáw you, O Gód,
the wáters sáw you and ánguished.
Yes, the dépths were móved to trémble.
18 The clóuds poured dówn with ráin.
The skíes sent fórth their vóice;
Your árrows fláshed to and fró.
19 Your thúnderous vóice was in the whírlwind;
your fláshes líghted up the wórld.
The éarth was móved and trémbled.
20 Your wáy was thróugh the séa,
your páth through the míghty wáters,
but the tráce of your stéps was not séen.
21 You guíded your péople like a flóck
by the hánd of Móses and Áaron.
Prayer for Psalm 77
O God of holiness, who beckon each of us to search for you in the depths of our own hearts, reveal to us the path of peace. When we cannot express our deepest needs with words, remind us that your Spirit prays within us in utterances beyond words, expressing your message of truth and wisdom, peace and blessing. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.