11 May 2022

Praying with the Psalms in Easter:
11 May 2022 (Psalm 77)

‘I commune with my heart in the night; I meditate and search my spirit’ (Psalm 77: 6) … darkness in the City of London last Saturday night (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

I arrived back in Askeaton, Co Limerick yesterday. Before this day begins (11 May 2022), I am continuing my morning reflections in this season of Easter continues, including my morning reflections drawing on the Psalms.

In my blog, I am reflecting each morning in this Prayer Diary in these ways:

1, Short reflections on a psalm or psalms;

2, reading the psalm or psalms;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Psalm 77:

Psalm 77 is found in Book 3 in the Book of Psalms, which includes Psalms 73 to 89. In the slightly different numbering scheme in the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, this is psalm is numbered as Psalm 76.

This is the sixth of the ‘Psalms of Asaph.’ These are the 12 psalms numbered 50 and 73 to 83 in the Masoretic text and 49 and 72-82 in the Septuagint. Each psalm has a separate meaning, and these psalms cannot be summarised easily as a whole.

But throughout these 12 psalms is the shared theme of the judgment of God and how the people must follow God’s law.

The superscription of this psalm reads: ‘To the leader: according to Jeduthun. Of Asaph. A Psalm.’ The attribution of a psalm to Asaph could mean that it was part of a collection from the Asaphites, identified as Temple singers, or that the psalm was performed in a style associated with Asaph, who was said to be the author or transcriber of these psalms.

Asaph who is identified with these psalms was a Levite, the son of Berechiah and descendant of Gershon, and he was the ancestor of the Asaphites, one the guilds of musicians in the first Temple in Jerusalem.

Asaph served both David and Solomon, and performed at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple (see II Chronicles 5: 12). His complaint against corruption among the rich and influential, recorded in Psalm 73, for example, might have been directed against some of court officials. The words used to describe the wicked come from words used by officials of the cult or sacrificial system.

Several of the Psalms of Asaph are categorised as communal laments because they are concerned for the well-being of the whole community. Many of these psalms forecast destruction or devastation in the future, but are balanced with God’s mercy and saving power for the people.

Psalm 77 finds parallels in other biblical poetry, such as Psalm 118: 18 and the hymn in the final chapter of Habakkuk. All three share a common theme of becoming aware of ultimate divine deliverance from seemingly intractable terrors.

This is a psalm of lament from a community of people crying out to God and asking God to not be silent in their time of need. The question is posed: has God’s steadfast love ceased for ever But this psalm comes full circle with the end proclaiming the wonder of God as creator and reflecting on his care of Moses and Aaron.

Psalm 77 begins with a cry of distress. The psalmist has been experiencing profound difficulties, and his cries to God appear to have been ignored. Only his memories of the past seem to bring anything even resembling joy.

However, the psalmist then remembers God’s integrity and realises that the failure of his hopes is the result of misplaced expectations of God's actions, rather than God's failure to act.

Recalling God’s actions in the past and God’s rule even over the natural world, he concludes with praise of ‘the God who works wonders’ or ‘the God who performs miracles’ (verse 14).

‘When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid’ (Psalm 77: 16) … waves on the shore at Morriscastle, Co Wexford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Psalm 77 (NRSVA):

To the leader: according to Jeduthun. Of Asaph. A Psalm.

1 I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, that he may hear me.
2 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
3 I think of God, and I moan;
I meditate, and my spirit faints.

4 You keep my eyelids from closing;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
5 I consider the days of old,
and remember the years of long ago.
6 I commune with my heart in the night;
I meditate and search my spirit:
7 ‘Will the Lord spurn for ever,
and never again be favourable?
8 Has his steadfast love ceased for ever?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?’
10 And I say, ‘It is my grief
that the right hand of the Most High has changed.’

11 I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord;
I will remember your wonders of old.
12 I will meditate on all your work,
and muse on your mighty deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is so great as our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders;
you have displayed your might among the peoples.
15 With your strong arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

16 When the waters saw you, O God,
when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
the very deep trembled.
17 The clouds poured out water;
the skies thundered;
your arrows flashed on every side.
18 The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
your lightnings lit up the world;
the earth trembled and shook.
19 Your way was through the sea,
your path, through the mighty waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.
20 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in this week’s prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘Celebration in Casablanca.’ It was introduced on Sunday morning by the Right Revd David Hamid, Suffragan Bishop in Europe.

The USPG Prayer Diary this morning (11 May 2022) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for inter-provincial relations across the Anglican Communion.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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