1 I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me.
The agony being suffered by this Psalmist is clearly seen in the first four verses. His sorrow was so deep that silent prayer was not sufficient to utter it. He audibly cried out to God, even through the night. The overwhelming nature of his sadness had robbed him of sleep. It was an anguish that knew no depths, as it spiraled downward from that which could only be expressed out loud to that which was so intense that no words could even come forth from the Psalmist’s lips to articulate it.
The setting of this Psalm is open to discussion. It appears to be a captivity Psalm, one written after the citizens of Judah were taken away from their home country into servitude in the land of the Babylonians (II Chronicles 36:14-21). In verses seven through nine, the writer is obviously lamenting a tragic loss. In the final eleven verses, the writer is bringing to mind a previous deliverance that his ancestors had enjoyed – the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage (Exodus 12-14). In remembering how God had freed Israel from slavery in the past, perhaps the Psalmist is expressing that same hope of God’s deliverance of Judah from their present distress.
Look at the contrast of thought in verses one through nine. Initially, the Psalmist writes of how he turned to God in his sorrow, but then he wonders where God is and why He will not answer his earlier pleas. “I begged for relief to the extent that I had no more words to speak. Why has God not answered me? Has He forgotten how to be gracious?” Questioning if God had forgotten is ironic as it is in fact the Psalmist himself who had forgotten something. He had forgotten the history of God’s goodness toward His people. Notice how his attitude changes when he says in verse 11, “I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old.” From that point on he recounts how God had released Israel from the life-stealing grip of the Egyptians and in the midst of this he exclaims, “Who is so great a God as our God?” (verse 13).
This apparent conflict in the heart of the Psalmist is not at all unfamiliar to anyone who has ever been in sorrow. We pray and plead, hoping, perhaps even expecting, that God will answer our prayers our way in our time. If He does not, we may begin to question His goodness. We may feel that the distress will never go away. We forget that God has not changed and perhaps we even forget all the good that we have enjoyed in life at His hand of mercy.
With so many emotions flying around in our heads during times of trouble, it’s easy to see how remembrances of God’s goodness could be crowded out. That’s why it is critical for the sake of our souls for us to stop, take some time for ourselves and remember. That’s what the Psalmist did. Look at verses 12 and 13. In his despair, he put a halt to the doubts he was having long enough to take time to focus on God. He meditated on His works, talked of His doings and considered His way. In so doing, he recalled that the Lord is “the God that doest wonders” (verse 14). Going back to Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, the Psalmist concludes that the God who did that could certainly answer his pleas and provide the comfort he was so desperately seeking.
Simply telling someone in sorrow to “remember God” may seem trite and may even be met with anger by the one who is suffering. Some may think I’m being simplistic and even trivializing one’s sadness by saying, “Remember God.” It may sound like I’m impatiently telling the sorrowful, “Come on; snap out of it. Stop moping around and get over it.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
When a loved one dies, what is one of the first things done by those left behind? Certainly we cry and hurt and maybe even question, but do we not also remember? Most likely we find ourselves sitting around a dinner table with family and friends sharing pleasant memories of the deceased. There is great comfort in this. As weeks, months and years pass, we will still with startling regularity remember different things about our beloved. Memories might be triggered by a scent, a picture, a song or even a phrase. One of the statements my wife, Shannon made before she died was, “This is it.” I can still see the calm, fearless look in her face and hear the genuine anticipation in her voice as she said that. Since that time, whenever I have heard that three word phrase I have thought of her. I’m sure this memory will never leave me.
If remembering moments in the life of our departed loved one can cheer us and bring us comfort, why would not remembering God’s goodness bring us even greater joy and peace? If we can sit around and begin conversations with, “Remember when he (or she) did this or that” and not get angry or take offense, then why can we not just as well begin conversations with, “Remember when God said this in His Word?” or “Remember when God blessed you with…”? A memory is a valuable tool in so many ways, not the least of which is in bringing to mind the multiplicity of demonstrations of God’s goodness both as recorded in His Word and as experienced in our lives.
In the situation in which this Psalmist found himself, remembering Israel’s release from Egypt was the most comforting. He knew from that historical event that God both could and would do whatever was necessary to aid His people. The amazing power of God is so beautifully portrayed in the Psalmist’s statement about the parting of the Red Sea in verse 16. “The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled.” In verses 18 through 20 he declares that God was to be found everywhere in this scene of deliverance. He was in the thunder and lightning and the quaking of the earth. He was in the midst of the sea. Yet for all of the demonstration of His might, God nonetheless carefully led each Israelite through the sea like a shepherd leads his flock. From distress to doubt to adulation, the Psalmist runs the gamut of emotions, concluding the Psalm with his remembrance of God’s goodness.
In whatever situation we may be, we can remember how God blessed His faithful followers in life’s daylight and how He led them through life’s midnight as well as how He promises to do the same for us if we are faithful Christians. When in financial straits, we can go to Matthew 6:25-34 and remember our value in the eyes of God as well as His promise, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33). When grieving, we can go to the eleventh chapter of John and remember the compassion of Jesus as He wept with the family and friends of Lazarus (John 11:35). When lonely, we can consult Hebrews 13:5-6 in which Paul wrote, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” When we feel like giving up, we can turn to Romans 8 and remember Paul’s inspired words regarding hope, God’s providential care and the Lord’s amazing love. When it seems that the pull of the world is too strong, we can go to I John 4:4 and remember the words of the apostle John: “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” When we ourselves are facing death, we can read the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians regarding the resurrection unto eternal life, especially the final five verses.
Not only can we remember the inspired records of God’s help and His promises, we can also recall in our own lives how greatly God has always blessed us. In the midst of our troubles, the sorrow is deeply rooted in our hearts. It certainly will not subside over night and may linger for days or weeks on end. In this context, about all we can see and feel is our sorrow and its cause. It takes effort, sometimes considerable effort, but there are fond remembrances of God’s goodness within us just waiting to come forth and bring us comfort. Remembering these things does not diminish the depth of the sadness, but it can cause us to stop and realize how great God has been to us through the years. In fact, it could remind us that even in our despair, God is still as close as He has ever been. To live in the past is unproductive, but to visit it from time to time through remembering the marvelous blessings of God can make our present more bearable and our future brighter. “Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.” (Psalm 97:12).
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