Remembering God’s Mercies: A Journey Through Psalm 77

Category: Full Sermons

Brethren, I’ve been delighted to be here with you. As I look out at your faces and meet more of you, your spirits have rejuvenated mine. I’ve enjoyed seeing the love of Christ in your eyes, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. Beloved, God has not forgotten to be gracious; He remains so, as I can attest from my recent experiences and from our focus on Psalm 77 today. In many Psalms, the psalmist starts by crying out to God in distress, possibly filled with doubts and in a dark place regarding God. But then, as in this Psalm, there’s a shift, and the psalmist starts to recall how God had been gracious to the people of Israel and to him personally.

I want to share something personal. A couple of years ago, I began journaling, recording both the good and the difficult things God was doing in my life, acknowledging that all things work together for good. The main reason I started this practice was because I found myself forgetting the kindness God had shown me in the past, especially when I was engulfed in doubt or distress. God has been gracious to me so often.

This passage from Psalm 77 has been incredibly helpful to me. Initially, it seemed like a very depressing song. The psalmist asks six poignant questions in the midst of his lament. At first, I thought these were prayers, but upon closer examination, it seemed the psalmist was conversing within his own heart. These questions, I realized, were essential for him to recall God’s past graciousness in his life.

Let’s delve into Psalm 77. Asaph writes, “I cried out to God with my voice; to God with my voice, and He gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing. My soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God and was troubled.” It’s puzzling to consider how remembering God could lead to trouble, yet Asaph expresses just that. He felt overwhelmed and unable to speak, indicating a state of sleeplessness and speechlessness. He reminisces about the days of old, the years of ancient times, calling to mind his “song in the night.”

I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes a diligent search. Here are those six questions: Will the Lord cast off forever? And we know the answers to these questions, don’t we? And will He be favorable no more? Have His mercies ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? And has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He, that is, God, in anger, shut up His tender mercies? Selah. We look around us in our nation, our communities, our government, and all around the world. It’s easy to ask these questions, easy to look at these things, and easy to be on the despairing side of these questions. But I don’t really think that’s where the psalmist was. In this second stanza, I think he began to recover himself. This is true because, look at verse ten after he asked these questions, he says, “And I said, this is my anguish.”

If I’m questioning God’s mercy, His tender mercies, if I’m questioning His grace, the problem is not God. The problem is me. The problem is remembering. Hence, beloved, I’ll go back in my journal. I pick my journal up often, and I go back and I read what God has done. I’ve had some really good things to write in my journal lately. As we talked about last night, but he said, “This is my anguish, but I will remember. 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 Your wonders. Oh, my heavenly Father of old, I will also meditate on all Your work.”

Beloved, so often we get our eyes fixed on the turmoil, the tumult, the hatred for Christ in the world, and it can cast us down. But the psalmist said, “I will also meditate on all Your work, and I won’t talk about the things that are going on in the world, and I won’t get immersed in all that,” he says. “And I will talk of Your deeds. I will talk of Your way, O God. Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary. Who is so great a God as our God? Our brother just said, ‘God is great.’ Who is so great a God as our God?” Beloved, we serve the one living and true God and His Son, Jesus Christ.

And He is seated and He is reigning right this moment. He’s reigning now. Beloved, don’t ever forget those truths that the Lord Jesus Christ reigns now. Yes, there’s tumult in the world, and yes, there’s turmoil. And yes, there are communities that are in shambles, beloved. But our God reigns. And listen, if you’re in Christ, He’s seated on the throne of your heart. The kingdom of God is within you. And never forget that, beloved, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. We are those that overcome the world. We don’t immerse ourselves in those things. We are overcomers.

“You are the God who does wonders.” Beloved, we must still believe that; we must be believers. You know, often times I think to myself, and I tell our folks at home, I say, “You know, we know a lot about God, but how much of what we know do we believe? How much of what we know do we embrace and possess and own? It is ours that our God has given us this wonderful salvation that we have?” “You are the God that does wonders. You have declared Your strength among the peoples; with Your arm, You have redeemed Your people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph.” Selah.

So ends the second stanza. In the final stanza, God puts on display for us to remember, and I like to call this portion of the psalm “God shows off His artillery.” I’m a military guy, so I like that. He talks about the creation, the waters, the depths, the world, the thunder—they are at His command, and the creation and the elements obey God perfectly. Notice the waters saw You, O God; the waters saw You and were afraid.

I remember when Moses stood on the brink of the Red Sea, and the Red Sea was still right there. Moses turned around, and the people were doubting God. Moses said, “Stand still and see the salvation of our God. Your God will fight for you,” and Pharaoh, Pharaoh and his chariots were behind that pillar of fire. And the people doubted God. Moses cried out to God, well, he cried out, and he told the people, “Don’t doubt your God.” And in Exodus 14:13, I think it is, in that moment Moses uttered a secret prayer to God. We know that because the Lord said to Moses in that moment, “Why are you crying unto me?” He said, “Go forward.”

And Moses turned around, and that’s when he put his staff in the water, and the waters trembled. The waters were driven back. The waters saw You, O God, and they were afraid. The depths also trembled. The clouds poured out water. The sky sent out a sound. Your arrows also flashed about. The voice of Your thunder was in the whirlwind. When the lightnings lit up the world, the earth trembled and shook at the voice of God. “Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters, and Your footsteps were not known. You led Your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” It might be difficult to enter into this Psalm if you’ve not experienced troubles like the psalmist, but I would think probably you’ve been in those places at the beginning of the Psalm. I want you to notice that the psalmist cried out audibly. He cried out aloud with his voice. I don’t know if I shared with any of you.

When I pray, I need to pray aloud when I’m by myself so that I’m not distracted. It’s not that I can’t pray in silence, but I have to cry aloud. It helps me to focus my attention on my God. He says, “I cried out to my God with my voice, to my God with my voice, and He gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble, I sought the Lord.” So, he stretches his hand out to the Lord; he repeats, “I cried out to the Lord with my voice.” I think here God is teaching us, when we can’t pray quietly, to pray out loud, lift up your voice, cry unto God audibly.

But even after Asaph prayed aloud, he lifted up his voice. His spirit did not lift. It seems he was not encouraged initially. Instead of being comforted in prayer, he refused to be comforted. He says that here, in the beginning stanzas of this Psalm, he had no rest in his spirit. He was troubled in his mind, and it continued into the night. “I remembered God and was troubled,” he says. I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. We know Psalm 61 tells us, when your heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I. And so, the psalmist found himself in this place as he prayed at the beginning of the psalm; it seems that things got worse in his mind.

He remembered God’s love, God’s mercy, God’s kindness, God’s longsuffering, God’s faithfulness, God’s goodness toward him. And that should have rejoiced his spirit. But he says, “I remember God, and I was troubled.” Beloved, when we find ourselves immersed in troubles like this, when we find ourselves in a situation where we’re having difficulty believing God, having difficulty in our minds wrapping our minds around our God, and we’re in unbelief, and our thoughts of God are troubling to us, beloved, we must not stay there. And that’s how the first stanza ends. But that’s when he began to recover. He began to recover himself in the second stanza. He couldn’t sleep; he couldn’t speak. And then he began to consider the days of old, the ancient times.

He began to call remembrance to remembrance. His song in the night. Those sweet times in the presence of his God. And then those questions: Will the Lord cast off forever? We know the answer to that question. No, He won’t. Lamentations says the Lord will not cast off forever. God will never leave you nor forsake you, beloved. And that’s for you to believe. That’s for you to embrace by faith. So, the Lord will not cast off forever. Will He be favorable no more? I’ve thought thoughts like that, but I think the psalmist here is beginning to recover from his unbelief. He says, has His mercy ceased forever? Psalm 36 says, “Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens. Thy faithfulness reaches unto the clouds.”

Thy faithfulness is new every morning. Lamentations 3: It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning, beloved. We awoke to a new morning, to a new sun, to a new day, same sun, new day, and God’s mercies, His faithfulness, are refreshed this day for us. God has not forgotten us, beloved. He’s not forgotten us in the world. He will not cast us off. His mercy has not ceased. Psalm 103, let me read to you what Psalm 103 and verse 11 says, and then Psalm 108, Psalm 103, and verse 11. He says, “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those that fear Him.” I would tell you, if you’re lost today, would you enter into that mercy? Would you enter into that grace? Would you come to a God who is full of grace, full of compassion, full of mercy? God has not forgotten to be merciful. God has not forgotten to save. He has not forgotten His tender mercies. Psalm 108, look back there, back up to Psalm 108. Psalm 108 and verse 4: “Your mercy is great above the heavens, and your truth reaches to the clouds.” God is not just merciful; He’s plenteous in mercy, my brothers. So, His mercy has not ceased forever. Has His promise failed forevermore? Has any of God’s promises failed? No.

You know, I was telling a brother this morning, I used to think in my heart, in my mind concerning my son and concerning my other children, I want to die believing that He’ll save them. You know our God is going to return in Second Peter. He says the Lord is not slack concerning His promise. God’s promises will not fail. God is not able to lie. God is not a man that He should lie. He’s not the son of man that He should repent. Have He said, and shall He not do it? Yes, beloved, God loves to be reminded of His promises when we pray. God loves for us to tell Him, “Father, you said this. And so please, Father, hear me. You promised this. Father, and so I call upon you.” Know the Lord’s promise has not failed. God has not forgotten to be gracious.

Psalm 86 and verse 15, just turn over there. If you have your Bible, Psalm 86 and verse 15. The book of the Psalms 86 and verse 15: “But you, O Lord, are a God full of compassion and gracious, longsuffering, and not just merciful, but abundant in mercy and in truth.” Psalm 103 and verse 8, Psalm 103 and verse 8: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” Let us never forget that He’s gracious, He’s slow to anger. And my goodness, I thought about that. You know, so often we get angry quickly, we heat up quickly. You know, we see some of the beloved sinners in our lives do, and it hurts us when we see that. And we get angry, and we’re not slow to anger. Our God is longsuffering, means long-spirited. He forbears. He’s patient, and He’s merciful. He’s full of mercy, slow to anger, abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. And He’s not punished us not even a half of what we deserve. Beloved, again Lamentations 3, it is of the Lord’s mercies that I will say I am not consumed, because His compassions fail not. Listen, if you’re lost today, I would tell you, if you’re not a Christian today, if you’ve not believed on Christ, you are in the best place you could be right now.

Seek ye the Lord while He may be found. When is that? It’s like right now. Seek ye the Lord, while He may be found. Call ye upon Him while He is near. If you’re lost, there’s probably 50 souls that could speak to you about Christ. Like Philip, you can open the scriptures, and they can preach unto you Jesus. They can show you the Christ that came to save sinners, not the righteous, but sinners. Seek ye the Lord, while He may be found. Call ye upon Him while He is near. Young people, listen to me. It’s so important if you’re young, don’t think that. Oh, I’m going to live a long time. One day I’ll be an old man like him. It might not be so. Our lives are but a vapor that appears for a short time and then vanishes away. They pass away like swift ships. We know not when we will come to our shoreline. Everyone has a shoreline. Like the waves that beat upon the shore. And God says, hitherto shalt thou come but no further. One day, if you’re lost. Listen, one day, young people listen to me. One day you’re going to come to a day. And God’s going to say, hitherto shalt thou come, but no further, and it will be the day of your death. Death is the reality that we must all consider. If you’re outside of Christ, death is a reality that you must consider. There is an urgency that you would seek the Lord who is before you. This moment is before you in the witness of your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, whoever you’re here with, you hold the precious Word of God in your hands.

Listen, I think about those things with regard to the sinners that are in my own personal society, and they’re in the best place they could be. And I ask God to help me to be faithful, to not only be a faithful speaking witness to them but be a faithful living witness to them, to be an example to them, and to show them Christ through how I live my life and how I speak my words, and how I react to the difficult situations of life. If you’re lost, I implore you, I plead with you, seek ye the Lord. He is full of mercy. But listen, when the sky scrolls back one day, that mercy is going to come to an end. In that day when time shall be no more. The time is short for us who are Christians. The day of your salvation is nearer than when you believed.

And so, beloved, hold fast to that which you have embraced in Christ. He says, that no God has not forgotten to be gracious. Psalm 145 says, the Lord is gracious, full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good. He is good to all, even to you. If you’re lost, God is good to you. He sends His blessings, His rain on the just and on the unjust. God waters the fields of the wicked like He waters the fields of the saints. God is kind to you. He’s good to you. If you’re lost, can you not see this wonderful, merciful, good God? Can you not see it in your own fearful and wonderful making, the creation of what God made you? You are His highest, grandest creation. You were made in the image and likeness of God. Beloved, we’re the ones that fell. We’re the ones that ruined the world. We’re the reason for the curse. But now, God sent forth that man, that perfect man, that righteous man, that innocent man, that excellent man, to die for our sins. And so, the psalmist goes back and he remembers God. He remembers this wonderful God, and he begins to recover himself from his sleeplessness, from his speechlessness. He is able to sleep the sweet sleep of a child of God. Then now he goes back and he says, no. Now I remember the days of old. I remember my gracious God. I remember that His promise will not fail. I remember the days of the Most High, and now I will remember His wonders of old. I will remember all of His work. I will meditate upon it. That’s going to be what I am going to talk about. Beloved, have you ever considered that we speak a different language in Christ now? And that’s what the psalmist says, “I will talk of your deeds.” We don’t speak the language of the world. We speak the language of Christ.

We speak the language of that other world. We’re foreigners, passing through this world, Children of God. When you come into times like the psalmist did, when his soul refused to be comforted, it’s time to go back into our spiritual journals. It’s time to remember the gracious deeds that the Lord has done in your own personal life. It’s time to remember what your God has done for your soul. “Come and see,” Psalm 66. My brother read that the other day. “Come and see, all that fear God, and I will show you what God has done for my soul.” Don’t ever forget those memorials, like the children of Israel. They came out of the River Jordan, and they built a memorial and said, “Go back and tell your children what this Rushmore memorial means. Tell them how God delivered you from the land of Egypt, from the bondage.” But tell them how God gave you this land. Tell them what your God has done for you.

So, after Asaph struggled and wrestled, he knew that God had not forsaken him. He was now able to detach himself from being overwhelmed and consumed by his earthly troubles, and to fix his heart and mind by faith on his faithful God, who was always right there by him. I heard somebody say one day, “You know, God knows when to show up.” And I thought to myself, wait a minute. God doesn’t show up. He’s always up. God’s always there. “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help comes from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer your foot to be moved. Behold, He that keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He that keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is thy keeper.”

“The Lord will protect you from the sun that would scorch you. The Lord will protect you from all evil. He will deliver your soul. He will guard you, and your going out, and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.” Psalm 121. So, lift up your eyes, beloved. Listen, Paul said in the Colossian letter, “If you be risen with Christ, and listen, if you’re in Christ, you’re risen with Christ. Seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affections there. Not in this world, beloved. You need to be detached from it. You need to set your affection on those things above, for you are dead. The old you is dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. That’s your identity now in Christ.”

And so the psalmist, I love these “I wills.” The things that he said he will do, “I will remember the right hand, I will remember my God.” And so his heart was fixed. And how joyfully he proclaimed that he would remember his God. “I will open my mouth with praise, and I will praise Him. I will talk about all that He has done.” Beloved, that’s what our conversation can be. And listen, I’ll tell you, that’s what’s blessed my soul on this second day is every one of you that I have talked to. You didn’t talk about college football. You didn’t talk about the NFL. You didn’t talk about politics. You didn’t talk about any of that. You wanted to talk about the Lord. You wanted to talk about your gracious God. Even my dear brothers that Tim was telling me about that went into the churches, I mean, I was blessed to hear of the zeal to preach the gospel. And to every one of you that I’ve conversed with, I’ve experienced the sweetness of God that has come from your souls. It’s blessed my soul, beloved. You have ministered to my soul. And I’m so thankful to my God for that. And I will be able to look back at this experience, this camp, this fellowship, and I will be able to put that in my journal and say, “Father, I remember these dear saints of God.” How in the Book of Philemon, Paul told Philemon, “The saints of God have been refreshed by you, brother, and you have refreshed my soul.”

And so, this is such a needful time. It’s so good to be detached, to come apart from the world, and to immerse ourselves in Christ, and to immerse ourselves in fellowship one with another. It’s been such a blessing to be here with you. So now, Asaph, as he comes out of his Psalm, he speaks of the wondrous powers of God and how God is in the thunder, and God’s in the depths, and God’s in the water. And I would encourage you to do that. And the Lord’s help me to begin to do that. As I look around at creation, there’s always something to see. Creation itself is shouting; the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day after day utters speech, and night after night reveals knowledge. Beloved, God is all around us. I think of the trees growing upward, holding their hands up to the heavens, praising God for their life. The grass grows green, the life in the pastures—God is all around us, beloved, if we’ll only see. I want to have eyes to see what God is showing me, to see Christ in the Word. I want to have eyes to see the Spirit of Christ in you. I want to have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying. I remember those seven churches. Christ said to the messengers of those churches, “He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying.” I want to hear what the Spirit of God is saying to me.

Beloved, if you come to a place like this where the Word of God is open and as effective as the preacher may be, if he opens up the Word of God and you have ears to hear, God will speak to you. The God of heaven will speak to you. That’s exciting. And listen, I’ll close with this. The world talks about privilege. Well, this is your privilege, and you’re the privileged. You’re the privileged heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ. Oh, beloved, worship God today. I look forward to what’s going to come in the fellowship and the conversation of today.

You know, if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He’ll give us the desires of our hearts. And when we delight ourselves in the Lord, He makes the desires of our hearts right. So, delight yourself in the Lord, and He’ll give you the desires of your heart. I think that’s what the psalmist ended up doing. He delighted himself. He remembered God. And that’s why all throughout the Old Testament, God would say, remember. In Deuteronomy 8, He says, “Remember when you get into that good land and God blesses you and you prosper, don’t forget.” We forget. No, beloved, remember. I’m kind of a dummy. That’s why I journal. And I go back and I read my journal and I’ll say, “Yes, I remember that.”

Beloved, enjoy Christ today. Enjoy fellowship one with another. If you’re outside of Christ, the enjoyment, the happiness that you see is not fabricated. It’s not synthetic. It’s real, and it’s otherworldly. It comes from another world. The love of Christ doesn’t emanate from this world. It’s from another land, and it’s from that land in heaven. And if you see that happiness and it looks foreign to you, I’ll tell you, look harder and see the love of Christ. If you’re lost, you’re with the best people you could be with. Turn from your sins to Christ. See that you’ve sinned against God and you deserve His wrath. You deserve Him to thunder upon you. And the best thing for you to do is to run towards that Father and to bow the knee to Christ, and to turn from your sins and to believe Christ. He died on that cross, that bloody, cruel cross. He died, suffered, and died on that center cross that Barabbas was going to be on.

Here was Barabbas set free. I often wonder if he was after Barabbas was set free. I often wonder if he went back and watched that man who took his place. Well, beloved, that man took your place. If you’re in Christ, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. He died. He was buried. He’ll bury your sins. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. And think about this, and I’m finished. So often we remember things we shouldn’t remember. And we’ll go back and remember our sins. But God says, “Your sins and your iniquities I will remember no more.” That is… I have no words for it. So He died. He was buried. He rose again the third day. God was delighted with that sweet sacrifice, the perfect sacrifice, the blood of His own Son. He rose, He ascended. And that man is seated in the heavens at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty on high. He’s the King right now. He is reigning. And one day we’re going to see Him as He is.

Behold! When you appear, Father, behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God. And He says, “It does not yet appear what we shall be. But when He shall appear, we shall be like Him.” For we shall see Him as He is. I believe Christ today. Christian, rejoice in the Lord. Rejoice in the Lord today. Sing that Scripture song with me. I don’t know if you know it. It goes like this. And please don’t make fun of my singing. “Seek ye the Lord, while He may be found. Call ye upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed because His compassions fail not.

Pray with me, beloved. Thank you, Father, for who You are. Thank you, Father, that You have not forgotten to be gracious. You have not shut up Your tender mercies, Father. You still save sinners, and oh, God, I pray that You would save our beloved sinners, our beloved loved ones who are still lost. Oh, God, would You bring them to Yourself, Father? Draw them with cords of love. Oh, Lord, we thank You for this precious Psalm. What an encouragement to my soul. Father, when the world is going sideways and when things may make no sense, and I’m struggling in times of unbelief, oh, God, may I remember, Father, how gracious, how kind, and how close You are. You are a refuge. You’re our strength. You’re a very present help in trouble. Help us! Father, rejoice our souls. Father, may the words of our mouths now and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight as we go on about this day. Oh, Lord, our strength and our Redeemer, we ask it in the highly exalted name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.