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The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
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December 29, 2021 7:00 am


The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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December 29, 2021 7:00 am

We find ourselves discouraged at times in our walk with the Lord. We don’t see the blessings that were once abundant but now seem nowhere to be found. Today with Dr. James Boice we’ll be studying Psalm 77. The psalmist, Asaph, is discouraged. He knows God is good, but it seems like a long time since he’s seen evidence of that goodness. Join us as Asaph deals with the discouragement of feeling distant from God.

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The things that can make us feel distant from the love of God are many, but there is a solution as we remember the things that God has done for us and accomplished in our lives. It's hard to stay discouraged for very long. In Psalm 77.

Asaph asked the Lord some questions and those very questions help jog his memory concerning the goodness of God to the Bible study our radio and Internet broadcast with Dr. James Boyce preparing you to think and act biblically have God's promises failed as he forgotten to be merciful really never show his favor again, these are just some of the things the psalmist asked himself in the midst of his doubts and discouragement. Join Dr. Boyce as he examines Psalm 77 and see how Asaph answered his own questions as he reflected on the deeds of the Lord and the miracles of long ago were in a section of the software that contains the songs of asset are not exactly sure who this man is in every case it was a massacre was a he wrote some of the Psalm. Some of them don't quite fit his timeframe thought maybe they were more than one. The one by this name.

It may be a school of poets who wrote the Psalms and I take the name from the original Mama whoever he may of been one thing you gotta say, for me, tells it, as it is not too many Russians do that week week talent as we think it should be here. We want other people to think it is with loss bond and assess Casey really speaks of right movies discouraged the is doubtful about what God is doing in his life or the life of the nation.

He just cares about his respectful find and criticizing God say God you don't know what you're doing her. It's unjust for you to of gone that he does anything like that. But if he sees a problem. He doesn't hesitate to mention it.

This great of Israel wherever he may have been in the 77th Psalm is remembering the past why I have entitled this remembering. He looks back to the past and he remembers days in the past when God was close to him and when the blessing of God in his life was evident, and furthermore he looks at the nation than he realizes that there were days of great blessing for the nation to another, hasn't been any of that for a long time and he can say about God seems to cease to God was good hasn't been good recently. God is merciful, but it hasn't been merciful recently and slow as he thinks about this is memory is solved for the past drag him down and discourage them and he doesn't find any comfort. Now it's worth asking right at the beginning whether we have been through times like that of your been through times like that.

I suppose the answer has to be at least a few been a Christian for any length of time. Of course, there have been times in our lives swam as we look back it seems I could use to have been better at it isn't anymore. Nothing seems to be going right these days and so you raise the question where is God when we really need them was all right to say, God acted in the past, but I'm not living in the class I living right now and I want to know where God is where you really need them relent is sort of thing that is in this man's mind now the obvious division of this Psalm is into two parts versus one through nine, and then 10 through 20 and the key verse of turning point is verse 10, but isn't quite as simple as that. Each of those paths can be divided and other parts as many as three parts a piece of sort of what the new international version does. If you pay a great deal of attention to that word see lot which should parts from time to time throughout the Psalms and suppose that it marks a break rally or three of them here. You Psalm broken into four parts.

You get meaningful parts out of that doesn't always work that way.

But that seems to hear this is the way Charles Haddon Spurgeon handles it exit up into four parts list great treasury of David that he wrote I think it's helpful to follow the stands as the new international version is what I'm going to do their are six of them and they mark sections and stand by themselves and what is perhaps most significantly unfolded kind of progression and assess for spiritual progress through various stances of the Psalm. One thing we want to be looking out as we look at this on closely are the pronouns you follow the NIV translation, which is what we have to do is what we have in front of official notice within the first six verses of the Psalm, there are eight teen occurrences of the first-person singular pronoun. Let's fire me.

18 of eye compares with six references to God either by name, title or pronoun. So emphasis on the first part of the Psalm is on psalmist himself over God by our proportion of 3 to 1. Go to the end of the Psalm of the landscape verses that is 13 through 20.

You find that there are 21 mentions of God and no personal references at all, only possible exception is one plural possessive hour which occurs in verse 13, so you don't study it at any other level of anatomy and is looking at the pronouns understand what is happening here is he is moving away parts that are concentrated on himself.

Thoughts that are consecrated on and you see that makes a big difference now.

The first answer is composed verses one and two and there an expression of his plaintiff when I was mentioning earlier God and seem to be working in his life anymore seem to be working in the life of the nation. He had done at the poet remembers that that's what is going to be talking about in the second stanza, but what is talking about here is his problem. You look at verse two when you say really seems to be on the right track what he says in verse two.

Is this I was in distress. I sought the Lord, you say all you that's just the thing you want to do. He does right at the beginning of what he means by that he means he sought the Lord, the Lord wasn't there. He's really complaining. Say so.

Even when he brings God in that first stanza. It's a way of saying, but God was absent versus same night I stretched out untiring hands. My soul refused to be covered. A search on his hands asking for God to give them something in his hands were empty. That's what you saying one of the Psalm. The commentators on the Psalm asks psalmist question this way. Why does God let things go on as long and as tragically as they do without giving any tokens of his interest and concern. I could never experience that you have been a Christian very long and unchristian of all, because all of us go through times like that you pray and you just don't seem to get an answer.

You remember better days and the present seems to be a contrast now. This portion of the Psalm appeal very strongly.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

I mentioned it many times because one of the classic studies of the Psalter is called the treasury of David and it was produced by Spurgeon with considerable help, he had that people working on it appeared originally in seven volumes available today and three and it's probably a collection of Spurgeon's own comments on the Psalm.

Verse by verse.

But it has within it. Also a section of gleanings from writers that came before, and finally at the end. A little section of suggestions for preachers on the saw. It really is a masterful thing now. Spurgeon produced that between the years 1865 and 1885 Zoe worked on that for 20 years now. During those years he had bad health.

Health was declining and they continued to decline until his eventual death in 1892 when he had was neuralgia, inflammation of the nerves and gout. Lot of thing that people talk about a great deal today, but a very painful thing people do have it and it was a serious thing in his diet left him with swollen red, painful limbs of the quite frequently.

He couldn't walk hardly move around and he certainly couldn't write. He had debilitating headaches, migraines with acute migraine headaches and the result of this was acute depression.

I got so down in his spirits as a result of his physical ailments that the was almost at times the very edge of despair. I finally got medical attention they decided that the only thing he could do was leave the climate of London, which contributed to malady out and so on and go to Southern France during the winter months, which he did used to go down there starting in November, he was there, December and January and the matter fact he was in France at the village of Menton on the coast. When he finally died on January 31 year 1892 alleges background to give you some idea what he is talking about when he makes a comment on this all is reading the massive says he puts himself in massive shoes. Any comments this way.

Some of us know what it is, both physically and spiritually to be compelled to use words like this, no respite has been afforded us by the silence of the night. Our bed is been a rack to us. Her body is been impairment and our spirit in anguish little later on instead of speaking to the reader. He speaks directly to God. Alas, my God, the writer of this exposition is referring to himself well knows what I serve an ass of meant or his soul is familiar with the way of grief, deep glands and lonely caves of soul depressions. My spirit knows full well your awful glutinous well.

I asked the question again.

I never felt that way most of us will say yes at times and some of us will say yes. I'm feeling that way right now is exactly what my condition is now to see how he moves from outlook on the progress you Before we move on. Notice again. The pronouns in this stanza in the stanza asset is preoccupied with himself.

The pronoun I occurs five times in the pronouns near my occur twice more. Now that's all right wrong, saying, this is the way I feel because I really do feel this way Bob is not afraid of the truth so that's why you feel you need to talk about the problem is not moving on from there. See some of us bogged down at that point we never get to thinking about God and that's what's wrong we have to go on is no point rehearsing our disappointments endlessly well asset moves on to see how now the second stanza, verses three through six are ones in which he tells the reader a little bit more about his depressed state of mind and he says, as I already pointed out that bothersome is that remembers days were better is either never been any better days when the moment he met numbers how good it used to be minor fact that word remember is the important word in the stanza at appears again. Stanza four. Here is remembering his former happiness little later on what he remembers is the mighty deeds of God.

That's a significant shifted his focus but see here is remembering the past. Now to get in the spirit of these verses a little but you just have to read them perceptively to see what's really going on first verse as I remembered you all. God out. Like I said in the beginning that something that sounds good doesn't it. In the second verse. He said when I was in distress. I sought the Lord here in the third verse he says I remembered you all got that sounds fine. What he saying is that when he sought the Lord, the Lord wasn't there when he remembered God well what he remembered is that things had been now gone and forgotten them. See you read on what you find is that he's really still thinking about himself. I remembered you God box. I'm still the way I am God's pushed off the periphery.

It makes us think a little bit about that prayer of the Pharisee who prayed exactly that way is a big difference course this man believing man he believes in God template that's part of his problem.

The Pharisee wasn't a believer in all the Pharisee prayed the same kind of prayer Pharisee began by praising God the why Jesus said he really was praying about himself and it's very clear because he went on to say, I thank you that I'm not like all other men, robbers, evildoers, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. So Pharisee knew how you're supposed to pray. You say Almighty God. What he really think about is other people, compared with himself bears other people to himself.

He thinks he pretty good medevac things he exceptional and is not really prayer at all. If something like that here. Massive says I remember you of God, but is actually remembering the past of a negative way. The best thing we can say about the second stanza is that his focus is beginning to shift, albeit slightly say instead of merely thinking about how miserable he is. He is at least thinking that there was a time when he wasn't what made it not miserable in the plasters that God was there. Maybe saying God you're not here now but nevertheless he getting the shift, albeit slightly still a lot a lot of eyes in the stanza six of them were my occurs four more times. Good bit, but is beginning to change, just a little bit now in the next answer he's going to develop this a little bit. At least he has begun to think about God, which is mentioned.and so now he begins to go with it.

Just a little bit more, God seems to have been absent to abandon him, and he tells the questions were going through his mind as he thinks about this is good series of questions are rhetorical questions doesn't answer the questions he throws out. But here they are verses 7 to 9 with the Lord reject this forever will never show his favorite again is his unfailing love vanished forever.

As promised, the overall time as he forgotten to be merciful, as he in anger without his compassion is what he thinks is happening is a the very articulation of the questions begins to suggest the answer is a believer can't raise a question like that an answer it negatively. Lord reject this forever. Will he never show his favorite answers, of course not by the faithful.

Although he's raising these questions in the negative way saying this is what I'm feeling as is the distress I have.

At least she's raising the questions he is articulating them is thinking theologically is beginning to draw him back into contemplating the very character of God. And when he does that to say that answer begins the bubble to the surface.

No, not our God is not like that he does not change.

He does not break his promises, his mercies, why is mercies are new every morning. All of this almost doesn't believe that God is favorable and loving and kind and merciful and faithful to his promises. It's because he's not singing thing correctly is Psalms when something's wrong. He has to look at it again member what the apostle Paul wrote in Romans while said let God be true and every man a liar seen the goddess in true God is. So the problem is in us.

Let's look at the pronouns again in the stanza's in the last stanza he began to consider God, though in a negative way. In this stanza references to God predominate still negative questions but at least he's not in it and it's God they are instead the Lord in verse seven God in verse nine and the pronouns he or his route at least six times Alexander McLaren's another one of the great commentators on the Psalms, and he thinks about this a little bit.

He says Dr. better put in the plain speech the line diffused and darkening like poisonous myths in the heart is about. That's right is is better to be down there than somebody who is strong in faith. But if you're doubting is better at least to express what McLaren is saying it's true isn't it. Some people take special pride in the negative and other agnostics are delighted to be agnostics or product are not really searching for answers. There are unbelievers were proud of their unbelief. There are doubters were proud of their doubt that contact with a lot of them like the cunning people to believe in the thing are simpletons because Melanie really saw deeply the way I do doubt like I do praiseworthy about that. It's far better to be a man or woman of faith are doubting is better articulated as you don't get anywhere with this sort of model around there in the back what you need to say is this is what I'm doubting. And this is why.

And that is that right. It does not measure up against what I know of the character of God. The first nine verses in the first half. It's the downward side begin to get a change in verse 10, and from this point on is all uphill.

The problem with verse 10 is it is difficult to interpret election the remember we had in Psalm 73.

Something exactly like that were had a turning point asset was saying and that's all my feet almost slept but I went into the sanctuary of God. That's right, that's right, not when the question about that will exactly what he was saying here is a bit puzzling. And the reason for that is that two of the words in verse 10 that have different meanings. Perfectly legitimate meetings. The word that is translated appeal in the new international version do this I will appeal might be word for supplication for the prayer which is where you get appeal is might be my supplication.

Or it could be the word for affliction. Hence, a wound or grief is like pain is my sorrow be able to translate it that way and in the same way the word that is rendered years the years of the right hand of the most high, good years, or it can also mean change because the years go around and change. That's why same Hebrew word has double meaning. Now if you take those various interpretations of those two words you have for possible meetings for the verse we get them. First of all, this is my appeal.

The years of the right hand of the most high is my grief or sorrow years of the right hand of the most taught number three.

This is my grief right hand of the most high is changed or number for this my appeal lay right hand of the most time is change what you do that interesting thing about that is that each one of those four meanings makes sense a lot of them equally. But got a valid meeting out of them. If we choose the first, then the idea is that in his present depressed state. This almost will encourage himself by appealing to the merciful acts of God.

In past years. That's okay. I'm down so I'm going to think about what God is done in the past for me.

All right, which is the second worst talking about his grief and he is explaining that his distress comes from remembering what God is done in the past. That's exactly what we seen in the earlier stanzas, that of course is that is all it means, then this really is in a transition versus just a recapitulation. The third view is like the second. It would say that acids grief comes from the fact that God is acting differently from what he did in the past. Good to me in the past weeks change acting good anymore and the fourth one or greetings.

Not a good one, but it could mean that since God is changed in one direction that is for mercy to indifference.

Maybe he's going to change back again to be favorable, I said it's not a very good meeting but you know you can understand that might be set out when we do other two factors that to this in the direction of the NIV translation first. The Hebrew word translated years in verse 10 also occurs in verse five where it has to mean years but change because it's parallel to the words of former days, remembering the former days and is the former year so Mean change their benefit doesn't mean change in verse five.

It probably doesn't mean change verse 10 either a more secondly from verse 10 onward. This almost reviews what God has done in the past years where the Psalm is moving so gotta really take it that way. This point his review of the past cause for grief is expressed the grief in the first half of the Psalm, but rather it's the foundation for spiritual growth and comfort. Now, at this point.

This word remember comes back verse 11. I will remember the deeds of the Lord.

Yes, I will remember your miracles long ago what he was remembering in the past was the fact that his past was different from his present was causing an grief thing about himself.

Now is the Ginza remember thinking back on what God is done in the classes attention is shifting God what he begins to remember is God's mighty deeds as displays of power. Look, it's there and a lot of different places when he remembers about God is what he puts in the next day that is verses 13 to 15. This is all about August 1 and was all about himself.

Now this is all about God when he recalls about God is three things. First of all, God is holy, I will meditate on your works.

Verse 12 and consider your mighty deeds. Verse 13 this is what I remember and consider your ways of God are holy holiness of God is a very rich concept. One of the hardest attributes of God for us to understand because it's all embracing and it has more to do with the transcendence of God than what we call moral righteousness or uprightness, but it does include the lesser idea here. This point of the solvent probably does have to do with upright conduct what he saying here is that God has acted rightly in the past God is acted rightly in the class because God doesn't change it. Certainly God is acting rightly in the present. That's beginning to help his because he looks at his present. He says it's not like my past and that's what is discouraging me or not. It seems to me that something is wrong here, but when he begins to think about the holiness of God. He realizes it is not wrong, whatever's going on is something that God is doing rightly so we begin to think maybe what's happening to me.

Here is intended by God. Maybe it's for a good purpose. Maybe I need to learn from it. Rather than complain about makes us think of all the many verses in the Bible talk about tribulation suffering. That's a tool in God's hands on verse in the New Testament says tribulation works patient's inpatient well I'll pray for patients.

God is a tribulation. That's what you get. Patient and it's intended by God for a good purpose. Well, that's what NASA begins. Remember, that's true of all the things God is doing sickening. He remembers about God is God is great. Also, in advertisement God is as great is our God is and thought about it, you're the one who performs miracles you display your power among the people, and so on.

Yesterday question verse 13 what God is as great is our God and that's a rhetorical question again when the answer is no, God is like our God is what our God does not is a sovereign God is all-powerful on is the word is a that's an important concept to grasp to personally talk about the holiness of God means everything God does is right. Seems right to us are not. Secondly, God is all-powerful, so you can by saying well I mean he wants to do what's right. But things are slipping through his fingers, but Harold Kushner says in his book why bad things happen to good people is not that at all, only the holy God is sovereign God to what is happening is what God wants. And because God is holy. What is happening is right you get a handle on the sleeve you begin to think about your life quite a different way then there's 1/3 thing he remembers and that is a God is a caring God, compassionate God, a merciful God, why well because he acted in the past to redeem his people, meaning that God deliver them from their bondage when they were in Egypt. Verse 15 see how that works. God is caring has been in the past is demonstrated and must be caring today. Caring is upright on the caring and upright is also sovereign what God is doing massive life because he is indifferent because he cares salad begins to throw quite a different perspective on what you go through.

You think back to the things I mentioned at the beginning what I said if you ever felt like you said, I'm sure. Yes, I have maybe some of you are feeling that way now. But you see, you begin to see that not in the light of your own experience alone but see instead in the light of the character of God, your own experience with Jay. So instead of being a reason for your complaining being unhappy and miserable, downcast, despondent becomes a situation in which you say now what is great holy and Harry God doing what's he doing in million 4 million. What if you want to do through me help other people when we come to the last stanza, except for the final verse, which is somewhat separate.

Verses 16 through 19.

And here you have the psalmist carrying through the stanza that they may develop stanza five is talking about here is the exigencies developing it in poetic language. That's what he's talking about. Another words is introduced the idea that God redeemed his people focus on that a little bit about what really matters to them or touches his heart is a God cares remind himself about God showed his care in the past we talked about the cloud came between the Israelites and the Egyptians strong east wind drove back the water so they could cross the Red Sea.

There's some things in the Psalm that are not mentioned in Exodus the account of the crossing either this is a poetic embellishments or something that remained in the traditional memory of the people is not included in the Exodus account of things here. At any rate, whatever it is is talking about the caring grace of God having done that I succumbs the very last verse of what he says is this you lead your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron, one of the commentators read and they say is a very strange and breaks off does not always start with this great wonderful emotional beginning in and any's thinking about God and he's talking about that characteristics of God.

Any misers over the Exodus power of God leading the people out of Egypt and then suddenly he says, God is our shepherd.

The lettuce through the desert by lands of Moses and Aaron and he stops so one of the commentators say lost in the near must been something else along the salt, pointed out that some truth to it that it leads into the next song which picks up at that point goes further and ends by saying that God also shepherded the people through the hand of David carries on more generations thing. That's the answer running the answer is that the Solomons exactly where massive one of the Dan ends with the shepherding grace of God is what he needed to shepherd the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. That's what you needed. So that's what he talks about is the closest God is your shepherd.

That's the point. God is your shepherd need to think about. If you need to reflect on need to rest on. That's what is doing many answers beyond that is resting my hands of the good ship mentioning a number of the commentators one great old commentator Prince Della chair German works are available in translation is a very interesting suggestion at this point, but anything that was in the wineglasses but he says if you want continuity here.

Continuity is found in comparison of the Psalm with the prophecy of a black and probably was aware of his back again later in history the time of the prophets as early probably the time of the Kings, and Habakkuk actually uses some of the language of the Psalm in the last chapter of the prophecy which is similar kind of somber prayer and knowledge, says bracket picks up at this point in the great ending on Psalm 77 is found in Habakkuk 3: Habakkuk was concerned about Habakkuk lived in bad days country was going to pieces was no morality was praying for revival, God, why don't you do something God said I going to do something I'm going to send the Babylonians to punish my people and the Habakkuk drew back and he said that's what I was asking for revival, about an invasion but God said in all invasions coming in a back exit. How can you do that I am in my people are bad. That's why I'm playing with not as bad as the Chaldeans are coming and God began to explain that to Habakkuk 7.

What I do now and God's answer was the just shall live by faith.

And that's what Habakkuk picked up in the letter quoted three times in the New Testament the critical verse there in the first chapter of Romans meant a lot to Martin Luther after got a ton on that lesson. Habakkuk rights installments of the third chapter is all about, and he explains that if you're going to live that way then. Regardless of the times that are coming, knowing that God is your shepherd. You can trust in God very last verses that great Old Testament prophecy say this of the fig tree does not bond. There are no grapes on the line was slow the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food and are no sheep in the pan and no cattle in the stalls yet I will rejoice in the Lord.

I will be joyful God my Savior is the ending Psalm 77 begin with dismay.

Think of the pastor contrasted with the present begin to reflect on God's character and his mighty acts and the bottom line of it all is that God is a caring God movie is cared for you in the past caring for you now.

Time to be aware of it again. So hang in there, regardless of what happens. Rejoice that you have a great great God father were thankful for the lesson you have Psalm a very direct one touches us where we live. We pray that you will bless this many people as they reflect on this as we reflect on this now and the days, weeks, perhaps years ahead blesses through your word and cause us to stand by faith and rejoice, even as great man ass afford to do, do it to the praise of the glory of the grace of Jesus Christ.

Thank you for listening to this message from the Bible study our listener supported ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals. The alliance is a coalition of pastors, scholars and churchmen who hold to the historic creeds and confessions of the reformed faith and who proclaim biblical doctrine in order to foster a reformed awakening in today's church. To learn more about the alliance visit alliance and while you're there, visit our online store reformed resources.

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