Psalm 77 – Sleepless Nights Forever

Bible opened to Psalm 77 with Chuao Caramel Apple Crush Chocolate on white plate

Today’s passage: Psalm 77

Today’s chocolateChuao Caramel Apple Crush

Asaph’s got inpsalmnia.

He’s restless and troubled and can’t find any comfort, to the point where it’s affecting his sleep. “You have held my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak” (4), he says to God. Ever have a night like that? Ever ask God why he won’t just knock you out, give you a few hours’ reprieve from the troubles running through your brain?

Asaph’s particular troubles are kept vague here. Things once were okay, now they’re not, and we know little else. In fact, when he remembers how God was good to him during the okay times, he remains disturbed because of the way things have changed. The way even his own memory has turned on him prompts him to ask:

Will the Lord reject forever?
And will He never be favorable again?
Has His lovingkindness ceased forever?
Has His promise come to an end forever?
Has God forgotten to be gracious,
Or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion? (7-9)

If all those “forevers” don’t jump off the screen and smack you in the face, then…well, you might not be reading the English translation, because in Hebrew they’re three different words. Verse seven’s “Will the Lord reject forever?” is the Hebrew olam, conveying a sense of “always,” “continually,” “eternally.” Verse eight’s “Has His lovingkindness ceased forever?” is netsach, which you may remember from Psalm 74. And the second “forever” in verse eight? It’s actually a phrase, l’dor wador, meaning “from generation to generation.”

I’m no Hebrew scholar–I couldn’t even write out the Hebrew alphabet for you–but olam and netsach seem almost identical in meaning to me. It looks Asaph is doing a thing that I commonly do: using a bunch of synonyms as intensifiers for your main point. He wants to know: “How long is God going to keep this up? Is he straight-up done with me?” Never let it be said that there’s no room in Christianity for the hard questions with no apparent answers.

But Asaph makes a turn at the end, which I will mention because I don’t want to leave y’all hanging any more than the psalmist himself does. “You are the God who works wonders; You have made known Your strength among the peoples” (14) he says. He remembers an event that he himself was not present for, the Exodus, with Moses and Aaron and the parting of the Red Sea. And by the end of the psalm, he hasn’t come out of his recollections or brought new insight to his present troubles; he just stays there in his mind, in awe of God’s past miracles, À la recherche du temps perdu.

 

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