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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Scott: Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms

Psalms 77



Verses 1-20

Psalm 77:1-20. Title. "A psalm composed by " Asaph, and sent by him to that Song of Solomon -master, who was " over the children of Jeduthun." Bp. Patrick. It is however uncertain, when the psalm was written, and whether it refers to the personal trials of the Psalmist, or to publick calamities, or to both combined. Some conjecture that it was composed, as expressive of Hezekiah"s feelings, during his sickness; and others that it was written during the captivity : but, as no reference is made to any of God"s dealings with Israel, subsequent to their deliverance out of Egypt, it seems more likely that it was written as early as the time of David, and by that Asaph who was his contemporary. (Marg. Ref.)

V:1 . The abruptness of the original is very expressive of the agitation of mind, which the Psalmist had experienced. " My voice unto God, and I cried; my voice " unto God, and he gave ear unto me." Till his prayer received a gracious answer, this agitation of mind continued, and he proceeds to describe it, and to shew how he struggled against impatience and unbelief.

(Notes, Psalm 40:1-5. Psalm 116:1-4.)

V:2. My sore.] According to this translation, the Psalmist represents his affliction, whatever it was, as a wound which bled or ran incessantly, wasting his strength during the night, while others were recruiting theirs by sleep.

(Notes, 4. Psalm 6:6-7 - Psalm 32:5-8. Psalm 38:1-10. Job 7:6-14. Isaiah 38: 9- 13.) But the original word is my hand; and it is probable the following is a just paraphrase of the passage : " In the day of my trouble," " I have restlessly implored help from the Lord. In the " night, when men are wont to bury their troubles in sleep, " I have with unwearied diligence spread out my hands " unto him; . . . resolving to admit of no consolation, till I " obtained a gracious answer." Bp. Patrick. (Marg. Ref.)

V:3. " I remembered God, and was greatly disturbed " in mind : I meditated, and my spirit was overwhelmed." " He sheweth that we must patiently abide, although God " deliver us not out of our troubles at the first cry." The Psalmist describes his inward perturbation, by a word expressive of the tumult of the waves in a storm, or that of an enraged, disorderly multitude. It is probable, that conscious guilt gave Satan the occasion of exciting in him dismay and distress, when he reflected on the divine perfections; and that impatience and despondency thus combined, in rendering his soul like the troubled sea : insomuch that the thoughts of the Lord"s mercy and truth, his former kindnesses, and the comfort which he had experienced in religion on other occasions, instead of giving him encouragement, served to enhance his disquietude, now that God hid his face from him, and seemed to become his enemy.

Notes, Job 6:1-4; Job 19:5-22; Job 23:13-17 - Jeremiah 17:15-18. Matthew 26:36-39.)

V:4. Our Lord was kept watching during that dreadful night, in which, being " sore amazed and very heavy," he said, " My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death : " this was just before he stood silent in the presence of Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate : and the language in this part of the psalm is so emphatical, that the attentive reader can hardly fail to recollect that of Christ during the depth of his humiliation.

V:5- 12. In these verses the Psalmist describes his inward struggle against unbelief and despair. In the depth of his distress, he applied his mind to meditate on ancient times, when God had wonderfully interposed in behalf of his people, and shewn himself most ready to pardon their sins, compassionate their sorrows, and to hear their prayers. He also determined to recollect his own experience of such mercies and deliverances, as had led him to spend a part of the night in singing praises to God :

(Notes, Psalm 13:6-6. Acts 16:25-28. James 5:13 :) and likewise to call himself to strict account, and diligently to examine and enquire, both the causes, why he was chastened, and when his sorrows should have an end." He was, however, strongly tempted to conclude, that God had cast him off for ever, and would shew him no more favour. "But," says Hebrews , " Can this be ? Can he who was known to delight in mercy cease to be merciful ? Will he break his own promise ? Is he so angry, as no more to pardon the penitent and pity the miserable ? This cannot be. I will reject with abhorrence the dishonourable thought. It is the disease and weakness of my soul, that I ever harboured it. Whatever appearances may be, God continues merciful and faithful, ready to forgive, and plenteous in goodness and compassion. " The years of the right hand of the " Most High," the times when he lifted up his right hand to deliver his people, prove this; I will therefore fix my attention on those ancient works of JEHOVAH, and thus endeavour to encourage my desponding heart, and to calm my conflicting passions." (Notes, Psalm 13:4-5; Psalm 73:1; Psalm 73:15-22. 1 Samuel 30:6.) Most expositors seem to think, that the Psalmist"s alarm and distress were occasioned by publick calamities, in great measure at least. But there is no intimation of this; and personal trials and temptations might be so great and complicated, as to excite the sharp conflict which he so affectingly describes : and indeed these are, in general, more apt to produce the state of mind and experience here described. (Marg. Ref.) " This " consideration makes the eucharistic psalms ever pleasing " and ever comfortable to the mind : they are appeals to " those attributes, which have been so often displayed, in " the cause of the church; they are acts of faith, looking " backward to the past, and forward to the future; they " are praises, and they are prayers." Bp. Home.

V:13. The Psalmist"s faith and grace now obtained the ascendency over his rebellious will, his unbelief, and his temptations; and he was satisfied, that the " way of God" (or the exercise of his sovereign authority, over the world, the church, and every individual,) is under the direction of infinite Wisdom of Solomon , and ordered in perfect justice, truth, and goodness. (Note, Psalm 25:10.) It is "in holiness," and so consists with his testimonies, his promises, and his covenant. It is " in the sanctuary;" and being beyond the reach of man"s wisdom cannot be understood, except by those who enter into the sanctuary, and weigh all things in the balances of the sanctuary. For his unrivalled, his infinite greatness, seems to doud the glory of his justice and goodness, to the sinful children of Adam. (Notes, 19 , 20. Psalm 36:5-9. Psalm 92:4-7. Psalm 97:2. Romans 11:33-36.)

V:14 , 15. "Thou art the mighty God, who canst do " miracles, as easily as the most ordinary works : . . . having delivered thy people descended from Jacob, and mi" raculously preserved by Joseph, from the Egyptian bond" age, by a long series of stupendous judgments upon " Pharaoh and his servants." Bp. Patrick. (Marg. Ref.) The people. (14) Peoples, plural; the surrounding nations.

V:16- 18. The waters, even to the bottom of the Red sea, are here most poetically described as affrighted, and as rendered sensible of the presence of God their Creator with Israel, and as obedient to his will; nay, all nature is represented, as put into consternation and violent commotion before him. (Note, Psalm 114:3-8.) It is probable, that the destruction of the Egyptians was attended by most tremendous and destructive tempests, thunders, lightnings, and earthquakes. (Marg. Ref. Notes, Exodus 14:1-31; Exodus 15:1-19.)

V:19 , 20. All the dispensations of God towards his people are in mercy; but, like Israel"s passage through the Red sea, they are often attended with circumstances of dismay. His ways of dealing with them can no more be traced, than the path of Israel, when he led them, as a flock, through the Red sea; (Notes, Is. Ixiii11- 14;) and they are called to trust in him, while he conducts them by a way, with which they are wholly unacquainted, and which is displeasing and discouraging to the flesh. (Marg. Ref.) By these meditations the Psalmist at length found his heart encouraged; and therefore he left them upon record for the benefit of posterity. (Notes, Ixxiii18- 28.)


In this world our praises are often interrupted by complaints. Sin, temptation, affliction, the calamities of the church, and the miseries of the world, must cause us to " groan, being burdened." (Note, Romans 8:18-23.)

When the heart is greatly pained, nature expresses that pain by the voice; but grace will teach us to send our cries to heaven with earnest importunity for relief. Yet sometimes even those, who are instant in prayer, may be tempted to despond, and to overlook the sources of comfort which are pointed out to them; and a deep sense of their own unworthiness may afford Satan an opportunity of suggesting such gloomy apprehensions, that even thoughts of God may increase their disquietude and hor- ror. Thus the eyes may be holden from sleep, and the mouth may be closed, while sorrows too big for utterance distend and distract the heart. But this will not last very long with the upright believer : the troubled fountain will work itself clear again; and even the recollection of former times of more joyful experience, though it cause his wounds to bleed afresh, will often suggest a hint, or inspire a hope, tending to his relief. It Isaiah , however, always good to " commune with our own hearts; " and to " make " diligent search," concerning the cause, the intention, and the remedy of our distresses; especially, that we may ascertain, whether, notwithstanding our unworthiness, we be indeed truly humbled believers. And if the enemy would lead us to suspect, that the " Lord will cast off his " people for ever," and be no more favourable to them, we should reject the injurious suggestion with horror and indignation. What ! will God no more favour those who have walked with him, and are now mourning after him ?

Has his everlasting mercy come to an end ? Is his faithful promise failed ? Has God forgotten to be gracious, and in anger shut up his tender mercy ? And will he dishonour himself, by leaving the humble, penitent, praying soul to perish ? (Note, Psalm 13:5-6.) It is our infirmity, for which we should rebuke ourselves, if we have for a moment entertained such thoughts : and we should without delay turn our minds to more encouraging meditation. The years of ancient times, and the Lord"s wonders for his people of old, form proper subjects for our contemplation and discourse on such occasions; as they are illustrious evidences of his power, mercy, and love to his church. But the mysteries of redeeming love, and the great events which attended the Saviour"s sufferings, and exaltation to his glorious throne, should be our favourite theme. There all the divine perfections are displayed : and the sinner, who un- derstands and believes the sure testimony of Scripture on this subject, will be encouraged to expect every thing from the power, truth, and love of that God, who " spared not " his own Song of Solomon , but delivered him up for us all, that with " him, he might freely give us all things." (Notes, Romans 8:28-34.) It is true, that the Lord"s way is " in the " sea," but it is also " in the sanctuary : " he leads his people through deep waters of affliction or temptation but he goes with them, and brings them forth, when he lias thus destroyed their enemies. We cannot trace his footsteps, nor understand the reasons of his dispensations : but we are called to believe that he will guide us by his counsel; and that those things, which we are tempted to ascribe to his having " forgotten to be gracious," are the result of his unsearchable wisdom choosing for us, in order to our good, what we should never have chosen for ourselves. If he see proper, he can soon raise up such instruments as Moses and Aaron, to lead his people, like a dock, through intervening seas and deserts, to their inheritance : and if the under shepherds neglect their charge, he will feed and guide them himself. " Happy then are " the people who are in such a case; yea, blessed are the " people, who have the LORD for their God."


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Bibliography Information
Scott, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 77:4". Thomas Scott: Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms. 1804.

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