Here we have more Psalms from the Asaph collection. As we saw in yesterday’s reading, Asaph was appointed by David to be in charge of music at Jerusalem. However, after his death, those in charge of music in the Temple continued to write psalms in Asaph’s name. This may be one such psalm, with the destruction of Jerusalem as a historical background.
The psalmist laments the fact that God does not seem to be acting in behalf of his people but rather is spurning them. Then, in verse 11, the psalmist finds an antidote to his own depressive mood: “I will remember your wonders of old.”
Often, when we face difficult times, we forget how God has provided for us in the past. Thus, before we can handle the challenges of the present, we must have an attitude change. For as someone has said, “Attitude determines altitude.” The key to a proper attitude adjustment in this instance is to remember God’s wonders of old—whether they be the wonders recorded in Scripture or God’s wonders performed in our own lifetimes.
“Remembering” seems to me to form a theme, or sub-plot, in these four psalms. In Psalm 78, the longest psalm other than 119, the problem of the Ephraimites is that they forgot what the Lord had done, and the miracles he had shown them. (Psalm 78:11)
In his Templeton Address in 1983, Alexander Solzhenitsyn stated very simply, but eloquently, the reason for most of the problems in the world. He said, “Men have forgotten God.” So it is in our own lives as well. When we forget God, when we leave God out of the equation, we run into problems.
In contrast to this, the psalmist notes that God does not forget us. “He remembered that they were but flesh…” (Psalm 78:39) God knows we are simply human. He knows our weaknesses, and thus he shows us mercy.
Psalm 79, once again, has the destruction of Jerusalem as its historical background. Given that Jerusalem lies in ruins (79:1) and that this is due to Israel’s sins, the psalmist pleads with God: “Do not remember against us the iniquities of our ancestors; let your compassion come speedily to meet us.” (79:8)
Just as this was the only hope for the Jews of old, so it is the only hope for us as well. We need God to remember us, for after all, if God does not hold us in his memory, then we will cease to exist. Yet, at the same time, we need God to forgive and forget our sin.
Now, when we speak here of God forgetting our sin, it is not as though our actions actually slip from God’s memory. That is not possible for an omniscient being. When we forget things it is due to our weakness, but God has no such weakness. “Not remembering,” on God’s part, is a much more active thing. God actively chooses not to remember our sins against us. In other words, God can choose not to hold our sins against us. That is what we desperately need him to do for us. Such “not remembering” is possible only because God has taken our sins upon himself in Jesus Christ and therein extinguished our evil.
Psalm 80, though it does not use the word “remember,” is essentially a prayer asking God to remember us. Perhaps this is one of the greatest prayers that we can pray. It is the same one uttered to Jesus by the thief on the cross. “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)