Psalm 77

Psalm 77 is one of those remarkable psalms that begins in a place of felt alienation from God and moves to a place of triumphant praise. It is probably a cry representing the distress of the nation as a whole. It is a great example of a characteristic aspect of biblical spirituality that I address at length in my book Deeper Places (Baker Books, 2013). We see in this psalm, and others like it, that faith is cultivated in the tension between human reality and the divine promises.
In Psalm 77 the reality for the psalmist is that he feels that God has forsaken his people, probably because of external military oppression. The divine promises are implied in the historical precedents of the past. Here we see that faith neither downplays the seriousness of the prevailing situation nor does it lower expectations of what we can expect from God. Rather than seeking to resolve this tension between present reality and divine promise by dialing down either element of the tension, faith is actually dialing up both at the same time. It seems that what is happening here is that the Psalmist is seeking to provoke the faithfulness of God by strong appeals to the key covenant precedents. This is faith at work and it is profound and instructive.
The turning point of the psalm comes as the psalmist begins to reflect on the past acts of God. This is a classic case of the Hebrew idea of walking into the future facing backwards. Reflection on the acts of God in the past creates faith to face the future. The events being referred to here are of course those of the Exodus.

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