(7) Will the Lord reject forever and never again show his favor? (8) Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Have his promises come to an end for all time? (9) Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger withheld his compassion? (Selah) (10) Then I said, “This is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed. (11) I will remember the works of the Lord. Yes, I will remember your wonders of long ago. (12) I will ponder all your work and meditate on your mighty deeds.”
In this segment, one phrase, “I will remember,” is emphasized by repetition twice in one verse (vs. 11). This echoes the earlier phrase, “I remembered,” used twice before (vss. 3 & 6). Five consecutive rhetorical questions which Asaph asks in the midst of his struggles show us how he was reminding himself of God’s faithfulness (vs. 7-9). Each question elicits the same response: “Of course not!”
In addition, three groups of synonyms help us grasp the thrust of the paragraph. First, we encounter several words that convey a sense of perpetuity: “forever,” “never again,” “forever” (a different word), and “for all time” (vss. 7 & 8). Then, we find a second group of synonyms describing the thought process that enables us to overcome our doubts: “remember...ponder...meditate.” In the last two verses, Asaph provides a final group of synonyms regarding what should preoccupy our thoughts, namely Yahweh's “works,” “wonders,” “work,” and “deeds” (vss. 11 & 12).
I. Questions: Has God removed his hand of blessing? (7-9)
II. Conclusion: His past faithfulness encourages us to trust now. (10-12)
When God seems to withhold present blessings, remembering his faithfulness in the past gives us hope for the future.
Verse 10 is difficult both to translate and to understand. The NIV renders it: “To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High...” The NASV offers this phrasing: “It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed.” In both cases, the “right hand of the Most High,” a figure of speech describing the great power and strength of Israel’s God, is in view. The first translation has the psalmist appealing to God to manifest his power in the present as he had in Israel's past (NIV). The other, with a slightly different nuance, has the psalmist grieving over the fact that Israel’s God seems to be disciplining his chosen people by withholding manifestations of his power (NASV). Both translations lead to the same conclusion that God no longer seems to be working in miraculous ways as he had at the time of the Exodus and at other critical moments in Israel’s history.
Many believers today raise the same question: “Why do we not see God working powerful miracles in our day as he did during biblical times?” While most believers would agree that God is able to do anything that he chooses to do whenever he desires, we have to admit that miracles in today’s world seem scarce by biblical standards. Were we to study the entire span of sacred history, we would soon realize that miracles did not occur constantly. At special times we observe spectacular manifestations of God’s power, and at other times almost nothing miraculous seems to be happening.
Students of scripture have observed that those times when miracles were frequent were times when God was doing something new. The miracles that took place during Israel’s exodus from Egypt and the giving of the law at Sinai occurred when God was forming a new nation and bringing his chosen people into the Promised Land. Later, during the days of Elijah and Elisha when God was establishing Israel’s new monarchy, miracles again abounded. During the earthly life of Jesus and in the early days of the church, miracles accompanied the first coming of Messiah and the establishment of his New Covenant ministry. At the end of the Church Age at the Second Coming of Christ, there will be yet another outpouring of signs and wonders the likes of which this world has not yet witnessed. During the in-between times when spectacular miracles occur far less frequently, God’s people, like the psalmist, may be tempted to ask, “God, have you forgotten us forever?”
The answer to this question is found in God’s faithfulness in the past as well as in his promises for the future. While the ways God works may seem to vary from one epoch to another and while we may never witness in our lifetime the miraculous signs our forefathers experienced, God never changes. As Jeremiah phrased it: “Yet this I call to mind and, therefore, I have hope: because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:21-23).