The man’s mood matched the dark, foggy night. He walked out his front door and to the walkway’s end, where he stopped and peered through the dense fog. He looked up and down the street in hopes of seeing the Hansom cab as it made its usual evening rounds.
Seeing no cab in sight, the words formed silently on the man’s lips:
Nothing! Am I too late—but no, I must end it all tonight; and the river it must be.
Then, he saw it—a swaying light, the beam of the cab’s lantern, coming ever closer. The man now spoke in hushed, bitter tones:
God, You provided me no solace; but here You provide me with a cab to take me to my death!
A One-Way Fare To London Bridge
The cabby brought his horse to a stop and asked:
The man answered:
In an attempt to make conversation, the cabby asked:
A cold night it is, sir. What sort of business takes you, at this hour, to the bridge?
Receiving no answer, the cabby decided to concentrate instead on the destination, which was only twenty-minutes away. The fog, however, began to thicken and the horse to slow.
An hour later, London Bridge was still nowhere in sight. The cabby strained his eyes to see though the thick as pea-soup fog, but it was almost as if the six-hundred-year-old landmark had disappeared.
Suddenly, the horse stopped and the fog lifted. From inside the coach; the man looked to his immediate right and saw, to his utter amazement, that the cab had stopped directly in front of the entrance to his home. He was right back where he had started.
Come Full Circle
In the thick of the fog, the cabby and his horse had become lost and circled back to their passenger’s point of departure. Relief flooded the man as he tearfully cried out:
My God, You have answered me!
The man in question was none other than William Cowper, one of England’s greatest poets and hymn writers. Paying the cabby, Cowper exited the cab and entered his house.
Meditating on the events that had just transpired and the prevenient grace of God, Cowper found himself drawn to Psalm 77. Inspired by the words of Asaph, the psalmist; Cowper penned, on the very evening he had intended to be his last on earth, the lyrics to the hymn, God Moves In A Mysterious Way:
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.
Down And Out In Jerusalem
Okay, so who was Asaph? Remember when the Ark Of The Covenant was being brought into Jerusalem and King David joyously danced, with all his might, before the Lord? Well, Asaph was the cymbal player in the royal procession. He was one of King David’s three chief-musicians.
Just as Cowper had cried out to God, so did Asaph in Psalm 77.
Psalm 77:1-9 (King James Version)
1 I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me.
2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted.
3 I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah.
4 Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
5 I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times.
6 I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search.
7 Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more?
8 Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore?
9 Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah.
As Psalm 77 unfolds, we find Asaph in the midst of distress—pouring out his heart to God and seeking His mercy. In Verse 4, Asaph even relates that he is so distraught that he can hardly speak.
A Reaffirmation Of Faith
Psalm 77:10-20 (King James Version)
10 And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High.
11 I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old.
12 I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.
13 Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God?
14 Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people.
15 Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah.
16 The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled.
17 The clouds poured out water: the skies sent out a sound: thine arrows also went abroad.
18 The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook.
19 Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.
20 Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
In Verse 10, however, we see Asaph begin to transition from lamenting about God’s silence to proclaiming His strength. Asaph could have saved himself a lot of grief if only he had done that in the first place. Better late, of course, than never!
In Verse 16, Asaph is remembering God’s parting of the Red Sea. With the Red Sea ahead and Pharoah’s army behind, the Israelites were actually more afraid of the former than the latter. After all, there was always the possibility that Pharoah might allow them to simply surrender and return to captivity in Egypt.
Yes, the Israelites were afraid of the sea; but (pay attention here, folks) the sea was even more afraid of God! As Moses’ raised his staff and stretched his hand over the water, the sea fled to make way for God and His people.
In the wake of God; Moses and the Israelites passed safely and surely across dry land that had, only minutes before, been covered by the Red Sea.
Recalling God’s parting of the Red Sea affirms and assures Asaph that he is serving a God of miracles—a God fully capable of handling not only the most epic of crises, but everyday crises as well.
Did you notice that the word, Selah (pronounced See-lah), appears in Verses 3, 9, and 15 of our Scripture text? Always capitalized, Selah is used seventy-one times in the Book Of Psalms and three times in the Book Of Habakkuk. Selah, however, is not Hebrew in origin.
Bible scholars theorize that King David, while fleeing from King Saul and sojourning with the Philistines, learned the Philistine language and incorporated some of their words into the Book Of Psalms. Hence, Asaph would have learned the word, Selah, from King David, himself.
In researching the meaning of Selah, I found the general consensus seems to be that Selah is not a word to be vocalized, but an instruction to be followed. Selah cues the reader to pause, take a breath, and meditate briefly before resuming reading.
Ever since Adam and Eve betrayed God in the Garden Of Eden, evil has reared its ugly head. Evil comes in all shapes and sizes, but none more despicable than the spilling of innocent blood in public places of worship, education, business, and recreation that is becoming more and more prevalent.
God is supposed to be an all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful God, right? Why, then, does He allow evil to happen? The key word here is allow. God does not make evil happen; He allows it to happen. There is a difference.
When we find ourselves in the wake of a major calamity, our human nature tends to question God. We question why some prayers are answered and others are not. We question why some lives are spared and others are not.
Sure, God is able to intervene in man-made and natural disasters, but that does not necessarily mean He will. In her poem, God Has Not Promised, Annie Johnson Smith did a lovely job putting everything into perspective.
God Has Not Promised
God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower–strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.
God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain, rocky and steep,
Never a river, turbid and deep.
But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the laborer, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.
In regard to earthly woes, a dear friend and former pastor of Donna’s and mine once commented:
If everything were perfect here on earth, we would not fully appreciate Heaven.
I have to agree.
May we, like Asaph, find it in our hearts to praise God not just when He makes us to lie down in green pastures and leads us beside the still waters, but also when we walk with Him through the valley of the shadow of death.
Yours in Christ,
Featured Photo: Cecille B. DeMille; The Ten Commandments; Paramount Pictures; Hollywood, California; Film Clip; 1956
To accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, all you need do is open your heart to Him, earnestly repent of your sins, and pray the sinner’s prayer.