Psalm 77:5 (ESV) … “I consider the days of old, the years long ago.”
This is the sixth of a dozen Asaph psalms. We do not know when it was written. The best conjecture is that is was after the Assyrian invasion of the northern kingdom had passed into history and when the Babylonian invasion of Judah was becoming an increasing certainty. The sorrow of the singer in this psalm seems to transcend personal anguish. It has a national character.
In Judah, about the time it became increasingly evident to devout people that Jeremiah was right—that the Babylonians were coming and that Judah was to be handed over to the fierce Chaldeans for a thorough thrashing—there arose a prophet by the name of Habakkuk. He was a most unusual prophet. He seemed more concerned with solving a problem than with delivering a prophecy. Why would God allow Judah to be handed over to the Babylonians? That was Habakkuk’s problem. Why would God allow Israel to be punished by a nation far more wicked than herself? The resemblance of this psalm to the prayer of Habakkuk has been noted by many. The great question is: who borrowed from whom? Did the psalmist borrow from Habakkuk or did Habakkuk borrow from the psalmist? We do not know.
It often happens that great minds think alike. It could well be that, given the same fiery womb of oncoming events, both the singer and the seer gave birth to similar outbursts of anguish. There are notable examples of this in the Bible. God is certainly not above repeating Himself, through different people, in similar language. We only have to compare 2 Peter with Jude to see that.
So here is a little psalm, born out of the sorrow of a devout Hebrew who was aware that God was about to punish Judah, just as He had punished the sister kingdom of Israel. The psalmist’s heart is overwhelmed with sorrow and grief. The psalm also anticipates the troubles of Israel during the days of the beast. Moreover, it gives us a vocabulary of prayer when our own personal circumstances seem overwhelming.
In our focal passage we find a man well-versed in Scripture. Jehovah is a God mightily able to deliver His people. A thousand exploits come to the mind of the psalmist. The books of Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, and Samuel recount God’s power to save. Oh, that God would raise up another Samson to smite the foe or another David for the defense of the kingdom! His thoughts turn to the past exploits of God.
In times of sorrow and trouble we would do well to remember how God has come to our defense.