- Note to the music leader: For Jeduthun.1 A psalm of Asaph.2
When God goes silent
- 1 I cried to God, screaming loudly.
My voice carried to him, and God heard me.
- 2 The day of the trouble,
I went right to the Lord.
I prayed through the night,
But found no comfort in words.
- 3 My mind wanders to memories of God.
I groan. I complain. And my spirit breaks.
- 4 I’m too troubled to sleep.
Too troubled to speak.
- 5 I keep thinking of the good ol’ days,
Years long gone. Long gone.
- 6 I remember the songs
I used to sing at night.
Then my heart starts to wonder
If I’ll ever get answers.
- 7 Has the Lord banished me forever?
Is there no chance of a second chance?
- 8 Has he made up his mind for good?
Is this the end of the promise4 he gave us?
- 9 Has he lost his kindness?
Has anger killed his compassion?
Heartbreaking memories of God
- 10 Then I said, “Here’s what breaks my heart:
God is now backing someone else, and not us.”
- 11 Well, at least I remember what the LORD did.
I haven’t forgotten miracles from a long time ago.
- 12 I’m thinking again about what you’ve done.
And I’m grateful for what I remember.
- 13 When you do something, you get it right.
What god could compete with this God?5
- 14 You are the God of miracles.
You’ve made your strength clear to the world.
- 15 You once used that power to save your people,
descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
God parted the water for Moses
- 16 Years ago, God, the water saw you.
It saw you and began to tremble with fear.
From the depths of the sea, it began to rumble and roll.
- 17 Clouds wept rain.
Skies screamed thunder.
Lightning fired flaming arrows.
- 18 A whirlwind spoke in thunder.
Lightning lit the earth.
Dirt just sat and trembled.
- 19 You were going to walk through the water.
You were headed out through the sea.
Yet you would leave no footprint behind.
- 20 You led your people
Like a flock of sheep
With their shepherds,
Moses and Aaron.
Jeduthun was a famous music director at the worship center when David was king, before his son Solomon built the Jerusalem Temple (1 Chronicles 25:6). He also walked with David in that happy parade when David brought the sacred Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. It was a gold-plated wooden box holding the tablets with the Ten Commandments that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai, after his meeting with God (1 Chronicles 16:42).
The subtitle wasn’t part of the original psalm. And the possible byline “of Asaph,” isn’t necessarily a byline. The vague phrase could mean the song was written by Asaph, about Asaph, or was inspired by Asaph. Asaph led a musical family in the tribe of Levi, one of the 12 tribes that made up the original nation of Israel. Levite families worked as priests and worship leaders and worship assistants for the Jewish nation. Asaph was a leader of worship music during the time of King David (1 Chronicles 16:5). His family carried on the musical tradition, showing up five centuries later, when a Jewish man named Nehemiah, in the 500s BC, helped rebuild Jerusalem after Babylonian invaders from what is now Iraq leveled Jerusalem in 586 BC.
The word in the original language of Hebrew is selah. Bible scholars haven’t figured out what it means yet, so all we can do is guess. It could mean “pause for effect,” “instrumental interlude,” or “choir singing ‘Amen.’” We’re offering a guess instead of selah. Though selah might be the better way to go because it’s always correct, it’s also always incomprehensible. “Instruments” has a good chance of being wrong, but at least we convey the idea that the Hebrew word behind it probably has something to do with enhancing the song.
The songwriter was probably talking about the covenant agreement, or contract, God made with ancestors of the Jewish people, through Abraham. Many rules of the agreement were spelled out through the laws the Bible says God gave the Jewish nation through Moses. When Jewish people talk about the covenant, they are often talking about laws preserved in the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The covenant between God and the Jewish people was a two-way street. The Jews obey God’s rules, and God protects them and blesses their work with prosperity. Benefits for obedience and the consequences for breaking the contract were detailed by Moses in a speech shortly before he died (Deuteronomy 27—28). When Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC and deported many survivors, Jews wondered if this meant the end of them as God’s Chosen People and the end of the contract. Prophets said it was not the end, and that God was the God of the second chance and third and however many times it takes for people to fully regret their hurtful choices in life.
More literally, “Your ways are holiness. What god is as great as God?”