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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 11–20
Verses 11–20

The psalmist here recovers himself out of the great distress and plague he was in, and silences his own fears of God’s casting off his people by the remembrance of the great things he had done for them formerly, which though he had in vain tried to quiet himself with (Ps. 77:5, 6) yet he tried again, and, upon this second trial, found it not in vain. It is good to persevere in the proper means for the strengthening of faith, though they do not prove effectual at first: “I will remember, surely I will, what God has done for his people of old, till I can thence infer a happy issue of the present dark dispensation,” Ps. 77:11, 12. Note, 1. The works of the Lord, for his people, have been wondrous works. 2. They are recorded for us, that they may be remembered by us. 3. That we may have benefit by the remembrance of them we must meditate upon them, and dwell upon them in our thoughts, and must talk of them, that we may inform ourselves and others further concerning them. 4. The due remembrance of the works of God will be a powerful antidote against distrust of his promise and goodness; for he is God and changes not. If he begin, he will finish his work and bring forth the top-stone.

Two things, in general, satisfied him very much:

I. That God’s way is in the sanctuary, Ps. 77:13. It is in holiness, so some. When we cannot solve the particular difficulties that may arise in our constructions of the divine providence, this we are sure of, in general, that God is holy in all his works, that they are all worthy of himself and consonant to the eternal purity and rectitude of his nature. He has holy ends in all he does, and will be sanctified in every dispensation of his providence. His way is according to his promise, which he has spoken in his holiness and made known in the sanctuary. What he has done is according to what he has said and may be interpreted by it; and from what he has said we may easily gather that he will not cast off his people for ever. God’s way is for the sanctuary, and for the benefit of it. All he does is intended for the good of his church.

II. That God’s way is in the sea. Though God is holy, just, and good, in all he does, yet we cannot give an account of the reasons of his proceedings, nor make any certain judgment of his designs: His path is in the great waters and his footsteps are not known, Ps. 77:19. God’s ways are like the deep waters which cannot be fathomed (Ps. 36:6), like the way of a ship in the sea, which cannot be tracked, Prov. 30:18, 19. God’s proceedings are always to be acquiesced in, but cannot always be accounted for. He specifies some particulars, for which he goes as far back as the infancy of the Jewish church, and from which he gathers, 1. That there is no God to be compared with the God of Israel (Ps. 77:13): Who is so great a God as our God? Let us first give to God the glory of the great things he has done for his people, and acknowledge him, therein, great above all comparison; and then we may take to ourselves the comfort of what he has done and encourage ourselves with it. 2. That he is a God of almighty power (Ps. 77:14): “Thou art the God that alone doest wonders, above the power of any creature; thou hast visibly, and beyond any contradiction, declared thy strength among the people.” What God has done for his church has been a standing declaration of his almighty power, for therein he has made bare his everlasting arm. (1.) God brought Israel out of Egypt, Ps. 77:15. This was the beginning of mercy to them, and was yearly to be commemorated among them in the passover: “Thou hast with thy arm, stretched out in so many miracles, redeemed thy people out of the hand of the Egyptians.” Though they were delivered by power, yet they are said to be redeemed, as if it had been done by price, because it was typical of the great redemption, which was to be wrought out, in the fulness of time, both by price and power. Those that were redeemed are here called not only the sons of Jacob, to whom the promise was made, but of Joseph also, who had a most firm and lively belief of the performance of it; for, when he was dying, he made mention of the departing of the children of Israel out of Egypt, and gave commandment concerning his bones. (2.) He divided the Red Sea before them (Ps. 77:16): The waters gave way, and a lane was made through that crowd instantly, as if they had seen God himself at the head of the armies of Israel, and had retired for fear of him. Not only the surface of the waters, but the depths, were troubled, and opened to the right and to the left, in obedience to his word of command. (3.) He destroyed the Egyptians (Ps. 77:17): The clouds poured out water upon them, while the pillar of fire, like an umbrella over the camp of Israel, sheltered it from the shower, in which, as in the deluge, the waters that were above the firmament concurred with those that were beneath the firmament to destroy the rebels. Then the skies sent out a sound; thy arrows also went abroad, which is explained (Ps. 77:18): The voice of thy thunder was heard in the heaven (that was the sound which the skies sent forth); the lightnings lightened the world—those were the arrows which went abroad, by which the host of the Egyptians was discomfited, with so much terror that the earth of the adjacent coast trembled and shook. Thus God’s way was in the sea, for the destruction of his enemies, as well as for the salvation of his people; and yet when the waters returned to their place his footsteps were not known (Ps. 77:19); there was no mark set upon the place, as there was, afterwards, in Jordan, Josh. 4:9. We do not read in the story of Israel’s passing through the Red Sea that there were thunders and lightning, and an earthquake; yet there might be, and Josephus says there were, such displays of the divine terror upon that occasion. But it may refer to the thunders, lightnings, and earth quakes, that were at Mount Sinai when the law was given. (4.) He took his people Israel under his own guidance and protection (Ps. 77:20): Thou leddest thy people like a clock. They being weak and helpless, and apt to wander like a flock of sheep, and lying exposed to the beasts of prey, God went before them with all the care and tenderness of a shepherd, that they might not fail. The pillar of cloud and fire led them; yet that is not here taken notice of, but the agency of Moses and Aaron, by whose hand God led them; they could not do it without God, but God did it with and by them. Moses was their governor, Aaron their high priest; they were guides, overseers, and rulers to Israel, and by them God led them. The right and happy administration of the two great ordinances of magistracy and ministry is, though not so great a miracle, yet as great a mercy to any people as the pillar of cloud and fire was to Israel in the wilderness.

The psalm concludes abruptly, and does not apply those ancient instances of God’s power to the present distresses of the church, as one might have expected. But as soon as the good man began to meditate on these things he found he had gained his point; his very entrance upon this matter gave him light and joy (Ps. 119:130); his fears suddenly and strangely vanished, so that he needed to go no further; he went his way, and did eat, and his countenance was no more sad, like Hannah, 1 Sam. 1:18.