If You Don’t Believe in the Sovereignty of God,
the Only Alternative is Bitterness.
The seeds of bitterness are sown in the soil of self absorption. We read in the first half of Psalm seventy seven about the bitterness of heart which Asaph experienced. His self absorption is revealed with twenty two personal references to himself and only eleven words having reference to God. When he sought the Lord (verse two) his soul refused to be comforted. His remembrance of God caused him only to groan (verse three). Verse four related that he was too troubled to speak or even sleep. His questions of God in verses eight and nine are as follows. Has your love vanished? Has your promise failed? Has mercy been forgotten? Has your compassion been withheld? Asaph is looking for answers in himself and finding only a spirit of bitterness.
In verse ten, we see the result of the Holy Spirit’s work in his heart. He states “This is my infirmity” (KJV). What does he mean by this? He is relating that the condition of mind which causes him to have bitterness (expressed in verses 1-9) is his infirmity. What is the answer? The answer is in remembering that these are “The years of the right hand of the Most High.” (KJV) G. Campbell Morgan makes this comment regarding these years. “They are the years of the right hand of the Most High, the years that are held within the hand of God, the years that are molded, conditioned, and made by that hand. Nothing in the years of the Psalmist’s own life is outside the hand of God. The right hand is a symbol peculiar to Hebrew thought and literature, and is used perpetually to mark some great fact in the character and person of God. Law and righteousness (Psalm 48:10), salvation and strength (Psalm 17:7, 20:6), action and love (Psalm 118:16, Song of Solomon 2:6), and the deep, full satisfaction of every necessity of human life in pleasure forevermore (Psalm 16:11)-all these things, to the mind of the Hebrew, were wrapped up in that magnificent figure of the right hand of the Most High. The years of my life, now says the Psalmist, are years conditioned in law and righteousness-years in which there is the perpetual outworking of salvation and the unceasing manifestation of strength; they are years in which God is active for me, years in which I am perpetually caressed by the love and tenderness of the Divine heart, years which, because they come from the hand of God, are years of the making of eternal and undying pleasure.” The Westminster Pulpit, Volume III, Baker Book House 1954-55, Pages 14-15.
What effect do these “Years of the right hand of the Most High” have on Asaph? In the last half of the Psalm we find only three personal references and twenty four to God. Self consciousness is absorbed by God consciousness and His sorrow is replaced by the Lord’s strength. His bitterness vanishes and is replaced by praise and worship. It is the revelation of the splendor and majesty of God that transforms the bitter self absorbed heart into a God conscious heart. The consciousness of God’s sovereignty in all His dealings with the Psalmist has removed all bitterness.
The Glory and Might of God are similarly revealed to others in Scripture, declaring His Sovereign rule and removing bitterness. In appealing to the bitterness of His servant Job, the Lord revealed the riches of His knowledge and power. (Job Chapters 38-41) It was this revelation that changed the self consciousness of Job into God consciousness which stated “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” (Job 42:3)
Each of us has experienced, or will experience, years which Asaph describes in the first nine verses of Psalm seventy seven. They may involve personal, family, church, or community issues. Health concerns, financial struggles, job difficulties, loneliness or unresolved interpersonal conflicts are problems which are commonly encountered. The last three years of our lives have been “Years of the right hand of the Most High.” In the space of eighteen months, from June 2016 to January 2018, all four members of our family underwent major surgery. In one of our daughters, it was to prevent the occurrence of cancer. The other three of us had cancer which was not able to be entirely removed by surgical excision. Months of chemotherapy followed for the three of us, with days of nausea, poor appetite, loss of taste and lack of sleep. The chemotherapy has caused a continuing neuropathy in my wife. Thankfully, both my wife and I are in remission at the present time. Our oldest daughter, however, is still dealing with the presence of cancer and requiring continuing treatments. Many people have come to our support with their encouragement and prayers. Through their continued ministry to us, we have remembered that our Sovereign Lord is in charge of each detail of our lives and that we can rest assured in His loving care. The Lord has been faithful throughout our journey to enable us to remember that all these days are being held in His loving right hand. When someone remarks, “You probably feel like the rug is pulled out from underneath you,” we can recall Deuteronomy 33:27. “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” When the rug is pulled out and we hit the absolute bottom, there we find the everlasting arms! These are the sovereign arms of our loving Lord wrapping around us in tenderness and assuring us that His infinite love and His unfathomable knowledge are in total control of our lives.
His might, His power, His splendor and His glory change all self consciousness to God consciousness. It is the consciousness of God’s Sovereignty that will remove all bitterness from the hearts of those who are afflicted. It is my prayer that when “The years of the right hand of the Most High” come into your life that you will remember that you are being held by the everlasting arms of our Sovereign Loving Lord.
In Christ, Richard Spann