The right hand of God…changes everything

I’m doing some study on the theology of illness. As I was reading what Barth had to say about the matter (I’m reading in CD III.4, pp. 356ff), I came across his appeal to Psalm 77:10.

The NIV renders Psalm 77:10 as, “Then I thought, ‘To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.'” Yes, that could make sense in light of verse 11: “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.” In other words, in light of my cry to God for help (cf. v. 1), I can appeal to the history of God’s dealing with his people, the years of his mighty deeds and his deliverance of his people.

But other translations take a different tack. The NRSV renders the verse: “And I say, ‘It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed.'” The New Jerusalem Bible concurs: “And I said, ‘This is what wounds me, the right hand of the Most High has lost its strength.'”

That’s pretty different, isn’t it?

But what could the NRSV translation possibly mean? It may make sense if v. 10 an extension of the lament of v. 9, but the Selah marker of v. 9 seems to indicate otherwise: Verse 10 seems to be the start of a new section.

Part of the problem in translating this verse seems to lie in the word “shenoth” [שְׁנוֹת] which is could be translated either as the verb “to change” or the noun “year.”

But what caught my eye was Barth’s appeal to Luther’s translation of Psa 77:10, which reads:

“Aber doch sprach ich: Ich muß das leiden; die rechte Hand des Höchsten kann alles ändern.”

In English, this translates roughly as, “But I said: I must suffer this; the right hand of the Most High can change everything.”

Read in context, this would be paraphrased as:

“Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion? Selah. But I said: I must suffer this brute fact: The right hand of the Most High can change everything. Indeed, I will remember the deeds of the LORD, yes, I will remember your miracles from long ago.”

He changes everything!

Indeed, in Jesus Christ, the one who sits at the right hand of God, we can be confident: There is nothing present to our situation that God in Christ cannot change!


2 thoughts on “The right hand of God…changes everything

  1. I’d be interested to hear more about this. As I am engaging Barth with a vision toward ethics, rather studying at the intersections of theology and medicine, the theology of illness, of health, of disability are all of great intrigue. These topics, from my perspective, beg us to dabble in Christology, Anthropology, etc.

    So, if you have time to share more about this interest, please do so . . . or, we can chat over the phone/skype some time.

    In the mean time, thanks for all of your thoughts as you post theommentaries on the corner of your desk. Warmly, Ashley

  2. Thank you for your rationally satisfying and heart-warming explanation of Psalm 77:10. In my devotion this morning I came across this verse and thought I should check up on what others have said about it. You gave a very clear exposition. Thank you.


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