Psalms for Troubled Times – Psalm 107

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A Thankful People

While the first of a new book, I mentioned yesterday that Psalm 107 is also the last in a trilogy beginning in 105. Each of these psalms deals with the history of the nation of Israel, but each from a different perspective. From the faithfulness of God, to man’s faithlessness, this psalm is filled with thankfulness.

‘O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy; and gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south’. (v1-3)

The context here, fitting for this Deuteronomic section of the psalms, is re-gathering. Four word pictures are taken up that show the constant trouble the nation has felt throughout their history, yet they have always been ‘redeemed’, for ‘the LORD, he is good’, and ‘his mercy endureth forever’.

From Abraham himself, gathered out of the east, from Ur, to David, brought again from the west, from under then hand of the Philistines. From Jacob, gathered out of Padan-Aram in the north, to Israel, now as a nation, brought from the south (or from the sea, as JND puts it). Throughout their history, whatever the circumstances that have led to their absence from the land, God, in His goodness, keeps bringing them back.

Presently, Israel are still widely scattered, but this psalm, and this fifth book as a whole, looks prophetically towards a day of final re-gathering. Truly, there is much to give thanks for, and the repeated refrain calls all to praise the LORD.

‘Oh, that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!’ (v8,15,21,31)

In the four subsequent metaphors, this verse is the response of a thankful heart to another repeated refrain of deliverance and redemption:

Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.’ (v6,13,19,28)

The call to praise is penultimate verse of each section, followed by the reason for thanksgiving. Let’s look at these briefly.

Wilderness Wanderers

‘they found no city to dwell in, hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them … he led them forth … that they might go to a city … he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.’ (v4-9)

This metaphor reminds us of our Good Shepherd, who satisfies and fills us, as He leads us through this wilderness scene. We think back to Psalm 23, and rejoice in the Lord who ‘leads us beside still waters … in paths of righteousness’ … preparing a table before us, so that our ‘cup runneth over’.

Yet it was not always this way. We remember the days when we were lost, lonely and faint in the wilderness, far off from the fold.

How thankful we are that the Good Shepherd left ‘the ninety and nine in the wilderness’ and went ‘after that which is lost, until he find it’ (Luke 15:4), even giving ‘His life for the sheep’ (John 10:11)

‘O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good’

Dungeon Dwellers

‘Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron … He brought them out of darkness … For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder.’ (v10-16)

We learn here that sin is a cruel master. While it tantalises the unwary sinner, it won’t be long before the one who went out looking for enjoyment, is languishing in bondage, thrown unceremoniously into a dark dungeon.

This is were we find Legion in Mark 5, and none were able to help him, ‘neither could any man tame him’ (v4).

But that day, a great Saviour came to deliver him from his bondage, and when the people of that place came to see what was done, they found the man ‘sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind’ (v15).

Many since have also known the delivering power of our great Saviour, Jesus Christ, and like this man, many can testify of ‘how great things the Lord hath done’ (v19).

‘O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good’

Death’s Dupes

‘Fools … because of their iniquities, are afflicted … they draw near unto the gates of death … He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions … let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving’ (v17-22)

In the three metaphors so far, we have seen a downward trajectory. Those who would not come to the Shepherd, ended up in bondage to their sin. Those who would not come to the Light, ‘fools’ who persisted in their sin, brought affliction upon themselves. Now we find them languishing in the gateway of death, waiting the sad hour of their demise. But still there is Hope … for the LORD has ‘sent His Word, and healed them’.

‘And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.’ (John 1:14)

Consider this gracious Physician, ‘who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.’ (Acts 10:38).

‘O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good’

Storm Sailors

‘their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end … He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.’ (v23-32)

We cannot but turn our minds to those accounts in the Gospels when we see our Lord Jesus with His disciples in the storm. I’m thinking particularly of the occasion when our Lord was asleep in the boat, for there we see the glorious Captain of our salvation, made ‘perfect through sufferings’ (Hebs 2:10).

Of course, we are not speaking of moral perfection here, for our Lord was ever morally perfect. The idea is of experiential perfection, and we see it worked out in Mark 4:35-41, for this glorious Captain is facing the very same storm that His disciples are facing. Indeed, His hand is firmly on the tiller … yet He is asleep. For Christ, the raging storm was already a calm, but He is going to rise, to bring those in the boat with him into the same experience.

‘And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.’ (Mark 4:39)

Now we can know that same calm, even in the midst of the storm, when we put the tiller in the hand of the glorious Captain.

‘O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good’

There follows a summation of God’s sovereign dealings with His people, at times bringing them into hardship, but then into blessing once more.

The psalm concludes with a word to the wise, that by meditation on these things, we will come to understand in a far deeper way the loving kindness of our God:

‘Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD.’ (v43)

This in turn will lead to further thankfulness.

‘Therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.’ (Hebs 13:15)

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