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Psalms Series Two

Praise

Psalm  107

Lesson audio

It is a fact: in a Psalm of praise the first instruction is often a command to others to praise God.

Prologue

Psalms 107:1-3 NIV BOOK V : Psalms 107-150

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;

his love endures forever. (2) Let the redeemed of the LORD say this--

those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, (3) those he gathered from the lands,

from east and west, from north and south. [1]

(The notation starting “Book V” is in accord with the Hebrew notion that the Psalms can be divided into five sections, each one a parallel to the Pentateuch.)

One of the reasons we are commanded to give thanks to God is simply this: there is not much else you can do for him. What do you buy to give the God who created the universe? And for what do we give thanks?

  • First, that he is good. He is a righteous God, who wants us to be righteous too. He does not condone evil. (Consider the opposite possibility for a moment.)
  • Second, that his love endures forever. You cannot exhaust his mercy – though many of us have tried.

In these two aspects – love and righteousness – we can detect the one-word theme of the Bible: redemption. Righteousness demands ransom; love provides it at the Cross. God redeems us!

  • He redeems us from everyone. Even when the enemy is us.
  • He redeems us from everywhere. Even those of us who have said, “Goodbye, God, I’m moving to Southern California.”

Merchants, wanderers and fools

In this day of post-modern thinking it’s fashionable to tell Christians, “Oh, I’m glad that works for you.” It works for “whosoever will.” The Psalmist (probably not David) gives us four examples.

Wanderers

Psalms 107:4-9 NIV Some wandered in desert wastelands,

finding no way to a city where they could settle. (5) They were hungry and thirsty,

and their lives ebbed away. (6) Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress. (7) He led them by a straight way

to a city where they could settle. (8) Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love

and his wonderful deeds for men, (9) for he satisfies the thirsty

and fills the hungry with good things.

There are unguided missiles (rocks to rockets) and guided missiles. But did you know there are no self-guided missiles? The concept makes no sense. You want the missile to hit a particular target – not pick out a nearby tree on its own. But there are self-guided people: bold, independent thinkers for whom self-guidance is a point of pride. God redeems such people.

It’s interesting how it’s phrased here: “by a straight way.” Once they cry to the Lord, the wanderer is given a road map showing the straight path. Many such people are wandering, looking for the right answer. But as our Lord says,

Matthew 5:6 NIV Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they will be filled.

In chains

Psalms 107:10-16 NIV Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom,

prisoners suffering in iron chains, (11) for they had rebelled against the words of God

and despised the counsel of the Most High. (12) So he subjected them to bitter labor;

they stumbled, and there was no one to help. (13) Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

and he saved them from their distress. (14) He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom

and broke away their chains. (15) Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love

and his wonderful deeds for men, (16) for he breaks down gates of bronze

and cuts through bars of iron.

Let’s be clear about this. Wanderer’s are self-guided missiles. These people who rebel against the words of God are those who deliberately do what they know to be wrong. The most visible example of this is the prisoner in jail. One of the effects of prison is that it is not supposed to be warm and comfortable – and there is no one there to turn to. Prison society is very perilous.[1]

It’s when the prisoner sees no hope, no light that he turns to the hope of the hopeless, the light of the world. Some people have to find the bottom of the ladder to recognize it as such.

Fools

Psalms 107:17-22 NIV Some became fools through their rebellious ways

and suffered affliction because of their iniquities. (18) They loathed all food

and drew near the gates of death. (19) Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

and he saved them from their distress. (20) He sent forth his word and healed them;

he rescued them from the grave. (21) Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love

and his wonderful deeds for men. (22) Let them sacrifice thank offerings

and tell of his works with songs of joy.

Let’s understand this bunch clearly. They are not great thinkers or great criminals; they’re rather ordinary people who just want to have things their own way. Their “own way” is what the Scripture calls iniquity; these are the people who suffer from the natural consequences of their sin. Picture a three pack a day smoker dying of lung cancer, for example. Human iniquity healed by God’s loving touch.

The key is this: they knew what they were doing. It wasn’t an accident; they simply ignored God’s warning. How great is the love of God; he rescues even these people.

Merchants

Psalms 107:23-32 NIV Others went out on the sea in ships;

they were merchants on the mighty waters. (24) They saw the works of the LORD,

his wonderful deeds in the deep. (25) For he spoke and stirred up a tempest

that lifted high the waves. (26) They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;

in their peril their courage melted away. (27) They reeled and staggered like drunken men;

they were at their wits' end. (28) Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,

and he brought them out of their distress. (29) He stilled the storm to a whisper;

the waves of the sea were hushed. (30) They were glad when it grew calm,

and he guided them to their desired haven. (31) Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love

and his wonderful deeds for men. (32) Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people

and praise him in the council of the elders.

What about, though, the good guys? In Jewish thought a rich merchant was presumed to blessed by God. But as Solomon said, time and chance happen to all.[2] Sometimes even the honest man is afflicted by what happens around him. Perhaps this is so that we will see the providence of God. Perhaps even more so that we will praise God for his rescue.

Complacent

All well and good, you say – but none of these really fit me. The next section will: it deals with the complacent.

Psalms 107:33-42 NIV He turned rivers into a desert,

flowing springs into thirsty ground, (34) and fruitful land into a salt waste,

because of the wickedness of those who lived there. (35) He turned the desert into pools of water

and the parched ground into flowing springs; (36) there he brought the hungry to live,

and they founded a city where they could settle. (37) They sowed fields and planted vineyards

that yielded a fruitful harvest; (38) he blessed them, and their numbers greatly increased,

and he did not let their herds diminish. (39) Then their numbers decreased, and they were humbled

by oppression, calamity and sorrow; (40) he who pours contempt on nobles

made them wander in a trackless waste. (41) But he lifted the needy out of their affliction

and increased their families like flocks. (42) The upright see and rejoice,

but all the wicked shut their mouths.

First the Lord blesses

The Psalmist would no have trouble identifying just such a set of circumstances in history; it would be the Exodus. Like so:

  • First, God destroyed the occupants of the Promised Land. They, the wicked, we destroyed or kicked out.
  • Then the poor – the wandering Israelites – were given this land, and God blessed it for them.

Sound familiar? How was America born?

Complacency

But soon the Israelites grew fat and complacent. They chased after other gods; they got drunk early and often; adultery became common (temple prostitutes, you know). So God chastised them with:

  • Oppression – he set rulers over them whose only purpose was to squeeze out as much labor as possible.
  • Calamities – natural disasters (think drought).
  • Sorrow – that sense of hopelessness that comes from knowing it’s your own stupid fault.

It’s interesting to see that God pours contempt upon the leaders of this nation. He knows who’s doing it; but he has not forgotten the oppressed and needy. As the leaders grow worse, the humble are quietly blessed. (Does anyone see anything like that today in America?)

The Upright Rejoice

When they see this, the righteous should rejoice, for it is the hand of God at work.

  • They rejoice over the affliction of the wicked. Every time some corrupt politician is exposed and convicted, the righteous should rejoice!
  • The rejoice over the needy being fed. Think about the smiles that accompanied a truckload of food for Haiti after their earthquake.

This rejoicing is for the righteous – but to participate you have to believe in the providence of God. All good things have their natural causes, but ultimately it is God who works all things together who is to be praised.

Whoever Is Wise

Psalms 107:43 NIV Whoever is wise, let him heed these things

and consider the great love of the LORD.

May we end with three thoughts for the wise?

  • Look for the providence of God. Things may not be the way you want them now, but God still rules.
  • When you see them, take heed to what he does. It’s always cheaper to learn from others’ mistakes – or successes.
  • Finally, consider that you can offer nothing but praise to God – in response to his great love. He loved so much that he sent his son; no greater love can be imagined.

[1] My wife and I have worked in prison ministry for some years. The sole redeeming virtue of prison is that it often guides the convict to Christ out of sheer need.

[2] Ecclesiastes 9:11. The phrasing “time and chance” is found in the King James, from a more eloquent time.

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