Psalm 107 (NIV)
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
2 Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
3 those he gathered from the lands,
from east and west, from north and south.
4 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 mankind,
9 for he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things.
33 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.
43 Let the one who is wise heed these things
and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.
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Psalm 107 is a powerful, faith-filled song to open the fifth and final book of Psalms. This psalm presents four hypothetical desperation scenarios that are representative of the range of predicaments in which humanity might find themselves. In each case, the psalm celebrates the Lord’s power and grace to deliver us. After each situation is presented, the beautiful refrain breaks out: “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress” (vv. 6, 13, 19, 28). This is the great, recurring theme of the song.
The first situation centers on physical distress, such as being lost, hungry, or dying. The psalm pictures those who “wandered in desert wastelands” (v. 4) and “were hungry and thirsty” and whose “lives ebbed away” (v. 5). At the point of crisis, the refrain comes powerfully in celebrating God’s deliverance.
The second scenario focuses on prisoners “in iron chains” and, by extension, those in depression and “deepest gloom” (v. 10). They are also ones who have rebelled, and despised or spurned God’s counsel. They have no one to help them or rescue them. But, again, the powerful refrain comes in and declares the Lord as the one who both humbles and rescues: “he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron” (v. 16).
The third scenario focuses on those who are sick and are close to death, or fools with rebellious ways (vv. 17–18). They, too, call out to the Lord, and he rescues them. “He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave” (v. 20).
The final situation draws upon a deep fear for many in the ancient world, the fear of being lost at sea, or caught on the sea in the midst of a massive storm that threatens to destroy the entire ship. By extension for us, I think it could equally apply to any place where fear takes a hold upon us, such as the fear we might have in facing cancer, or fears for our safety in the midst of violence, and so forth. Again, stuck in a hopeless situation, they cry out to the Lord, and “he stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed” (v. 29). One is reminded of the disciples’ fear on the Sea of Galilee, and Christ’s definitive response (Mark 4:37–41).
These precise scenarios might be particularly suited for their time, but the point is that in whatever situation we find ourselves, we should call upon the Lord and trust him for our deliverance.
The psalm ends with what is known as a wisdom message, or a word to the wise: “Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the Lord” (v. 43). The psalm gives us the fitting conclusion. The reason we can trust in the Lord is because of his love. The Hebrew word used for “love” here is hesed. It means God’s covenantal, steadfast loving-kindness toward us. It appears 127 times in fifty-four of the Psalms, and within all five books of the Psalms. Hesed is the dominant term used to describe the love or faithfulness of God. The Jews understand hesed as the means through which God “repairs the world” (tikkun olam). It is God’s covenant commitment to oppose evil in the world, defeat it, and to establish righteousness on the earth. For a Jew to say, “God loves us” or “God loves me” is not an expression of an emotion. Rather, it is an expression of God’s covenantal commitment to stand by his people and, in the end, to vindicate them and sets all things right. As Christians, we recognize that God’s hesed love is actually rooted in a person, Jesus Christ. God’s covenant, his loving faithfulness, his hesed, becomes embodied in Jesus Christ. We know that our greatest deliverance comes through the powerful provision of our Lord Jesus Christ. He alone “repairs the world.” What a great assurance is ours!