We Get Ready for the Future with God by Remembering the Past

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1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. 2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those he redeemed from trouble, 3 and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. . . .
33 He turns rivers into a desert, springs of water into thirsty ground, 34 a fruitful land into a salty waste, because of the wickedness of its inhabitants. 35 He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water. 36 And there he lets the hungry live, and they establish a town to live in; 37 they sow fields, and plant vineyards, and get a fruitful yield. 38 By his blessing they multiply greatly, and he does not let their cattle decrease.
39 When they are diminished and brought low through oppression, trouble, and sorrow, 40 he pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes; 41 but he raises up the needy out of distress, and makes their families like flocks. 42 The upright see it and are glad; and all wickedness stops its mouth. 43 Let those who are wise give heed to these things, and consider the steadfast love of the Lord. (Psalm 107 NRSV)

Key Observation: We prepare ourselves for an abundant future with God by expressing gratitude for how he has worked in our lives in the past.

Psalm 107 is a thanksgiving psalm that rejoices in the dynamic power of the Lord’s steadfast loyal love (hesed). His love is forever without end. This is the good news that the psalmist shares. It was good news for God’s people as they recovered from exile and it remains so today.

Psalm 107:1 opens with an exhortation to the community to give thanks to God for his eternal and steadfast love. Gratitude is critical for the life of faith. It is a doorway to a dynamic and secure relationship with God. When we learn to give thanks in the present, the past changes the meaning it has for our lives. Painful memories may remain, but their meaning changes. We become free to live fully for the Lord now in anticipation of an abundant future. God’s people in the Old Testament were keenly aware of his lovingkindness in restoring them from exile to Babylon (vv. 2–3). Psalm 107 gives thanks from the perspective of having returned to the land. As Christians, we root our thanksgiving in the lavish love of God shown at the cross of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:8).

The middle section of the psalmdescribes four examples of persons whom the Lord rescued. Verses 4–9 recall God’s provision of food and water to those struggling in the wilderness. Verses 10–16 narrate God’s liberation of prisoners. Verses 17–22 tell how the Lord healed the sick. Verses 23–32 celebrate God’s rescue of those caught in a stormy sea. Here we find tangible examples that testify to the greatness of the Lord’s steadfast love (hesed). These verses invite us to reflect on specific ways that God has redeemed us.

Verses 33–43 bring the thanksgiving to a climax by celebrating the people’s return to the land, as well as God’s ability to restore it to a place of abundance. The language of these verses ties back to the four examples found in verses 4–32. The psalmist’s goal is to help us learn that God’s work is all around us. God delivered in the past, he delivers in the present, and he will deliver in the future. For this, we must give thanks. Verses 42–43 conclude the psalm with advice for the wise—God’s people with eyes to see God’s hand. We live by the grace of God. Find security in this truth and live for the Lord today.

  1. How does Psalm 107 inspire you to give thanks today?
  2. Why is the practice of gratitude important for the life of faith and what is its role in your life?

Are you interested in learning more about the Psalms? Consider taking a deep dive into the book with a dynamic teacher, Brian Russell. The book of Psalms is often quoted and clichéd, but much less often contextualized. When we understand the Psalter relative to the circumstances in which it was written, we find a rich resource for God’s people. Through these prayers, God both speaks to us and models how we might speak back to Him. At its core, the book of Psalms is an instructional guide to a moment-by-moment walk with God through the world. Get the book and accompanying videos in our store here.

In these pages you’ll:

  • Discover how the psalms of the Bible can translate to your daily life
  • Allow the psalms to help you find words to express yourself to God when you are unsure of how to pray
  • Learn the historical context in which the psalms were written, adding to their richness

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Dr. Brian Russell is Dean of the School of Urban Ministries and Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary. He is also a consultant and speaker on the missional interpretation of Scripture and creating a missional ethos in communities of faith.

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