PSALM 107 TALK: THANKS TO THE LORD FOR HIS UNFAILING LOVE

PSALM 107 TALK: THANKS TO THE LORD FOR HIS UNFAILING LOVE

 (A Psalm that pictures God’s great love being real and unfailing in four ways and so even though we might sometimes feel lost in a dry barren time of life, imprisoned by our sinful ways, suffering from serious illness or feeling like we are all at sea in a major storm of life we only have to call out to God and his love will restore us.)

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INTRODUCTION

I can still vividly remember the night I was travelling home from work in the city on a train to my home and reading a book about a number of Christians who had been arrested in China during the 1970’s cultural -revolution and had been thrown into prison or killed. One man I read about spent six years during those dark years locked up in a gloomy dingy cell and he had no contact with anyone else during those six years except for his guards who gave him basic food and water.

The Christian man who was locked up in the same prison cell for six years spent a lot of his time trying to recall bible verses he had learnt and to help him not forget them he scratched them on the walls of his cell. He eventually had no more room for bible verses on his walls but he said when he was eventually released that the whole time he was locked up he never felt alone because he believed the Lord Jesus was always with him and through his word that covered the walls of his cell and through prayer he had the feeling of Jesus always being close to him.

I wrote down immediately this mans testimony in a chorus of a new song;

“Never alone, never alone

For the Lord is beside me wherever I roam.

Never alone, never alone

With the Spirit inside me he’s made me his own”.

 I then tried to think what verses from the bible I would write on my imaginary cell walls and three of these bible verses became the inspiration for the three verses of my new song:

  1. Matthew 28: 20, “Surely I am with you always, to the ends of the age”.

Lo I am with you to the ends of the age

That is his promise on the bibles page.

Jesus is with me through joy and distress

And he is the one whose desire is to bless. 

  1. Psalm 23: 4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me”.

 Though I may walk through the valley of death

I have no fear for his overcome death.

Jesus did die on the cross for my sin

He’ll raise me to heaven to feast there with him.

  1. 1 Peter 2: 11, “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world”

 I am a pilgrim in a foreign land

But the Lord gently guides me by his loving hand.

Wherever I wander yes wherever I roam

The Lord is beside me and I’m never alone”.

 The words of my song were taken up by a local church rock group of that time and their song which featured my words won that year a gospel song award for best Gospel song of the year in a local song competition although I have my own tune to the song I sometimes sing these days.

Psalm 107, the first Psalm in book 5 of Psalms is a Psalm that expresses the truth that no matter what might happen to us God’s love is always with us helping to deliver us and of course helping to make real the fact that in God we are never alone.

This Psalm is closely related to the two concluding Psalms in book 4, namely Psalms 105 and 106 and therefore the composition of books 4 and 5 of Psalms must have taken place around the same time in Israel’s history. Allan Harman points out that all three Psalms feature the opening words, “Give thanks to the Lord”. Also each Psalm is around the same length and Psalm 107 seems to be a answer to the prayer request in Psalm 106: 47 which reads,

“Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise”.

 This prayer request is obviously a prayer uttered by a person caught up in the Babylonian exile and we know God answered that prayer by bringing the people of Israel back to their homeland through the defeat of the Babylonians by the Persians and because the Persians had a policy of helping to resettle captive people to their former homelands the Jews returned to Israel under the rule of the Persians but free to settle and rebuild their homes and culture again.

We also know from the record of the dead sea scrolls that Psalms in book 4 and 5 seem to be still coming together some 300 hundred years before the coming of Christ which also points to these final two books of Psalms being edited and finalized after the return from exile.

Why Psalms 105, 106 and 107 did not stay together in book 4 of Psalms is a mystery but the answer could be that what Psalm 107 is speaking about is part of the joyful return from exile that seems to be a theme of book five and not so much a theme of book 4.

The writer of these three Psalms could well be the same person but we have no way of proving this one way or another. However it is clear he lived both before the return from exile where he prayed for God to save his people from exile in Psalm 106: 47 and then he thanked God for that salvation in Psalm 107: 2 – 3,

“Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story— those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south.”

Psalms 105, 106 and 107 could have been written by they follow a similar general pattern and deal with the same historical even, the deliverance of the Jews from bondage in captivity in their exile in Babylon.

So with the general theme of giving thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love in terms of the deliverance of the Jews from the Babylonian exile my outline for this Psalm is:

  1. (1 – 3)   A CALL TO THANK GOD FOR HIS UNFAILING LOVE

 

  1. (vs.1)   A call to thank God for his unfailing love
  2. (2 – 3) God’s unfailing love seen in the return from exile in Babylon

 

  1. (4 – 9)   GOD’S LOVE SEEN IN THE IMAGE OF BEING LOST IN THE

                     DESERT

 

  1. (4 – 5)      The thirsty desert experience identified
  2. (vs. 6)     The cry to God for help expressed
  3. (7 – 8)    God’s love satisfies our thirst and hunger
  4. (vs. 9)      The benefits of this deliverance spelt out

 

  1. (10 – 16) GOD’S LOVE SEEN IN THE RELEASE OF PEOPLE IN PRISON

 

  1. (10 – 12)   The experience of the dark prison cell identified
  2. (13 – 16) God’s love seen in how he saves us from prison
  3. (14 – 15)  The deliverance God gives
  4. (vs. 16)    The benefits of this deliverance spelt out

 

  1. (17 – 22)   GOD’S LOVE SEEN IN HOW HE HEALS OUR SICKNESSES

 

  1. (17 – 18)   The experience of sickness identified
  2. (vs. 19)    The cry to God for help expressed
  3. (20 – 21)   The deliverance God gives
  4. (vs. 22)    The praise for this deliverance spelt out

 

  1. (23 – 32)   GOD’S LOVE SEEN IN SAVING PEOPLE AT SEA

 

  1. (23- 27)     The experience of being lost at sea
  2. (vs. 28)     The cry to God for help expressed
  3. (29 – 30)   The deliverance God gives
  4. (31 – 32)   The praise for this deliverance spelt out

 

  1. (33 – 43)   GOD’S LOVE AND JUDGMENT IN ACTION

 

  1. (33 – 42)   The experience of love and judgment principle
  2. (vs. 43)     Take note and thank God for his love

 

  1. (1 – 3)   A CALL TO THANK GOD FOR HIS UNFAILING LOVE

 

  1. (vs.1)   A call to thank God for his unfailing love

 As I said in my introduction this Psalm starts with the same call to worship that Psalms 105 and 106 start with, namely,

“Give thanks to the Lord”

 and in Psalms 106 and 107,

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good”

 These seem to be a common ancient Hebrew call to worship suggesting this Psalm and Psalm 106 and maybe Psalm 105 were designed for corporate worship use which we will see is true of many Psalms in book five of Psalms. This worship seems to be taking place back in Jerusalem after the Jews had returned from exile in Babylon as the next two verses indicate. The call to worship the goodness of God also includes his love as well,

“His love endures forever”.

 Albert Barnes points out that the Hebrew word for love here is “Chesed” which is a Hebrew word that means mercy and Barnes writes,

“Chesed is more general than our word ‘mercy’ and our word means ‘favor shown to the guilty’, the Hebrew word means kindness, goodness, benignity in general and it is celebrated in the Psalm before us”.

 “Chesed” in the New Testament becomes grace which is the underserved love of God that Paul speaks about this way in Ephesians 2: 4 – 5,

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved”.

So the Jews did not deserve to be brought back from exile in Babylon but because their God, the God of the bible is both good and loving he chose to hear their prayer for help and even though they did not deserve it he delivered them out of the bondage of exile.

Out of the love God has delivered us from the bondage of sin as Paul says,

Made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions”.

This then will be the great theme we will now explore together in the rest of this amazing Psalm.

  1. (2 – 3) God’s unfailing love seen in the return from exile in Babylon

This Psalm wants its readers and if used in Temple worship, hearers, to thank God for his goodness and unfailing love for there return from exile. This is made clear by what verses 2 and 3 have to say,

“Let the redeemed from the hand of the foe, those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south”.

 This is clearly speaking of the Jews return from exile in Babylon with its reference to the redeemed, the people of Israel saved from the hands of the Babylonians who where gathered from lands from all points of the compass.

This return to Israel God’s Promised Land for his people is likened in its wording here to the great salvation of Israel way back in the time of Moses when God redeemed his people from slavery in Egypt as we read Moses singing about in his great song in Exodus 15 verse 13,

“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling”.

 It took forty years back in Moses time but God led his people to the Promised Land of Israel and then after what was left of Israel four hundred years before the coming of Christ he caused his people to be trapped in a foreign land again, Babylon where after 70 years he again,

“Redeemed from the hand of the foe, those he gathered from the lands”.

 The second Exodus probably happened over a number of years as Jews from Babylon in the North East of Israel returned bit by bit but other Jews who had fled or been taken by other conquering nations like the Assyrians also returned to their homeland of Israel thus the reference to all the points of the compass from which God gathered them back to the Promised Land. This includes Egypt to the south of Israel where many Jews fled during the Babylonian conquest of Judah.

This incredible turn of events in history of that time is attributed to God foretold by many prophets many years before it happened like Isaiah in Isaiah 51: 9 – 11 which starts with the story of God’s redeeming hand in leading them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land and ends with the prediction of the same God doing something similar in redeeming and guiding his people out of bondage in exile and back to the Promised Land of God again,

“Awake, awake, arm of the Lord, clothe yourself with strength! Awake, as in days gone by, as in generations of old. Was it not you who cut Rahab to pieces, who pierced that monster through? 10 Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made a road in the depths of the sea so that the redeemed might cross over? 11 Those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away”.

The word redeemed takes on a special meaning in the New Testament as Paul speaks of in Galatians 3: 13 – 14,

 “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit”.

 Redeemed here is God paying for our sins through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross which brings us into the blessing of Abraham and the covenant which is not a land in human terms like Abraham’s descendants received but a eternal inheritance which the writer of the letter to the Hebrews speaks of in Hebrews 9: 15,

“For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant”.

  1. (4 – 9)   GOD’S LOVE SEEN IN THE IMAGE OF BEING LOST IN THE DESERT

The writer of Psalm 107 now launches into four images of God’s deliverance and Leopold theorizes that each of these four images of deliverance is,

“Figurative illustrations of Israel’s experiences in the exile”.

I think he is right but these images of God’s deliverance can be used as images of our salvation that we can experience in this life and my opening up of each of these four human experiences will feature how they apply to our salvation from sin in Christ. The four experiences spoken of follow the pattern of the experience identified, a cry out to God by those trapped in the experience for help, the deliverance God gives from that experience and the benefits or the praise of that deliverance spelt out.

So I will now comment on each of these four experience’s of God’s deliverance as a picture of our Salvation in Christ using the fourfold formula of the writer of this Psalm 107, which is,

  1. The experience identified
  2. The cry to God for help expressed
  3. The deliverance God gives
  4. The benefits or the praise to God of this deliverance spelt out

 

  1. (vss. 4-5) The thirsty desert experience identified

The first experience that is given that represents the people of Israel’s experience in exile is that of being lost in a desert or wilderness and this is spelt out in verses 4 and 5,

“Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle. They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away”.

Some commentators speak of this image as that of a trading caravan that had lost it’s way in the desert area on its journey to Israel. Others say it could be the very real experience many returning Jews might have had, as all paths into Israel from the north, west and south would have led the people having to pass through a dry desert area.

As an image of the exile experience, Israel was being captive in Babylon and this would have been like being lost in a dry desert area. In exile they would have felt like they were a long way from home, lost feeling hungry and thirsty as their very lives ebbed away.

 Spurgeon makes the Christian salvation application of the thirsty desert experience with these words,

Ah, the way of a sinner, convinced of sin, is indeed a solitary way; he has a sorrow, which he cannot tell to anybody else, a stranger intermeddled not with his grief”.

 Jesus spoke with the women at the well who because of her many sins of adultery was as Jesus saw her spiritually very thirsty and so are so many people today as they are so far away from God, lost in their many sins which causes them to have a great spiritual thirst. This spiritual thirst they seek to quench in so many unsuccessful ways but as Jesus said to that women at the well only he can quench our deep desire to know God and be right with him as he said to that women in John 4: 13 – 14,

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

This water Jesus is speaking about is his Spirit, which he gives to all people who put their faith in him and who ask him into their lives. 

  1. (vs. 6)   The cry to God for help expressed

We will see that each time the Psalmist identifies an exile experience he tells us how this exile experience image, which in this section of the Psalm is being lost in a thirsty desert causes the participants of the experience to call out to God for help.

So those who felt lost in a thirsty desert call out to God as verse 6 says,

“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress”.

 David at the start of Psalm 63 cries out from what seems a desert area with a cry of deep spiritual thirst in verse 1 of that Psalm,

“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water”.

 David like Psalm 107: 6 finds God’s deliverance from his distress expressed by David in Psalm 63 this way in verse 5 of that Psalm,

“My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you”.

 For a more detailed look at God quenching our spiritual thirst I recommend you look at my Psalm talk on Psalm 63.

But for now I would like to suggest that when you might feel spiritually thirsty or hungry you should follow the advice of the writer of Psalm 107 and,

“Cry out to the Lord in your trouble”

 And I believe as David found when he did that your,

“Soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods”

 And you like David will sing praises to God with your mouth for his wonderful deliverance from that thirsty desert experience. As Jesus promises in Matthew 5: 6,

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (or as some translations put it, ‘they will be satisfied’)”.

  1. (7 – 8) God’s love satisfies our thirst and hunger

Continuing the pattern of the writer of Psalm 107 of these exile experience images we come to the third part, which deals with how God answers this call with his love.

The writer of Psalm 107 then speaks of how God actually delivered his people from the thirsty desert experience in verses 7,

“He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle”

The lost caravan in the thirsty desert idea seems to fit well with this description of God’s deliverance from the thirsty desert experience for it speaks of how God led them by a straight way to a city they could settle in and of course find food and water.

Some say that the city God led them to is his holy city of Jerusalem where most of the returning Jewish exiles from Babylon came back to. However the image is of a God not letting his people perish in exile or in this image in a dry thirsty desert but that he would deliver them or save them back to his Promised Land represented here as the city they could settle in.

The writer of Psalm 107 goes on to say this about God’s deliverance in verse 8,

“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men”.

The Jews in exile did not deserve God’s hand of deliverance but he did it anyway because he is a God of love who continually does wonderful deeds for unworthy sinful men and women like you and me.

Paul spoke often about this love of God we don’t deserve saving us which he spoke of using the word grace and in Ephesians 2: 8 and 9 he simply says,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast”.

Paul’s only boast was in the Lord as he says in 2 Corinthians 10: 17,

“But, let him who boasts boast in the Lord”.

We can continually know God’s deliverance and guiding in our lives if we but follow the advice that Proverbs 3: 5 and 6 gives us,

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight”.

  1. (vs. 9)   The benefits of this deliverance spelt out

The final fourth part of each of the exile experience images is the benefits of this deliverance that God gives to those who experience his deliverance and in the case of the thirsty desert experience verse 9 aptly says,

“For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things”.

So the lost caravan or the lost returning Jewish pilgrim from the Babylonian exile will find in God’s deliverance not only safe haven in the city they can now settle in but they will find satisfaction to their thirst and a filling up of their bellies with God’s good things.

Spurgeon makes the spiritual interpretation with these words,

“The spiritual sense is, however, the more rich in instruction. The Lord sets us longing and then completely satisfies us. That longing leads us into solitude, separation, thirst, faintness and self despair, and all these conduct us to prayer, faith, divine guidance, satisfying of the soul’s thirst, and rest: the good hand of the Lord is to be seen in the whole process and in the divine result”.

 I know I have had spiritually barren times in my Christian life, often caused by my own slackness or even disobedience but through prayer and the wonderful grace of God I have found God’s hand of blessing in my life as Paul advised the Corinthian church about God’s grace blessing them and of course himself with good things in 2 Corinthians 9: 8 – 11,

 “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” 10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God”.

  1. (10 – 16) GOD’S LOVE SEEN IN THE RELEASE OF PEOPLE IN PRISON

The next exile experience image is one of being a prisoner in a dark prison locked up in chains. In my opening up of this image I will follow the writer of Psalm 107 pattern we saw in the two sections, which is:

  1. The experience identified
  2. The cry to God for help expressed
  3. The deliverance God gives
  4. The benefits or praise of this deliverance spelt out

 

  1. (10 – 12)   The experience of the dark prison cell identified

 The exile image here could have been the very literal experience of some of the Jewish exiles in the seventy years or so they were in captivity in Babylon because their Babylonian over – Lords would have locked up many exiled Jews as a way of keeping them under the thumb so to speak when they lived in the Babylonian kingdom.

However the image would also reflect the general gloomy and dark feeling of a people locked up in a foreign land as exiles. Verses 10 – 12 express this in these words,

“Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness, prisoners suffering in iron chains,

11 because they rebelled against God’s commands and despised the plans of the Most High. 12 So he subjected them to bitter labour; they stumbled, and there was no one to help”.

The captivity of the people of God was God’s punishment foretold by many prophets over hundreds of years before it actually happened. The Northern kingdom known as Israel was conquered by the Assyrians which caused their captivity in 740BC.

This conquest was completed in 722BC when The Assyrian king Shalmaneser V fully conquered Samaria and either killed the inhabitants or dispersed them throughout his kingdom as exiled people. So the Northern Kingdom exiles were scattered to many parts of the known world of that time.

Some of the Northern kingdom people would have escaped to the southern kingdom of Judah but in 597BC that kingdom was conquered by a foreign power in the form of the Babylonians. The deportation of people from the southern kingdom to captivity in Babylon took place over three periods of time, 597BC, 586BC and finally in 581BC when most of the elite, educated and gifted Jews who were not killed in the conquest were carried off into exile in Babylon leaving a small remnant of very poor uneducated people left to live as slaves under Babylonian rule.

This all came about because of the peoples turning away from the God of the Bible and because this turning away led them into all kinds of terrible sins like infant sacrifice and many other terrible practices done in the name of worshipping God.

Psalm 107 verse 11 expresses the reason for the people becoming prisoners in a foreign land this way,

“Because they rebelled against God’s commands and despised the plans of the Most High”.

So the exile experience is pictured here as being like prisoners in a deep gloomy cell, being locked up in that prison cell in iron chains and as verse 12 puts it,

“Subjected to bitter labour; they stumbled, and there was no one to help”.

I cannot even imagine what it would be like to be taken from my comfortable and safe home in Australia and be taken half way around the world to a foreign country to be treated like a prisoner or a slave under cruel over – lords and feel that I have no chance of return to the country I once lived in which I called my home but that’s what happened to the Jews around the 580’s BC.

One person who was caught up in this terrible prison like experience of exile in Babylon expressed his feelings of captivity this way in Psalm 137: 1 – 4,

“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land”?”

Spurgeon makes the spiritual application of this dark prison experience image in these words,

“The spiritual case which is here figuratively described is desperate, and therefore affords the finer field for the divine interposition; some of us remember well how brightly mercy shone in our prison, and what music the fetters made when they fell off from our hands. Nothing but the Lord’s love could have delivered us; without it we must have utterly perished”.

 What Spurgeon is alluding to is the New Testament teaching of how a person lost in sin and its consequences is like a person in prison as Paul expresses so well in Romans 7: 21 – 24,

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?

This is the spiritual prison that all people live in but there is a answer or a escape that God has made for us to find and Paul speaks of this in the next verse of Romans 7 verse 25,

“Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”.

  1. (13 – 16) God’s love seen in how he saves us from prison

We continue the pattern the writer of Psalm 107 uses in each of his four experiences of exile images with the next part how God’s love saves us when we cry out for help.

The writer of Psalm 107 uses the same wording for the cry for help as he did in the previous cry for help in verse 6, which is,

“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress”.

The Psalm writer name Asaph speaks in terms of prisoners crying out for help as an image of those in captivity crying out for release from exile in Psalm 79: 11,

“May the groans of the prisoners come before you; by the strength of your arm preserve those condemned to die”.

In this Psalm when a writer who was of the family name of Asaph wrote about the terrible destruction of the holy city of Babylon and the terrible captivity of many of its citizens he too looked forward to God’s deliverance in the words of the final verse of his Psalm, verses 13,

“Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will proclaim your praise.”

For a more detailed treatment of the teaching on Psalm 79, look up my Psalm talk on this Psalm entitles “The glory of the forgiving God”.

For now I would like to quote my New Testament application of the concept of God setting prisoners free in that Psalm talk,

“Jesus was fully aware of his mission on earth and we see this for instance in his preaching in the Synagogue in Nazareth where he reads a small part of the prophet Isaiah and proclaims that he was full filling that prophecy today, the passage he refers to is Isaiah 61: 1 – 2 and it the Synagogue incident is recorded in Luke 4: 16 – 21,

“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Note how the Isaiah passage speaks of,

“He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners”.

 This I believe is not speaking of letting criminals free from jail but rather as the whole passage is speaking of is a freedom from spiritual bondage, which is what the mission of Jesus, was all about”. 

  1. (14 – 15) The deliverance God gives

The writer of Psalm 107 then speaks in wonderful terms what being freed from the prison of captivity would have been like for those returning Jews around 539BC, he writes,

“He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains”.

Again in my imaginary experience of being forcefully being taken away from my comfortable safe home in Australia to some foreign country to be treated as a slave and then after years of being locked up their I was given the wonderful opportunity of returning home again would be probably be the greatest feeling of happiness I could imagine.

But this is what coming to Christ is like as John Newton expressed in the first verse of his hymn “Amazing Grace”,

“Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
T’was blind but now I see”.

 Paul speaks of the wonderful experience of being saved by Christ and being safe in Christ as being like “more than conquerors” in the wonderful passage of scripture in Romans 8: 31 – 37,

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

 Then the writer of Psalm 107 employs his set formula of words to thank God for his loving deliverance again as we read in verse 8, this time in verse 15,

“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men”.

Being like a prisoner locked up in a dark dingy prison cell in chains and finding wonderful release would be a great thing to praise the person who effected the release and in the case of the Jews being released from captivity in Babylon the person that brought about their release was God himself.

This means they would have thanked God for his unfailing love and wonderful deeds in releasing them from captivity in Babylon. Many Psalms in this final book of Psalms, book five will express this thanks and praise for what God did for them in their return from captivity in Babylon like the words of Psalm 147: 1 – 7,

“Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him! The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground. Sing to the Lord with grateful praise; make music to our God on the harp”.

So we should thank God with great praise for as men and women who have come to be released from the prison of sin by the amazing grace of God given to us in Christ and what he did for us on cross we have much to be thankful for. As Paul expressed so well in Ephesians 1: 6 – 9,

“To the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ”.

  1. (vs. 16)   The benefits of this deliverance spelt out

The benefits of God releasing his people from the exile experience of a dark prison cell where they are locked up in chains is expressed in what seems at first a strange turn of phrase in verse 15,

“For he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron”.

These words were a puzzle to me unto I read Albert Barnes explanation of them,

“The gates of brass refer probably to Babylon, and the idea is, that their deliverance had been as if the brass gates of that great city had been broken down to give them free egress from their captivity”.

Barnes points out that the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus the Persian was predicted years before by the prophet Isaiah in similar terms in Isaiah 45: 2,

“I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron”.

The metals bronze and particularly iron were not only the alloys used to make prisoners chains and shackles and city gates but they also represent the strength of so called human super powers like the Babylonians of their day yet even this powerful super power of Babylon was not strong enough against the power and might of the God of heaven and earth, the God of the bible.

God used a new world super power, the Persians to smash their city gates so that his people could be freed from the prison of captivity in exile in Babylon to again walk free in the Promised Land of Israel.

Spurgeon again gives us the perfect spiritual New Testament application of the benefits of God breaking our spiritual bonds of bronze and Iron with these words,

“The Lord breaks the strongest gates and bars when the time comes to set free his prisoners: and spiritually the Lord Jesus has broken the most powerful of spiritual bonds and made us free indeed. Brass and iron are as tow before the flame of Jesus’ love. The gates of hell shall not prevail against us, neither shall the bars of the grave detain us. Those of us who have experienced his redeeming power must and will praise the Lord for the wonders of his grace displayed on our behalf”. 

  1. (17 – 22)   GOD’S LOVE SEEN IN HOW HE HEALS OUR SICKNESSES

 In my opening up of this third image of the experience of exile I will follow the writer of Psalm 107 pattern we saw in the last two sections, which is:

  1. The experience identified
  2. The cry to God for help expressed
  3. The deliverance God gives
  4. The praise for this deliverance spelt out

Note how the pattern changes in the fourth part in this fourth section of the Psalm as it closes not with the benefits of God’s deliverance from the sickness experience but is a call to praise God for his deliverance from exile.

We look then at the first pattern part:

  1. (17 – 18)   The experience of sickness identified

 The third experience of exile image is that of sickness, which follows the well, established Old Testament teaching that sickness is a result of sin or rebellion to God’s law. This teaching is checked or qualified by the book of Job who turned out to be an exception to this teaching of scripture for Job’s tormentors all used this teaching to explain why Job was suffering so much. However we know from the book of Job that he only suffered because God wanted to test Job and his passing of that test would bring glory to God.

Job passed the test as he did not curse God even though he came close to doing just that and in the end Job’s life was doubly blessed by God after his time of suffering was taken away from him.

Even David speaks of a time of sickness he had as a result of God’s disciplining him in Psalm 6: 1 – 3,

“Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long?”

A much more in depth discussion of why we suffer according to the bible is in my Psalm 6 talk.

So here in Psalm 107 the image of the experience of exile as sickness is expressed this way in verses 17 and 18,

“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”.

Allan Harman points out that the expression; “some became fools” is the opposite of Proverbs 1:7 definition of the wise,

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction”.

This means that to not fear God expressed by those that Psalm 107 verse 17 is speaking about in terms of being rebellious in their ways to God is to become a fool. Many non – believers today advocate that people who believe in God and fear God are fools or people evidencing not much intelligence but two Psalms, Psalm 14 verse 1 and Psalm 53 verse 1 say,

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’. They are corrupt and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good”.

Paul speaks of the effects of sin on the thinking processes of mankind this way in Romans 1: 21 – 23,

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles”.

It is not hard today to see the effects of sin as sickness, take the case of an alcoholic who can and do suffer many serious illnesses like liver failure or heart disease and may other chronic and deadly illnesses.

Verse 18 speaks of the seriousness of the sicknesses this writer of Psalm 107 is alluding to as he speaks of it in terms of loosing ones apatite and coming close to death,

18 They loathed all food and drew near the gates of death”.

Loosing ones apatite even today is a big sign that a person is very sick and usually regaining ones apatite is a sure sign that a person is getting better.

Trying to keep people holding up their natural fighting bodily system when they are sick by eating food can be a real challenge which I have just experienced when my wife had the flue recently.

Spurgeon again makes the New Testament spiritual application of sickness and the loss of apatite with these words,

“Thus it is with souls afflicted with a sense of sin, they cannot find comfort in the choicest promises, but turn away with loathing even from the gospel, so that they gradually decay into the grave of despair. The mercy is that though near the gates of death they are not yet inside the sepulcher”. 

  1. (vs. 19)   The cry to God for help expressed

Then the writer of Psalm 107 uses the same word formula of the past two exile experience images for the people crying out to God with the sickness experience cry,

“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress”.

This crying out to the Lord for release from exile was what Jeremiah said the people had to do to end their 70 years of exile in Babylon as he told the exiles in his letter to them in Jeremiah 29: 10 – 14,

“This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

This crying out to God or this prayer will be used by God as part of his plan to deliver them from the awful captivity in exile in Babylon. This is yet another example of God working out his good will through the prayers of his people so when we find ourselves or other friends or family sick God word encourages us to commit them to the Lord in prayer.

I would like to share two verses from the New Testament that encourages us to pray for the sick with confidence that God will answer us.

The first verse is a general call for us to pray with confidence for any need we have in this life which includes sickness or any other problem or difficulty is Hebrews 4: 16,

 “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.

Note this verse speaks of God’s throne as the throne of grace which means that we don’t deserve God’s answering of out prayers but because he is a God of love and particularly grace he will help us even in our times of the need of healing and help when we are sick.

The second verse or set of verses speaks directly to what we should do when a fellow believer arw sick and it is in James 5: 13 – 15,

“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.”

Some have suggested that the anointing of oil was a New Testament times version of administering medicine or at least a practical physical comforting remedy. I believe this does not have to be carried out in a formal way but that any group of church members can act as elders when they pray with and over a very sick person.

For me the most encouraging aspect of what James is saying here is the word about offering our prayer for the sick in faith and how God honors such prayers with the word he will make them well. Of course the healing of a person can take time and if it does this can prove to be a great test of faith for both the prayers and the person being prayed for.

Sometimes of course the making the person well is there death as for the true believer’s death is not the end but a wonderful gateway into the throne of grace where there is no more sickness, crying etc. because we are with the Lord in his home in heaven forever.

  1. (20 – 21)   The deliverance God gives

We come then to the third part of the writer of Psalm 107 formula for these images of the experience of exile and in the case of the experience of sickness he says this about God’s deliverance in verse 20,

“He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave”

Albert Barnes aptly comments on this verse saying,

“He sent his word, and healed them – He did it by a word, it was necessary for him merely to give a command, and the disease left them”.

God achieves all that he achieves through his word, he spoke and the world was made, he spoke and God’s people’s enemies were defeated. The mighty Babylonian empire might have thought like all the super powers of history even those today that they are invincible yet the Babylonians turned out to be no match in the end for the Persians and the Persians in the end were no match for the Greeks and the Greeks in the end were no match for the Romans.

World powers come and go but the word of God lasts forever as Peter declares quoting the prophet Isaiah in 1 Peter 1: 24 – 25,

“For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word that was preached to you”.

I lived through the time of the great super power of communistic U.S.S.R which opening preached that the idea of God was dead.

They had a policy that said that anyone who believed in God didn’t deserve to live. They felt that they had all power in this life and that they were invincible. I remember praying for our brothers and sisters in Christ who loved in Russia and other parts of the U.S.S, R and at times I felt that this super power would go on forever terrorising the church of God on earth. Yet how quickly it fell into a heap and the word of God that regime opposed and sought to do away with triumphed over them and today the church of God and his word is stronger in Russia than it has ever been.

This is the kind of thing Psalm 107 is speaking about when it says that God healed his people and rescued them from the grave.

Then we have the Psalm 107 formula verse about God’s deliverance in verse 21,

“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men”.

 God heals our sicknesses out of his unfailing love and the greatest sickness of all is sickness of sin which even a supposed healthy man or women has and through the Lord Jesus Christ and what he did for us on the cross we are healed from the great sickness of sin as Isaiah foretold long before the coming of Jesus in Isaiah 53: 4 – 6,

“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”.

Such is the love of God expressed in Jesus Christ that our great sickness of sin has been healed by what Jesus did on the cross as the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 2: 9,

 “But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone”.

  1. (vs. 22)   The praise for this deliverance spelt out

The writer breaks from his formula a little hear and instead of speaking of the benefits of God’s exile experience of deliverance he speaks of celebrating the many benefits of that deliverance in Old Testament style worship, he writes,

“Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy”.

In the Old Testament all formal worship involved some kind of sacrificial offering and this section as we have seen dealt with the sickness of sin, which had a number of specific sacrifice procedures, attached to it. James Burton Coffman makes a interesting point about this command to offer thank offering sacrifice for God’s dealing with the peoples sins in his deliverance from Babylonian exile,

“These stanzas define sin as disobedience and show its temporal (vs. 10), personal (vs. 12) and eternal (vs. 18) results. The offering of sacrifice, as commanded here, is related to this, because only in connection with redemption from sin does the Psalm enjoin sacrifice”.

So the writer of Psalm 107 wants the people now delivered from the bondage of captivity in exile to thank God with formal sacrificial worship that also involved lots of singing that speak of the great works of God for his people.

Coffman goes on to point out the New Testament application of this,

“In the New Testament, we are told what such a sacrifice is, ‘it is the fruit of our lips which make confession to his name”

Coffman gives us the New Testament reference of Hebrews 13: 15,

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name”.

 The whole sacrificial system of the Old Testament was done away with or superseded by the death and resurrection of Christ as again the writer to the Hebrews spells out in Hebrews 9: 11 – 15,

 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!  15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”

Paul speaks of how we are to worship God because of the mercy or grace of God shown to us through Christ and his death for us in Romans 12: 1,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship”.

Worship here goes beyond what we do when we gather together in Church, as true worship in Paul’s mind is sacrificial daily service to the Lord for what he has done for us.

  1. (23 – 32)   GOD’S LOVE SEEN IN SAVING PEOPLE AT SEA
  1. (23- 27)     The experience of being lost at sea

Following the same four- part presentation formula for the fourth and last time the writer speaks of the exile and their deliverance being like the lost at sea experience. This is an interesting image for a Jewish person of that time to use, as Israel was not noted for sea faring people. However they would have had merchants bringing cargo in from the coast to Jerusalem that was sent to Israel by boat and many of these merchants would have told stories of wild sea going voyages.

Also many Jews returning from other than exile in Babylon could have come by ship and also could have experienced what the writer speaks of in these verses. He describes the lost at sea experience this way in verses 23 – 27,

“Some 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 drunkards; they were at their wits’ end”.

I have only once been stuck in a small boat at sea with a massive storm approaching and it was when I was in my late teens my friends and I borrowed a boat to go snorkelling of the coast of Sydney. The small boat we were in motor would not start as we became aware of a large thunderstorm approaching. The feelings my friends and I had at that time were simply the feeling of terror and fear. Fortunately a passing fishing boat saw and heard us and worked out we were in trouble so he came over and offered us a tow back to the safe harbor we had come from which we gladly accepted.

The writer of Psalm 107 makes the following four observations about the lost at sea experience:

  1. These men who were lost were experienced merchant seamen (vs. 23)
  2. These men saw the wonderful creation of God which was the sea (vs. 24)
  3. These men realised that God caused the storm (vs. 25)
  4. These men were tossed about and terrified by the storm at sea (vss. 26 – 27)

Let me make some brief comments on each of these four observations of the lost as sea experience:

  1. These men who were lost were experienced merchant seamen (vs. 23)

Unlike my friends and I who went out in a small boat when I was a teenager these men in the lost at sea experience were experienced seaman that the writer of Psalm 107 calls “merchants” and they knew the power and might of the ocean as verse 27 says they travelled on “mighty waters”.

These experienced seaman merchants remind me of the experienced Galilee fishermen who went out on the sea of Galilee with Jesus recorded in Mark 4: 35 – 41. These disciple fishermen knew the water ways of the sea of Galilee like the back of their hand yet verse 38 tells that after a furious storm came upon them they also became terrified,

 “Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

Note how these experienced fishermen thought they were about to drown owing to the helpless situation they were in. The day I was stuck in a boat on an ocean I too thought I was going to drown.

  1. These men saw the wonderful creation of God, which was the sea (vs. 24)

It seems these merchants were God fearing souls as verse 24 says,

“24 They saw the works of the Lord, his wonderful deeds in the deep”.

Any right thinking man or women must wonder if there is a God when they see the vast beauty of the sea or oceans. I have been out on the sea on a number of cruise ships and have been a taken back by the vast and mighty expanse one can see when you are out on the mighty oceans of this world.

These men for some reason knew that the great God of heaven and earth created what they saw all around them wonderfully.

As Psalm 95: 3 – 5 says,

“For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him.The sea is his, for he

made it, and his hands formed the dry land”.

  1. These men realised that God caused the storm (vs. 25)

Then it seems verse 25 says that these experienced merchant seamen realised that God had sent the great storm on them,

“For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves”.

Leupold argues that this storm is in fact a figurative description of the Jews experience of exile and captivity in Babylon, he writes,

“For that matter, nations often use this very figure when they say that the ship of state is threatened”.

A mighty storm in the form of the Babylonians swept over Israel and like the backwash of a tidal wave Israel was swept into cruel and devastating captivity in Babylon. Like these experienced merchant sailors Israel must have realised that their captivity in exile was a result of God’s judgment of their many sins over many generations.

  1. These men were tossed about and terrified by the storm at sea (vss. 26 – 27)

The image presented in verses 26 and 27 is that of a terrifying ordeal many sailors have experienced when travelling on the oceans and seas of the world. Verses 26 – 27 then tell us this about the great storm that came upon these desperate men,

“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 drunkards; they were at their wits’ end”.

The waves were so large that as the ship went up to the tops of them it was like they were heading for the heavens or the sky and as they went down them it was like they were descending to the depths of the earth.

Then we read that these experienced sailors lost their courage,

“In their peril their courage melted away”.

Just like the fishermen disciples on the sea of Galilee in Mark 4 they were in fear of their lives so great was the storm that came on them and so helpless did they feel. The effect of all this is described in verse 27,

“They reeled and staggered like drunkards; they were at their wits’ end”.

This description of the sailors fear and despair at the height of the storm again is a strong picture of the fear and despair the people of Israel felt in exile in Babylon.

The book of Lamentations records beautifully what happened to Israel at the time of going in to exile and I have chosen just one passage from that book to give you the idea of what it must have been like, Lamentations 1: 3 – 5,

After affliction and harsh labour, Judah has gone into exile. She dwells among the nations; she finds no resting place. All who pursue her have overtaken her in the midst of her distress. The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to her appointed festivals. All her gateways are desolate, her priests groan, her young women grieve, and she is in bitter anguish.Her foes have become her masters; her enemies are at ease. The Lord has brought her grief because of her many sins. Her children have gone into exile, captive before the foe”.

  1. (vs. 28)     The cry to God for help expressed

Using the same wording for the past three exile experience images the writer of Psalm 107 tells us what these merchant sailors did,

“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress”.

 The disciples we saw cried out to Jesus in the middle of their storm on the Sea of Galilee in verse 38,

“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

The disciples don’t seem to be showing much faith in Jesus as Jesus acknowledges in verse 40 of Mark 4, with these words,

“Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

As I have said before the prophet Jeremiah encouraged the exiles in Babylon to cry out to the Lord when they were in the midst of the storm of captivity and this four times repeated verse is probably a good summary of what the people actually did and what God did in response to that crying out to him.

I would like to give you two encouraging verses about the value of prayer when we are in distress or facing problems and difficulties and the first is from the lips of David in Psalm 18: 6,

“In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears”.

The second is from the New Testament, Philippians 4: 6 – 7,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

  1. (29 – 30)   The deliverance God gives

The deliverance God wrought for his people in 539BC when the Persians defeated the Babylonians was like the stilling of a great storm and is expressed so well in verse 29, that simply says,

“He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed”.

This stilling of the storm is very reminiscent of the great stilling of the storm by Jesus in Mark 4 and we read in 39 of that chapter,

“He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm”.

Such is the power of God seen also in Jesus who proves his divinity by simply speaking and the wind and the waves obey him. God speaks in the history of the world and the so-called super powers of this world are smashed and hushed.

This is a great encouragement to me as I have been under attack from some atheists lately who have been trying to tell me my so called great God is a myth and I am living a delusion in trusting and believing in him. Yet history tells me God is alive and he has made himself known in so many ways not to mention the over – throw of the Babylonians by the Persians to send his people home and of course Jesus proves his divinity by his ability to still the storm.

Then in verse 30 we read,

“They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven”.

The stilling the storm experience image mirrors the facts of the Jews return from exile in Babylon. They were glad when the Babylonian storm was stilled and when through the unusual resettling policy of the conquering Persians they were glad when they were able to return to their much-desired homeland.

Spurgeon describes what is going on here in verse 30 with these words,

“Then are they glad because they be quiet. No one can appreciate this verse unless he has been in a storm at sea. No music can be sweeter than the rattling of the chain as the shipmen let down the anchor; and no place seems more desirable than the little cove, or the wide bay, in which the ship rests in peace”.

 When as a teenager I got stuck in a little boat way out from the coast and a massive thunderstorm was bearing down on us I was really fearful for my life but how sweet was that little fishing boat who came over to tow us into the safety of the boat harbor we set out from.

This is a perfect picture of what God did for his people back in 539BC. This also is a wonderful poetic image of our salvation through Christ that through what he did for us on the cross we have a way made for us through the storms of sin and life to heaven itself as the writer to the Hebrews speaks of this in Hebrews 12: 1 – 2,

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,

2FFixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”.

  1. (31 – 32)     The praise for this deliverance spelt out

Then following the pattern of the last exile experience image the final part is a call for praise for what God has done for them in stilling the storm of the Babylonian juggernaut through the Persians to bring his people to the safe harbor of their homeland.

We read this call to praise in two parts:

  1. Thanking the Lord for his unfailing love (vs. 31)
  2. Exalting the Lord in the assembly of the people (vs. 32)

So lets have a close look at these two calls for praise:

  1. Thanking the Lord for his unfailing love (vs. 31)

Following the writer of Psalm 107 pattern of words we read this time his call to the people to praise God for his unfailing love shown in the his amazing deeds of freeing the his people from the terrible captivity in Babylon, he writes in verse 31,

“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men.”

We too must answer this call for praise for our God who through Christ and his unfailing love in what he did for us on the cross achieved the wonderful deed of our salvation that will lead us to the safe harbor of heaven itself as Paul tells Titus in Titus 3: 4 – 7,

“ But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life”.

  1. Exalting the Lord in the assembly of the people (vs. 32)

Then as the writer of Psalm 107 did in the last image of the exile deliverance experience he calls his readers to corporate worship praise. He writes in verse 32,

“Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders”.

The writer of Psalm 107 calls his hearers and readers to exalt or lift up this great God of loving kindness in two places in the formal assemblies of worship, the Temple and from the post exile period the Synagogue and also in the council of the elders which Albert Barnes explains is probably referring to,

“In the presence of venerated men, a body of aged men who presided over the assemblies of worship”.

This is a call to public praise just as the first verse was which said,

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever”.

The post exile Jews had much to praise God for as each of the four poetic images of the exile deliverance experience had demonstrated. God had stilled the storm of the Babylonian over- lords and brought the people back to the safe harbor of the Promised Land of Israel. God certainly deserved to be exalted in private and in the formal gatherings of Jewish worship and we to should do the same in our lives and when we meet together for worship and fellowship because Jesus has done so much for us. As the writer to the Hebrews calls his readers to worship in Hebrews 12: 28 – 29,

 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire:.

  1. (33 – 43)   GOD’S LOVE AND JUDGMENT IN ACTION

1. (33 – 42)   The experience of love and judgment principle

The writer of Psalm 107 changes his poem from poetic illustrations of the exile deliverance experience to nine verses, which Leupold explains this way,

“There follows a section that turns from specific instances to a general truth: the up’s and down’s the success and the failure, the prosperity and calamity in the lives of individuals and nations are entirely in the control of and brought about by the will of the Almighty”.

Israel was warned by Moses way back in the wilderness days that obedience to God and his laws would bring blessings to nations but disobedience to God and his laws would bring upon the nation God’s curse. This is spelt out in Deuteronomy 28 and so these nine verses, 33 – 42 set down a poetic description of God’s blessings and curses on the nation of Israel.

So I have broken these nine verses into:

  1. God’s curses on the nation and its land (vs. 33 – 34 / 39 – 40)
  2. God’s blessings on the nation and its land (vs. 35 – 38 / 41 – 42)

Lets then have a closer look at each of these curses on the nation and the land and God’s blessings on the nation and the land.

  1. God’s curses on the nation and its land (vs. 33 – 34 / 39 – 40)

Ancient Israel was an agricultural based society so the fortunes or devastations of the land determined the prosperity or calamity of the nation. We, in modern society only feel the prosperity or devastation of the land in the price of our food and produce in the supermarkets. Back in 2011 Australia was hit by a massive cyclone called Cyclone Yasi and this cyclone almost wiped out Australia’s banana crop and I can remember bananas going from $1.50 a kilo to $20 a kilo in the matter of days. It took a couple of years for this terrible plight to our Northern Australian farming lands to recover.

So it is not strange that God’s curse on the nation for their many sins of disobedience to his rule and word is expressed in agricultural terms as we read in verses 33- 35,

“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.

 Then in verses 39 – 40 we read of more curses on the people of Israel,

“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”.

So the sins of the nation caused famine through lack of rainfall and he brought calamity on the people through foreign conquest all because,

“Of the wickedness of those who lived there”.

What happened to the nobles or upper ruling class is a vivid poetic picture of what actually happened to the southern kingdom of Judah as recorded in 2 Kings 25: 18 – 21,

“The commander of the guard took as prisoners Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the priest next in rank and the three doorkeepers. 19 Of those still in the city, he took the officer in charge of the fighting men, and five royal advisers. He also took the secretary who was chief officer in charge of conscripting the people of the land and sixty of the conscripts who were found in the city. 20 Nebuzaradan the commander took them all and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. 21 There at Riblah, in the land of Hamath, the king had them executed. So Judah went into captivity, away from her land”.

These nobles or leading men and women of Judah were dragged off ruthlessly to be executed of forcefully taken into exile and even before this final fall of Jerusalem nobles or leading men and women were taken into exile by the Babylonians and in 2 Kings 24: 15 – 17 we read of this first stage of taking leading people into exile in Babylon,

“ Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin captive to Babylon. He also took from Jerusalem to Babylon the king’s mother, his wives, his officials and the prominent people of the land. 16 The king of Babylon also deported to Babylon the entire force of seven thousand fighting men, strong and fit for war, and a thousand skilled workers and artisans. 17 He made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king in his place and changed his name to Zedekiah”.

  1. God’s blessings on the nation and its land (vs. 35 – 38 / 41 – 42)

So God cursed the land of Israel because of the people’s wickedness and disobedience but he also blessed the land especially when the King of Israel or Judah and the people under him obeyed his word and worshipped only him and we see this in this sixth section of Psalm 107 as well.

The writer of Psalm 107 speaks of God blessing the land and his people first of all in this last section of the Psalm in verse 35 – 38,

He turned the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into flowing springs;

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”.

Israel was a nation of such great promise if they would just turn away from other God’s and be obedient to the God of the bible he would turn their deserts into a land flowing with fresh water were people would be blessed and not go hungry.

Theses verses seem to reflect many passages in the book of Isaiah like Isaiah 43: 19 – 21,

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. 20 The wild animals honour me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, 21 the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise”.

 Isaiah pictures God doing a new thing and Matthew Henry in his commentary explains this new thing this way,

“The deliverance from Babylon is foretold, but there is reference to greater events. The redemption of sinners by Christ, the conversion of the Gentiles, and the recall of the Jews, are described. All that is to be done to rescue sinners, and to bring the believer to glory, is little, compared with that wondrous work of love, the redemption of man”.

 So both Psalm 107: 35 – 38 and Isaiah 43: 19 – 21 are poetic pictures of God doing a new thing for his people presented in powerful word pictures that describe in agricultural bliss, turning deserts into fertile land and turning hungry people into well fed contented people.

Jesus knew that in his coming he would fully fulfil the prophecies of Isaiah and all other prophecies for the Messiah and we see this especially in the story of Jesus in the synagogue in Nazareth were he read from the prophecies of Isaiah in Isaiah 61: 1 – 2 and in Luke 4: 21, Jesus makes this bold claim,

“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

 The return from exile in Babylon that this Psalm, Psalm 107 has been speaking about was a wonderful demonstration of the love and blessings of God but the coming of Jesus to this world to save us from our sins and make us a way to heaven for all eternity is a far great demonstration of the love and blessings of God.

Then in verses 41 – 42 our writer of Psalm 107, says,

“But he lifted the needy out of their affliction and increased their families like flocks. The upright see and rejoice, but all the wicked shut their mouths”.

 This is a further poetic picture of the blessing of God in bringing his people back from captivity and exile in Babylon but it to is also a far greater poetic picture of the results of what Christ did for us on the cross 2,000 years ago as this great sacrifice of Christ,

  1. Lifted the needy out of their affliction of sin
  2. Called the lost sheep of the world into his loving flock or family
  3. Caused those who believe in him to rejoice
  4. And ultimately in his second coming shut the mouths of the wicked.

So this sixth section pictures the return from exile in Babylon as a work of God in his love blessing his people after he had judged them for their many sins but for us as believers in what God did in Christ it is a message of the great blessings and love of God for all who truly turn to him.

As Paul speaks of the blessings of knowing Christ and what it leads us to be able to do in 2 Corinthians 9: 8 – 11,

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” 10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God”.

(vs. 43)     Take note and thank God for his love

 The writer closes his Psalm with a verse that could easily have come out of the book of Proverbs as it is a piece of wisdom literature that reads like this,

“Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the Lord”.

 Although Allan Harman points out that the start of verse 43 is a direct copy of the last verse of Hosea, Hosea 14: 9,

“Who is wise? He will realize these things”

 And it is Alfred Barnes who I found explained what both these writers meant by the term “Is wise” when he writes,

“All who have a proper understanding of things, or who are disposed to look at them aright”.

 To see who God is and to know both what he is like and what he has done for us is to,

“Consider the great love of the Lord”

 The writer of Psalm 107 has set a series of powerful yet beautiful poetic pictures of the great love of the Lord seen in how he delivered his people from captivity and exile in Babylon and we have seen that this great historic deliverance of God mirrors perfectly our salvation in Christ.

Christ has liberated us from the bondage or slavery of sin and death through his death and resurrection and if we are wise as the writer of Psalm 107 says we too will consider this great love of the Lord and praise him. As Paul declares to the Galatians in Galatians 5: 1,

 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery”.

I close as usual with an original poem and a prayer:

SAVED FROM THE BONDAGE OF SIN (Based on Psalm 107)

 Chorus:

Saved from the bondage of sin

Yes I saved from the bondage of sin

Made alive by God’s spirit within

For -ever I long to praise him.

 

I’ll give thanks to the Lord for he is good

Through his love he’s saved my life.

I was lost in a very thirsty place

And I cried to the Lord in my strife.

He heard my cry and he answered me

And through Jesus he gave me new life.

So now his spirit satisfies my thirst

And I enjoy a wonderful life.

 

Chorus:

 

Let us give thanks to the Lord for he is good

For he shone his light into my dark place

For with out God we’re lost in the darkness

So I cried to the Lord for release

He heard my cry and he answered me

And through Jesus he showed me great light

So now I see the way of the Lord

That shines so bright through the night.

 

Chorus:

 

Let us give thanks to the Lord for he is good

For he helps me in sickness and strife.

For through our sin sickness and death has come

So God sent Jesus to save our life.

He died for us on the cross you see

To pay for sin for you and for me

So now we can go to him in our strife

To find healing and forgiveness so free.

 

Chorus:

 

Let us give thanks to the Lord for he is good

For he helped me in the storms of life.

For I was lost and I was and all at sea.

But God stilled the storm in my life.

The waves of guilt over whelmed me

And I cried to the Lord please save me

Then I realised that Jesus did die for my sins

To make a way to eternity.

 

Chorus:

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

 Dear father in heaven I thank you for your amazing love we know through the sending of your son into the world to free us from the bondage of sin and death. We know that Jesus died on the cross and redeemed us from the horrible consequences of our many sins. We also know that he rose from the dead to make a way for us into heaven. Thank you Lord for finding us when we were lost, healing us of our many sins, giving us your light in this dark world and stilling all our storms of life with your amazing love through your Son Jesus Christ and in and through his name we pray this, Amen.

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