Summary: Giving thanks for 1) The divine work of Redemption (Psalm 107:1-9), and 2) The divine work of Restoration (Psalm 107:10-15)
The Pilgrims first celebrated Thanksgiving as we currently know it, with the indigenous peoples of North America. Governor William Bradford in his account of the founding of the Plymouth Plantation explicitly referred to Psalm 107 in his well-known summation of their achievement: “Our fathers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness; but they cried unto the Lord, and he heard their voice and looked on their adversity,” … “Let them therefore praise the Lord, because he is good: and his mercies endure forever.” “Yes, let them which have been redeemed of the Lord, shew how he hath delivered them from the hand of the oppressor. When they wandered in the desert wilderness out of the way, and found no city to dwell in, both hungry and thirsty, their soul was overwhelmed in them. Let them confess before the Lord his loving kindness and his wonderful works before the sons of men.” (William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation 1620–1647 (New York: The Modern Library, 1952), 63.)
Those words are based on Psalm 107, which suggests that the psalm was often in the Pilgrims’ minds. Since the Pilgrims came ashore on Monday, December 11, 1620, after having spent the prior day worshiping God, it is even likely that Psalm 107 was the basis for that Sabbath’s meditation. In its own setting Psalm 107 is a praise song of the regathered people of Israel after their Babylonian bondage. …the psalm was aptly used by the Pilgrims and may be loved by us as well, since the examples it gives of the perils from which the people of God are delivered are at once common, varied, and suggestive. We can see ourselves in each of these situations. (Boice, J. M. (2005). Psalms 107–150: An Expositional Commentary (p. 864). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.)
When we think about it, each of us has a life or death situation before us. If we are redeemed, we have been saved/rescued from the wrath of God (Rom. 5). Yet every one of us knows someone that is not redeemed and faces this situation. The most dangerous thing about this is that these people don’t realize the gravity of the situation they face. Psalm 107 is helpful for us to give thanks for redemption or plead for redemption for those we love. It provides a rich picture of 1) The divine work of Redemption (Psalm 107:1-9), and 2) The divine work of Restoration (Psalm 107:10-15) particularly in regard to the redemption and restoration of Israel by the mercy and goodness of God.
We can give thanks to the Lord for He is Good as seen in:
1) The divine work of Redemption (Psalm 107:1-9)
Psalm 107:1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! 2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble 3 and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. 4 Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; 5 hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. 6 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. 7 He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. 8 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! 9 For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. (ESV)
The opening verses are a summons to thank God. Verse 1 is a summation which rehearses all of the deliverances of Israel from every direction. The psalm was mostly likely written after the exile in Babylon. It perhaps then looks especially at the Babylonian exile, the redemption of the people of God from their Babylonian captivity. And while that may be in some ways its most poignant reference, it is certainly not limited to that. In fact, it provides general pictures of God's redemption of Old Testament saints and as well of God's redemption even of us. It is applicable to all who have been redeemed from sin. We can give thanks to the LORD, for His is good. His goodness is spelled out because He is a God who keeps His promises. His steadfast (Hessed) love endures forever. He is a covenant keeping God who fulfills His good promises. The basis of our worship is an acknowledgement of this fact. Most likely, this psalm was used for worship, particularly by the Jews who returned from Babylon to rebuild their city and rebuild the wall and rebuild the nation. Perhaps this psalm was even sung at the first Feast of Tabernacles that Ezra 3 says was celebrated right after they returned. As we pray for revival, we too need to begin with this kind of worship, (petitioning) the mercy of God beyond our sin and the decay of the church. Revival will begin with the restoration of a proper vision of who God is, His goodness, His moral perfection, and His mercy, which is extended to ward us. As we trust that the Lord is merciful, we will experience His mercy again.( Williams, D., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1989). Psalms 73–150 (Vol. 14, p. 266). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.)