Summary: Keeping our Focus on God
? If you were driving somewhere and you got lost - or at least weren’t sure where you were, would you
• stop and ask someone for directions
• keep driving in hopes that you find your destination
• phone someone for directions
This is a Psalm about giving thanks. There are some Psalms, like 118 and 136 that have the same second half of a line in every verse: Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures for ever. Let Israel say: “His love endures for ever.” Let the house of Aaron say: “His love endures for ever.” Let those who fear the LORD say: “His love endures for ever.” —- Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures for ever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures for ever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures for ever.
But here in Psalm 107 we see a similar refrain - not in every verse, but in key sections:
Ps. 105 is on Israel’s exodus from Egypt and in 106 on God’s longsuffering care of His people. This psalm focuses on the Lord’s redemption of the nation from captivity in Babylon. While the circumstances described in the psalm could be experienced by almost anyone, they especially apply to what Israel had to endure while in captivity.
The book of Psalms is broken up into five sections called “books” - this Psalm is the first psalm in the fifth book.
After an introductory invocation (vv. 1–3), the psalmist enumerates cases where the Lord delivered all kinds of people in need (vv. 4–32) and concludes with praise of our Redeemer-God. The hymn encourages the godly to observe wisely how great God’s love is for his creation and especially for his own people.
The psalmist begins by urging us to give thanks to the Lord for His goodness and mercy (lovingkindness) [HESED], and he closes by exhorting us to be wise and learn from the mistakes of other people. The people described in this psalm needed God’s help, either because of their own folly or because of circumstances beyond their control, and they called on the Lord and He delivered them.
Whatever the nature of one’s “trouble,” the Lord is able to “redeem”, and those whom he delivers are “the redeemed”. But it is equally clear from the experiences of the redeemed that not all who have been delivered from trouble are redeemed in the soteriological sense. Therefore the psalmist calls on everyone who has experienced an act of God’s “redemption” to be wise by confessing that he is good, loving, and faithful!
Five specific situations are described for us. The stress of Psalm 106 was on man’s unresponsive—even defiant—spirit and God’s judgment on sin, whereas the emphasis in Psalm 107 lies on God’s goodness in spite of man’s sin. These circumstances are divided into two: suffering due to man’s limitations (those lost in the desert or on the sea) and suffering due to man’s sin (prisoners and sick).
I – WE WERE LOST AND WASTED BUT THE LORD GAVE US DIRECTION
1 When You Lose Your Way (vv. 4–9)
The desert is a place to cross through, not to aimlessly wander in. There is no city for protection, and one’s supplies of food and water may readily be depleted (vv. 4–5). Life loses its meaning as one experiences purposelessness.
God hears the prayer of people in “trouble” (v. 6; cf. vv. 13, 19). His deliverance is full of surprises, as he supplies all the needs of his people. He straightens the way; leads them into the city; and provides for their shelter, food, and drink. This God is the object of the thanksgiving hymn, because he manifests his “unfailing love” (ḥeseḏ) in his “wonderful deeds” His mercy is not limited to the covenant people, because the Creator-God is kind to “men”. Since he is so gracious to all peoples, how much more to his own covenant children!
When we lose our way, God satisfies us and provides just what we need. And for that we give Him thanks.
II – WE WERE CAPTIVES SINNERS BUT THE LORD GAVE US DELIVERANCE
1 When You Lose Your Freedom (vv. 10–16)
These people were in prison (vv. 10, 14, 17) because they had rebelled against the Lord, a good description of the Jewish people exiled in Babylon (2 Chron. 36:15–23). They violated their covenant with the Lord, and He had to discipline them (Lev. 26:33; Deut. 28:47–48). Suffering also comes in the form of captivity. The language of “darkness,” “gloom,” and “iron chains” (lit., “iron”) connotes despair, deprivation of rights, and judgment of God. Yet the Lord who heard the cry of those in distress (v. 6) cannot forget the lament of his own people (v. 13). He delivered them too regardless of their rebellious spirit. He delivered them from every adverse condition, symbolized here by “darkness … deepest gloom … chains.… gates of bronze … bars of iron”. For this the “redeemed” may give thanks.