Psalm 107, continued – Give Thanks for God’s Lovingkindness

thankfulnessIn our last post we began to outline the wonderful ways God illustrates His redemption of sinners in Psalm 107. This is a great psalm, designed to inspire thanks and praise to God “for His lovingkindness, And for His wonders to the sons of men” (v. 8, 15, 21, 31). Remember that we stated the purpose and goal of the psalmist like this:

We must thoroughly consider the everlasting lovingkindness of the Lord, and give thanks.

In order to help us do just that, through illustration and instruction, the psalmist gives FIVE REASONS the redeemed must give thanks for God’s lovingkindness.

Give thanks because…

1. Your lost and starving soul has been led to a fruitful home (v. 4-9)

2. Your rebellious and imprisoned soul has been rescued from the chains of death (v. 10-16)

Now, in 107:17-22, we have another illustration of men in their sin—this time it has to do with the disease of sin.

Give thanks because…

3. Your diseased and dying soul has been healed of its afflictions (v. 17-22)

boils infectedSin is often pictured as a disease, it is a sickness that we must be healed of.

Psalm 107:17-18 – Fools, because of their rebellious way, And because of their iniquities, were afflicted. 18 Their soul abhorred all kinds of food, And they drew near to the gates of death.

Now, the passage paints a very literal picture here, of someone who is being afflicted physically as a direct result of their sin—not as a direct consequence (although that is possible). He says that it was because of rebellion of the heart and their own iniquities that the Lord had brought His chastening upon them. It is “because of their rebellious way, and because of their iniquities,” that they were afflicted.

Certainly, we need to be clear that the Bible does NOT teach that every physical ailment is a direct result of some sin. But the Bible does teach that this MAY be the case. And here is one place where that concept is taught. But I think the psalmist in this context, is really pointing us more to the metaphor of the sickness of sin—the literal, physical experience of sickness, being the ground of the illustration of the spiritual reality of sin.

We see this metaphor of sin as sickness in Jesus’ words.

Mark 2:17 – And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

doctorIt is only those who are sick who need a physician. Likewise, only those who understand that they have the “illness of sinfulness” will seek to be healed by the Great Physician. This section of the psalm is clearly a call to sinners to recognize their spiritual sickness and cry out to the Lord for spiritual healing from sin.

Psalm 107:19-20 – Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses. 20 He sent His word and healed them, And delivered them from their destructions.

God will save! He will rescue! He will HEAL the humble sinner, who cries out to Him. Here, it says He delivers them from their destructions (or literally, “the pits”), which seems to be a reference to the grave. Of course, we know that the wages of sin is death—this is not a strange concept to the biblically trained ear.

Have you come to recognize how unhealthy, how diseased, how leprous and infected, your soul truly is apart from God’s healing hand? It is the only way to be cured from the sickness of sin. Recognize your need, and then cry out to Him for healing. You must acknowledge the trouble that you are in and experience the distress of being unable to heal yourself. Then in your helplessness cry out to Him, and He will send His word, and heal you.

And, if you HAVE been redeemed from the distress and the disease of sin, then the psalmist says this to you:

Psalm 107:21-22 – Let them give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness, And for His wonders to the sons of men! 22 Let them also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, And tell of His works with joyful singing.

In the first two refrains, reference is made to what God has done (satisfying the hungry/thirsty soul [v. 9, 10], and breaking the bronze/iron prison [v. 16]). But in this refrain (and the next), a statement is made about what those who have been healed and rescued ought to do in response. We are reminded in this case (v. 22), of the purpose of the song as a whole—it is a reminder give praise to God. The thanksgiving of an ancient Israelite would come through the prescribed thank offerings, and the praise would come through telling His works through joyful singing (v. 22).

Is this your heartfelt response to enjoying and being reminded of God’s redemptive work on your behalf? It should be! Because if you are saved, then “Your diseased and dying soul has been healed of its afflictions” (v. 17-22).

Now there is a fourth illustration, a final metaphor for the problem of sin, from which we need to be redeemed. This is the fourth reason that considering the everlasting lovingkindness of the Lord should produce thankfulness in our hearts.

Give thanks because…

4. Your fearful and storm-tossed soul has been delivered to a safe harbor (v. 23-32)

The picture in this next section of the psalm is of a life that is tossed around on the waves of the sea and out of control. In this case, there is nothing mentioned regarding the storm being a direct result of sin. It seems to only be a picture of the difficulty of life, and the uncontrollable trials of life, in this sin-cursed world.

ship in stormPsalm 107:23-27 – Those who go down to the sea in ships, Who do business on great waters; 24 They have seen the works of the LORD, And His wonders in the deep. 25 For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind, Which lifted up the waves of the sea. 26 They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths; Their soul melted away in their misery. 27 They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, And were at their wits’ end.

This is life for everyone to one extent or another. Just like sailors might get stuck at sea in the midst of a storm bigger than they can handle, we are often tossed and in peril from the trials of life. Like sailors who quickly recognize that there are forces at work beyond their control, we know that there is a power above and beyond us that lifts up those waves—they are the works of the Lord!

There are times when our souls melt in misery as life assails us. There are times when we reel and stagger like a drunken man—we are tossed by our circumstances, and stumble in directions we do not want to go; we feel out of control. The translation here is interesting. It says men are, “at their wits’ end.” Who hasn’t felt like that in the midst of trials? Life is beyond our control. And it is the gift of a merciful God to remind us, so that we will learn to depend upon Him.

When we do recognize our need to depend upon Him thoroughly and completely, for both help and salvation, His redeeming grace always provides for our blessing and protection THROUGH the storms of life.

Are you feeling overwhelmed? Do you have storms bashing, and waves crashing, that you don’t know whether you will be able to survive? Don’t forget that God is in control, and as a redeemed child, cry out to Him.

ship dockedPsalm 107:28-30 – Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, And He brought them out of their distresses. 29 He caused the storm to be still, So that the waves of the sea were hushed. 30 Then they were glad because they were quiet, So He guided them to their desired haven.

Again, the picture is of a powerful God, who is abounding in lovingkindness, and who desires to deliver His children from trouble and trial. Have you experienced the grace of God, in delivering you from, or through, the storm? Then give thanks!

Psalm 107:31-32 – Let them give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness, And for His wonders to the sons of men! 32 Let them extol Him also in the congregation of the people, And praise Him at the seat of the elders.

As you see and remember His lovingkindness, you should be giving thanks, extolling Him, and praising Him. And we are told that we should be doing this, “in the midst of the congregation.”

This is the lovingkindness of God. He has promised to lead us and feed us, to rescue us from sin’s prison, to heal us of affliction, and deliver us from peril.

Now the last section of the psalm is of a different flavor.

Verses 33-42 describe the workings of God, who mercifully accomplishes a fitting response in appropriate circumstances. It describes God as one who both blesses the land and curses the land, according to what the lives of the people dictate is just. But in all of it, He has a purpose which is loving, and redemptive. And it is in these loving and redemptive purposes of God that we should find the motivation for praise and thanksgiving!

Psalm 107:33-34 – He changes rivers into a wilderness And springs of water into a thirsty ground; 34 A fruitful land into a salt waste, Because of the wickedness of those who dwell in it.

drought riverbedWe first see that God can take a fertile, fruitful and well-watered land, and turn it into a dry and useless piece of property. And it says that He may do this “because of the wickedness of those who dwell in it” (v. 34). However, we then read this:

Psalm 107:35-38 – He changes a wilderness into a pool of water And a dry land into springs of water; 36 And there He makes the hungry to dwell, So that they may establish an inhabited city, 37 And sow fields and plant vineyards, And gather a fruitful harvest. 38 Also He blesses them and they multiply greatly, And He does not let their cattle decrease.

God also can bless the land, and cause it to be fertile and fruitful again. Is God fickle? Is He just randomly bringing blessing and famine according to His own divine whim? Is He toying with the fate of men, treating us like dolls in His divine storybook?

Absolutely not! And it is in the purposes of God through the ups and downs of life that we find the fifth and final reason in this psalm for giving thanks regarding the Lord’s lovingkindness.

How is the everlasting lovingkindness of the Lord revealed in His giving, and taking away, the fruitfulness of the land? He tells us that making the land barren, and bringing the misery of famine when it is in His power to make the land fruitful, is often part of His plan humble the hearts of men, and bring them to the place where they will depend upon Him fully.

Psalm 107:39-42 – When they are diminished and bowed down Through oppression, misery and sorrow, 40 He pours contempt upon princes And makes them wander in a pathless waste. 41 But He sets the needy securely on high away from affliction, And makes his families like a flock. 42 The upright see it and are glad; But all unrighteousness shuts its mouth.

Give thanks because…

5. In all these things, it is the Lord’s lovingkindness that exposes our helplessness so that He can lift us up (v. 33-43)

It is only because the Lord has made us to see that we were lost, starving and thirsty, that we could cry out and be led to that fruitful home—and this was His design.

It is only because we came to see that we were in the deadly chains of the prison-house of sin, that we understood we needed to be rescued.

It is only because God allowed us to experience the pain of knowing and experiencing our diseased and dying soul, that we cried out to him for healing and deliverance.

It is only because we have experienced the storms of life, that we have learned to depend upon Him to be delivered safely to the harbor.

And that is the divine design of His lovingkindness; that the most powerful of men—even the nobles, the princes of the land—would see their desperate need of Him and humbly turn to Him in complete dependence.

blind manOur tendency is to kick against the trials of life, it is to shun guilt, and to think highly of ourselves. But by God’s grace, we are enabled to see our spiritually starving souls, imprisoned for our lawlessness and diseased because of our rebellion. This is the only way to truly know the grace, mercy, compassion, deliverance and forgiveness of the Lord. It is a gift of God’s everlasting lovingkindness that we feel guilt, that we see our depravity, that we suffer the consequences of our sin, and that He has opened our blind eyes to see our need to depend upon Him alone for every spiritual need.

The psalmist closes with an admonishment to give careful thought to these very principles.

Psalm 107:43 – Who is wise? Let him give heed to these things, And consider the lovingkindnesses of the LORD.

If we properly consider the lovingkindness of the Lord, then we will fulfill the purpose and mission of this psalm. We will be motivated to give thanks for it.

Psalm 107:1-2 – Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. 2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary.

Indeed! Let the redeemed of the LORD say so! He is GOOD! His lovingkindness is everlasting!

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