People of God, this morning we are going to sample a little more of the Lenten journey in the Psalter by focusing on a small portion of the lengthy Psalm 107. This is a psalm of desperation. It is a song of dire predicament, sincere petitions, a glorious pardon, and jubilant praise. Though it specifies a variety of circumstances, this psalm does not want us to focus on the circumstances as much as it calls us to give thanks.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
If there is one Hebrew word you all should have memorized is the word hesed. It is a broad term, which speaks of God’s grace, his steadfast love, his loving-kindness. The word communicates his faithfulness to his children; his unrelenting ability to bring good out of evil. This is in fact a summons to give thanks, but to whom are you thankful: To luck or random circumstances? The Psalmist specifically says to Yahweh. Sometimes our thanks is vague; sometimes our thanks go to the unknown god. I think we would get that sense if we could re-listen to our last thirty prayers. The psalmist wants particular thanks. This is what is expected of God’s people. As Augustine once wrote, “you cannot confess what you have not tasted.”
In fact, if you want to know what differentiates us from unbelievers it is our distinct ability to give thanks to Yahweh. Paul says in Romans 1: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” The unbeliever does not give thanks to God. But the believer knows that Yahweh is the source of everything good (James 1).
And to this, God’s people should offer a hearty and robust Amen! In verse two we read: “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” To put it in historical terms, “Let the Ruths of the Lord say so.” What do we know of Ruth? Ruth is purchased by the kinsman redeemer. This is the same idea. The bride rejoices in being made new by the Bride-Groom. How has the Bride-Groom made Israel new? He redeemed her from trouble; or, literally “from the hand of the enemy.” So, let the redeemed, the purchased, not only feel redeemed, but let them act on their redemption. Listen to the words of Charles Spurgeon, who is remarkably insightful on the psalms: “Let them not only feel so but say so; let them both sing and bid their fellows sing…snatched…away from fierce oppressions, they are bound above all men to adore the Lord, their Liberator.”
Just as Ruth was delivered from the bitterness of her plight, so Israel is redeemed also.
The Psalmist uses several literal illustrations of the misery and calamities of Israel throughout her history. We see the first one in verse three:
and (he) gathered them in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.
This is an allusion to the dispersion of captives throughout the Babylonia Empire. God is gathering his children together after the Babylonia captivity. In this psalm the congregation of Israel is writing down a list of all their major events in history. Israel does not want to forget the enormity of their past misery, because they do not want to forget the glory of God’s deliverance. This song is an exercise is remembrance. It is an exercise for us. It should spark all sorts of conversations in the congregation. “Remember the time I was in the hospital for a month recovering from illness? Remember how our house was demolished after that hurricane? Remember our car accident? Remember how faithful God was to preserve us? Remember what God taught us through that circumstance?” You see this psalm is Israel remembering her solitude, her wanderings, her captivity, her sorrow and tears, and then returning thanks to her God for giving them a Name among the nations.
The gods of the ancient world forgot their people, but Yahweh does not forsake or forget His own.
Yahweh restores Israel from every land, so she may praise with one voice. God seeks his worshipers. He draws them with his grace from the farthest region—north, south, east, west (from beyond the sea). No region, no empire is great and far enough that Yahweh cannot purchase and redeem. This is the language that John picks up in Revelation seven when he writes: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Let the redeemed affirm this great truth; let them Amen the works of our God!
They were gathered from captivity in verses 1-3, and our final verses 4-9, they were lost in the desert:
Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to a city to dwell in;
There was no vestige of a road remaining. They wondered in the wilderness; the sand burning beneath their sandals. They attempted to find refuge, but nothing was available. No one passed by to offer help. There are events in this psalm that detail a similar despairing situation, but this one is a bitter analogy to the state of man before Christ. He tries to find his own way out of this scorching misery. They attempt their own ways to heaven. They build their own babels, but ultimately it is all rubbish. It is all worthless just like the food they despised in Numbers 21. But even more devastating is their isolation in their lost-ness. As Spurgeon said, “Solitude is a great intensifier of misery.” They were desolate, lost, and homeless. But not only that, in verse five the psalmist says they were:
hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
They hungered and thirst and their spirits fainted. They were created in the image of God; they were created to find satisfaction in God—body and soul—but they had lost both. Their disobedience crushed their being completely. They live in disobedience, and so they are continually hungering and thirsting after something and their souls finding no satisfaction is dying within them. The Hebrew Scriptures tie these things together. When your soul is fainting, your body is also dying. At times to human appearances nothing is wrong. In fact, we may think that all is well, but that human void is there and only God can fill it. But the Israelites had no food or drink to provide even a momentary satisfaction. They were stripped from all comfort. You can read their account from Numbers 14 all the way to Joshua 2. Their aimless wondering in a trackless desert summarize many of those years for Israel. But Yahweh is a great God. Yahweh is never far from hearing the cry of his own.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
Redemption and deliverance come right from the hands of Yahweh. The message of Lent is that Jesus knows your distress because he endured distress. He endured abandonment. He endured hunger and thirst. Lent reminds us that we are not alone in our sorrow and pain; that when our souls are fainting and we are exhausted with the pressures of life, Jesus is there. He is our mediator who is nearer than a brother seeking our good.
The reality is that at times even as Christians it takes hunger and thirst and nearness of death to cause us to pursue Christ. As one Puritan writer puts it:
“If hunger brings us to our knees it is more useful to us than feasting; if thirst drives us to the fountain it is better than the deepest flow of worldly joys.”
But deliverance is only the beginning of the work of redeeming. Ruth was not only made a new wife, but was made to enjoy all the pleasures of a new creation. Her Groom protected and provided. And so Yahweh does the same for his Bride:
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.
In the pathless mazes of the desert, Yahweh made a way. Just as John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord, making straight the paths our Lord would trod, Yahweh is providing a safe path for his people. This psalm is more than just the redemption of the Israelites; it is a model for redemption. God is moving his people, his bride from desert to city; from ruin to a new civilization. He is forming through his people a new polis; a new city that shines brighter than all other cities. Let this newly rescued people, let God’s people of all ages thank him for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of Adam, the children of man. He is the satisfier of those who love him and keep his commandments.
He fills us with the good things; with abundant life (John 10).
One final comment is worth mentioning. There is a sacramental overtone to this language. It is not so much that God merely wants to provide you water in the desert, he wants to baptize you. Paul actually says this in I Corinthians 10:
…our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.”
Augustine wrote that the people were freed from Egypt, led through the Red Sea that in baptism it may make an end to their enemies. God had a purpose for Israel: that they should be united to their Lord in baptism. Israel could not do what she was called to do. She had to unite herself to a greater Prophet; she had to drink of a Spiritual Rock who would truly and forever take her into his arms and rescue her from the wilderness wanderings. God is preparing Israel through the desert to become the nation she was called to be. Psalm 107 is given so that we may remember that trials are not the end, but the beginning of a journey that culminates on Resurrection Sunday.
How Now Shall We Then Live?
There are three strong applications for us in these nine verses. First, the wilderness trouble is a picture of the isolation of the life of sin from the lives of faithfulness. This is important. Sin is isolationist. Sin prefers to wander, than to confess. Sin desires darkness rather than light; blindness rather than sight. The reason so many in our culture live in sin is ultimately because they despise the faithfulness of God’s bride. It is easier to hide and to stay away from God’s people than to engage, interact, confess, and forgive. It is only when the people of Israel cried out to God that he brought them to a faithful and worshipping community.
Secondly, there is great abuse in our evangelical culture on the topic of salvation. Salvation becomes the end all for many. They are content to live their lives as Christians in a table that offers only milk and no substance. As Robert Godfrey once said, “The greatest arrogance is ignorance.” God calls us to know Him, but also to know his works. How does he work in history? How does he accomplish his acts for and through us? We need to be familiar with this history. After all, how can we give thanks to someone whose works we do not know?
Finally, God has made us a people of thanks. This entire service is a thanksgiving service. God speaks his words of promise, and we respond in gratefulness with humble hearts, loud voices. Let the redeemed speak the language of thanksgiving, and let the world see this language spoken and lived in their midst.
In The Name of God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Amen
 Some of these comments come from John MacArthur’s sermon on Psalm 107.
 Thanks to MacArthur for the alliteration.
 Augustine’s commentary on Psalm 107, on hesed.
 Psalm 107 draws our attention to the kinsman redeemer (Let the redeemed of Yahweh say so). The gä·al’ takes us back to the ransoming of Ruth. Ruth (bridal) rejoices in her deliverance, and so Israel (bridal) gives thanks to God.
 Treasure of David.
 South can also be translated “sea.”
 Treasury f David.
 Nephesh in the Hebrew.
 Spurgeon. Spurgeon has been refreshing in this season of introspection.
 Augustine. Commentary on Psalm 107.