Psalm 107 begins the fifth book of the Psalms with a song that remembers hardship. Consecutive sections of the Psalm recall different experiences of suffering and fear in which it seemed the Lord might be absent. Some wander in desert wastes, others are shackled in prisons after committing crime, others suffer affliction and illness because of foolish decisions, and still others have courage-melting experiences on the sea. In each case they suffer, they realize their desperate situation, they cry to the Lord, and he hears their prayer. The first section may look back to the Exodus, when Israel wandered for forty years in the desert.
The New Testament compares the spiritual experience of Christians to the Exodus in passages like Hebrews 11:13-16. We too wander through challenging times, when we may grumble and wonder where the Lord is. We suffer, often because we rebel against any authority. But when we, hungering and thirsty, realizing the spiritual void in our lives, turn to the Lord and obey him, he hears us, too. The Psalmist considers four groups of people in Psalm 107 who may believe that God has forsaken them. He describes their turning to God and crying for deliverance. Turning or repentance precedes biblical conversions. People like Saul of Tarsus realize their desperate need for God before they arise and are baptized, calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16).
God rescues the hopeless. God redeems some really horrible people. Psalm 107 reminds us that God loves us reliably; God is there when we doubt his presence most. This Psalm begins with stirring words of praise:
“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lans, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south” (Psalm 107:1-3).
Those words may originally have applied to Israelites returning from exile and captivity but they foreshadow the good news of Christ that gathers in the redeemed from all nationalities and adopts the redeemed into the family of God. The psalm ends with words that remind us how God reverses what we know and what we expect. The desert becomes fertile. The demagogue is punished. The poor are rewarded. The Psalmist exhorts us to remember what God had done for us, and if we have been redeemed, to make some noise about it. “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” Don’t be ashamed. Don’t keep it a secret. God loves you and has saved you.
God satisfies the hungry soul. He shatters the chains that we have forged to imprison ourselves. His word heals us from our cravings and our addictions. Hurricanes and tornadoes often remind us that our technologies do not overcome the power of God’s Creation. God delivers in our distress. He hushes our fear even as he stills the storm. God’s history with humanity is a story of reversal, God’s ability to rescue us from our greatest fears, addictions, and rebellion. God cares for the needy. He empowers the vulnerable. He redeems those that others call “God-forsaken.” His steadfast love and his grace empower us to be the people he created us to be. Will you be wise and pay attention to these truths?
- Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version of the Bible
O Lord, we give thanks to you. When it seems that no one cares, we remember that you do, and looking around, we discover the evidence of your love. Our desperation drives us to you, and crying to you, we plead for relief. You satisfy the hungry soul, the Psalmist tells us, and when we turn to you and submit to you, we experience that filling. Thank you for your love that stills the angry storms in our lives and gives us peace. In Jesus’s name, amen.