A reminder that God is a merciful and well-intentioned provider, but there are consequences for rejecting Him

TUESDAY, MARCH 6
Psalm 107:1-9, 17-22

Desert experiences come to us all; even if we have brought them on ourselves, God is merciful to respond to our cry for help.

1  Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. 1  A call-to-worship refrain that is often repeated in Psalms. It is a simple but spiritually powerful declaration of praise for God’s character of unconditional love and goodness – and thanks for His goodness received by us in many ways.

1  God is good! This most fundamental characteristic of God’s nature is essential to praise. It is a persistent lie of the devil to plant the thought that God is harsh and unfair. The praise of God’s goodness (regardless of feelings or circumstances) breaks the hold of this faith-sapping lie.

For further study, see Psalms 106:1; 118:1,29; 136:1; Jer. 33:11.

1  “His love” – the English word is too weak and too general. Better, His “mercy and lovingkindness” (Amp), “faithful love” (NLT). The Hebrew word is hesēd which is used for God’s love in connection with His covenant – hence unconditional love. The NT equivalent word is agape.

2  Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story – those He redeemed from the hand of the foe,

3  those He gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south.

2-3  If this psalm was written by a Levite after the return from exile, “the lands” are the places of exile under the Assyrian and Babylonian dispersions.
4  Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle. 4  The first of four crises in this psalm (two in this excerpt) – the wilderness wandering, vv. 4-9; bondage as prisoners, vv.10-16 (not included in this lectionary excerpt); suffering as a consequence of sin, vv. 17-22; and distress at sea, vv.23-32 (not included).

4  There is no specific reference to Numbers 21 (this week’s OT reading), but this reference to desert wandering does read like a reflection on that situation.

4  “City where they could settle” (and v.7) – literally “city of habitation” where people live in the security of a steady supply of food and water.

5  They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away. 5  A presenting problem of the wilderness experience, Exodus 15:22, 16:3.
6  Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress.

6  “Cried out to the Lord” – exactly the right response when trouble threatens. Also verses 13 and 19 (and v.28, not included).

6  Israel’s history had episodes of rebellion (focus of Psalm 106), of crying out to the Lord in distress, as here in Ps. 107, and of God’s deliverance (focus of Ps. 105).

7  He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle. 7  “Straight way” – has the sense of level, free from obstacles. Israel’s return from exile is sometimes portrayed as a kind of second exodus, Isaiah 11:16, Isaiah 40:3.

8  Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind…

8  “Unfailing love” – hesēd, see note to v.1.
9  …for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. 9  The crisis of vv. 4-5 reversed. The original hearers would have no difficulty in seeing the allusion to God’s provision of water and food in the desert, Exodus 15:25, 16:13-35.
17  Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.  17  Statement of cause and effect, reinforcing vv. 10-16 (omitted in lectionary) which describes how harsh labour in foreign bondage broke the spirit of those who had rebelled against God’s decrees and suffered deportation.

17  “Fools” always goes together with sin in Psalms.

For further study, see Psalm 38:5, 69:5, Proverbs 1:7.

18  They loathed all food and drew near the gates of death. 18  This implies that God can allow wasting disease because of the foolishness of ‘rebellious ways”, v.17, with the intention of provoking a repentant response, v.19, leading to saving and healing, vv.19-20.
 19  Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress.

20  He sent out His word and healed them; He rescued them from the grave.

19-20 “Sent out His word” – word is personified, as in the more familiar John 1:1, 1:14. Words which are God’s words declared (spoken out) in faith have greater impact than we may imagine. See also Ezekiel 37:4.
21  Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind.  21  “Unfailing love” – one word again, hesēd, as v.1 and v.8. Note that this unfailing love is God’s love and grace expressed towards rebellious fools who are, however, still covered by the covenant. God’s grace is expressed in the OT but is less explicit– it is there to be found if we look for it.
22  Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of His works with songs of joy.


Application

This song speaks of God’s goodness and love which is “unfailing” even when we have clearly failed in our attitude Him.

The key in this psalm is in the phrase “then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble” which is repeated for emphasis.

Why is this important? When we have gone away from the Lord in some way, deliberately or otherwise, we find ways to justify ourselves rather than “crying out to the Lord”. We will fail to hear or reject the “word sent out” which heals (v.20) until we make the shift.

The phrase “cried out… in their trouble” conveys an attitude of heart which, quite simply, recognises being in trouble. Just as it’s pride that gets us into trouble, the humility that recognises that we need the Lord’s help is what gets his attention. And He meets us where we are with “unfailing love”

For reflection or as a discussion starter

2  “They wandered… in desert wastelands.” We all experience ‘desert times’. Why does God allow these? How does He use these times?