Psalm 107

5-21-19

-Drew Bundy

Introduction

Psalm 107 begins the last book of Psalms. These psalms were collected either near the end of the exilic period in Israel’s history or just after they began to return to the promised land. Book five can be understood to have five parts and/or collections: (1) Psalms 107-118,135-137 make up the majority of this collection. The sources of these psalms vary, but most were likely written during the exilic period. (2) Psalm 119, being the longest psalm, stands out on its own. In later posts we will take a look at this mammoth in detail. (3) Psalms 120-134 are the Psalms of Ascent. This was a collection of psalms meant to be sung by pilgrims as they approached Jerusalem and the Temple. This collection is what we are going to look at in the next few posts. (4) Psalms 138-145 comprise a collection of Davidic psalms. This collection was added to mirror the Davidic psalms of book one, creating a fitting end to this last collection of psalms into a book. (5)  Psalms 146-150 were written and compiled to be a finale to the whole collection of the five books of psalms. These five psalms are all exciting doxologies each beginning with “Praise the Lord.”

Psalm 107 looks forward to the end of the exile of the Israelites from the promised land. It speaks to four groups of people who are far from God and His promised land. It calls each of them to return and repent. These calls emphasize both the people’s sin and inadequacy and God’s steadfast love and forgiveness.

Stanza 1

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 lands,
    from the east and from the west,
    from the north and from the south.

Rather than beginning by focusing on the scattered people of Israel, this psalm opens with a command to thank the Lord for is goodness and steadfast love. Looking forward to the redemption and re-immigration of God’s people, the psalmist speaks of people from all over the world returning to the nation. The next four stanzas will describe different groups of people that will be gathered in this process, why they have been scattered, and how God will prove faithful to them. These ideas are essential for the exiled Israelites to understand. They have grown up away from the promised land, and without this reassurance it could be easy to doubt God’s love and goodness or even that He would keep His promise to return them.

Stanza 2

Some wandered in desert wastes,
    finding no way to a city to dwell in;

hungry and thirsty,
    their soul fainted within them.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.

He led them by a straight way
    till they reached a city to dwell in.

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!

For he satisfies the longing soul,
    and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

The first group encountered reminds the singers of Israel’s first expulsion from the promised land in the Pentateuch. These were people who wandered in the desert wastes for forty years, each day relying on God to provide for them water and manna. As the psalmist reminds the singers of that generation entering into the promised land and finding a home. He gives them hope that they will soon return to the cities of Israel.

In the midst of their need, the people recognized the only source that could satisfy–the Lord. So, they cried to him and He was faithful to deliver them. This is instructional to the scattered Israelites. They were without the prosperity experienced in the promised land, and as the next stanza will remind us, it was because of their sin, but they too cried to God and He faithfully delivered.

There is a response commanded for this return: to thank God for His steadfast love and wondrous works. Even though people were without basic needs, God provided for them and fed them. We are thankful even when we lack, because we know God will provide for His people.

Stanza 3

Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    prisoners in affliction and in irons,

for they had rebelled against the words of God,
    and spurned the counsel of the Most High.

So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor;
    they fell down, with none to help.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.

He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
    and burst their bonds apart.

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!

For he shatters the doors of bronze
    and cuts in two the bars of iron.

The same pattern from stanza two is repeated here in stanza three. The psalmist introduces a group of people that are exiled, describes why they are this way, demonstrates their repentance and humility, rejoices at God’s deliverance, and finally commands a praise-filled response. 

This second group of people are those who have been captured by the invading armies. These would have been people like Daniel and probably people who lived lives even worse off than his. As we picture someone in this situation it might be easy to have pity and assume their innocence, but the psalmist quickly dispels this idea. Why are they in prison, and why do they find themselves in the shadow of death? Because of their rebellious hearts against the Lord. It is important to remember that all of these people are scattered and cast out of the promised land because of their sin. Remembering this allows God’s mercy to be seen as greater. God frees these people in spite of their sinful hearts. 

Stanza 4

Some were fools through their sinful ways,
    and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;

they loathed any kind of food,
    and they drew near to the gates of death.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.

He sent out his word and healed them,
    and delivered them from their destruction.

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!

And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
    and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

This third group of people demonstrate even more boldly than the last that these afflictions are punishments for sin. People were brought to the brink of death as a result of the exile. Yes, God hates sin and will discipline His people for it, but He is also faithful and just to forgive. He delights in restoring His repentant people. This stanza follows the pattern of the last two stanzas and ends with a command to rejoice and worship the God who delivers and heals.

Stanza 5

Some went down to the sea in ships,
    doing business on the great waters;

they saw the deeds of the Lord,
    his wondrous works in the deep.

For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
    which lifted up the waves of the sea.

They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
    their courage melted away in their evil plight;

they reeled and staggered like drunken men
    and were at their wits' end.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.

He made the storm be still,
    and the waves of the sea were hushed.

Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
    and he brought them to their desired haven.

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!

Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
    and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

One last group is presented in much the same way as the first three, but their sin isn’t as largely emphasized nor is their exile. The phrase “their evil plight” gives some recognition to their sinfulness; perhaps they were not just in their business dealings and that is why God brought about this storm. This stanza serves to expound on God’s sovereignty and power not only to restore His people, but also over all things on the earth. Again the psalmist describes people crying out to God for deliverance. They also thank the Lord for His rescuing and His steadfast love. This turns into a command for all to praise Him.

Stanza 6

He turns rivers into a desert,
    springs of water into thirsty ground,

a fruitful land into a salty waste,
    because of the evil of its inhabitants.

He turns a desert into pools of water,
    a parched land into springs of water.

And there he lets the hungry dwell,
    and they establish a city to live in;

they sow fields and plant vineyards
    and get a fruitful yield.

By his blessing they multiply greatly,
    and he does not let their livestock diminish.

The psalmist ends his description of these four people groups and now describes two different types of people–the upright and the the wicked. This stanza focuses mostly on the upright, but instead of emphasizing their uprightness, the psalmist simply describes God’s choosing to show mercy on them. God does this by turning a desolate place into a life-giving and life-sustaining oasis. 

Stanza 7

When they are diminished and brought low
    through oppression, evil, and sorrow,

he pours contempt on princes
    and makes them wander in trackless wastes;

but he raises up the needy out of affliction
    and makes their families like flocks.

The upright see it and are glad,
    and all wickedness shuts its mouth.

In this last stanza we see how God deals with the haughty and wicked. He brings them low through the very things that they use to abuse others. This psalm really shows both the blessing and the punishment that people experience. He has disciplined his people for their sin by doing the things described in this stanza, and now that He has softened their hearts, He promises to do what is described in the previous stanza. 

The upright are told to observe how God works and be glad. This means they are to be glad even at God’s discipline; it is the same God who blesses and punishes. Both of these actions are for His glory and the good of His people, so they ought to rejoice at both.

Ending

Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things;
    let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

The psalmist adds a short line at the end of the psalm almost as a coda lest the singers miss what the point was. If you are wise and love God you should observe these two ways God deals with His people and conclude that His love is steadfast. This is easier to do when God is pouring out blessing; it is a harder thing to remember when we are being disciplined for sin, but we know God’s love never fails and He is eager to forgive His repentant children.

Purchase our ebook “The Book of Psalms” which includes lessons about 7 Psalms including this one for private devotion or small group study for $10.95.

All Scripture is quoted from the ESV.

Drew Bundy