“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” (Psalm 107:1-3).
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
The psalmist commends God’s goodness and His steadfast love as reason for giving thanks. However, there are three kinds of people who do not give thanks to the Lord because He is good. The first kind is those who do not believe in God, or if they do doubt His ability or inclination to do anything to redeem them from their trouble. Some look at events in the world, or circumstances of their life and doubt His goodness and love.
The second kind is that of the despairing, those who certainly believe that God can and knows how to deliver them from their distress, but they do not believe that He also is willing to do it for them. Weighed down by the guilt of their transgressions or the pain and shame of others’ sins against them, they don’t trust that He has enough love for them to redeem them from their trouble.
The third kind of person who does not give thanks for the goodness and steadfast love of God is that of the presumptuous, those who regard themselves as good and self-sufficient, as if they did not need divine goodness. And they presume to climb up to equality with God, because they want to be what God is, namely, good in themselves. They want to make themselves equal to God. But they end up removing and denying God altogether, because they do not believe His goodness is so much greater than theirs.
At any given moment, due to our sinful nature, we can be one or the other—faithless, despairing, or haughty in spirit.
Fortunately, our psalmist understands and trusts both the goodness and steadfast love of the Lord. In Psalm 107, he mentions four specific challenges from which the Lord has delivered and redeemed His people. Our selected text, verses 1-9, has the first of the four: The people are wandering in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in. They are hungry and thirsty; their soul faints within them. Then they cry to the Lord in their trouble and He delivers them from their distress.
There were many situations in Israel’s history in which they cried out to the Lord, but this one seems to focus on the time of restoration from the exile. Israel had been scattered first by the Assyrians and then by the Babylonians. They were ready to go home. God had a city for them to dwell in. He delivered them from their distress and led them to Jerusalem. There they would rebuild the city, its walls, and the temple of the Lord. He would satisfy their hungry souls and fill them with good things.
The psalmist uses several words that are important to our understanding of God’s plan of salvation. In verse 6, the psalmist uses na-zal, “to deliver,” which has the idea of being physically rescued from something or separated from danger. The Lord saves us from spiritual and physical ill. As we confess in the explanation to the First Article of the Creed: “He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.”
In verse 2, the word translated, “redeemed,” in Hebrew is go-ale, to be ransomed or bought back by a close relative as from debt or slavery. Jesus is our brother—a close relative. He redeemed us by buying us back from the debt of our trespasses and the slavery of our sin.
We confess this in the explanation to the Second Article of the Creed: He “has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.
“[God’s people] cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!
It was a cycle that continued to repeat over and over. God’s people fell away from Him. They experienced the consequences of their sin and unbelief. They cried out to the Lord, and He delivered them from their distress. He redeemed them from their trouble.
And that makes it rather like the everyday life of the Christian, doesn’t it? We fall away from the Lord and reap the consequences. We wander, hungering and thirsting for that which we cannot get for ourselves, but can only receive from the Lord’s gracious hands. Coming to our senses, we cry out to the Lord in our trouble. He delivers us from our distress. He redeems us from our trouble.
As we learn in the catechism, the life of the baptized is characterized by “daily contrition and repentance” that drowns the “Old Adam” sinner in us so that he dies “with all sins and evil desires, and that [in the sinner’s place] a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”
Here in time, through baptism, we experience daily what will happen once, for eternity on judgment day.
“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!”
The daily life of the Christian, while full of distress, every day having enough trouble of its own, is also full of the grace and love of God in Christ. In fact, it is the distress and trouble that points us to that grace and love. Without the distress and trouble, who would need, let alone look for, the grace and love that proceeds only from the beloved Son of the living God?
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17).
Jesus didn’t need to take on flesh to condemn sinners, that was the state of things already. He came to deliver us from the death sentence of that condemnation. He came to redeem all who believe in Him and His work of salvation. On the dark Friday we call Good, He gave Himself to suffering and death, even a cursed death on the cross, so that you would not perish, but live eternally. To make a straight way to a city that is to come, the New Jerusalem. To satisfy your spiritual thirst, and fill your hungry soul with good things.
So here is one final thing for you to think about. However dark things may look to you on any given day; however painful the day’s trouble proves to be for you; however monstrous the obstacle you see before seems to be; the darkness, pain, and monstrosities from which your Savior is protecting and delivering you are infinitely greater. The devil prowls like a hungry lion seeking whom he may devour, and his armies are legions beyond counting. If you could see them for even a moment, you would not only give up hope, you would drop dead from fear.
But thanks be to God! He spares you from that which you could never begin to bear. And He gives you but enough to cause you to seek His help, to call on Him daily for forgiveness, and to keep you humble before Him and in the eyes of a critical world looking for any reason not to believe and to blame their unbelief on those who do.
So today, and every day, let us join together with all the faithful as we give thanks to our Redeemer and Deliverer. You are the redeemed of the Lord. In Jesus, God has restored the peace you long for. Your sins are forgiven, and where there is forgiveness of sins, there is life and every blessing. Speak up and tell others it is so: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!”
In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.