God’s Word for You
Psalm 107:1-9 Salvation unto us has come (Part 1)
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, April 11, 2022
This Psalm begins the fifth and final group or book of Psalms. The first Hebrew word (“Give thanks”), summarizes the contents of all the Psalms of the group. Our focus will not be on the group at this point, but on the content of this remarkable poem. It presents four episodes of rescue by the hand of God: Wanderers in the desert, chained prisoners, the deathly ill, and mariners foundering in a ferocious storm.
1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say this—
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
3 those he gathered from the lands,
from east and west, from north and south.
Verse 1 is repeated from Psalm 106:1, and occurs again with the same words in Psalms 118:1, 118:29 and 136:1. “Give thanks” in this case is an idiom, a form of “throw!” which might be compared with the idiom in modern American jargon, “Let’s give it up for…” meaning to give applause. “Give” in our Psalm is to give thanks, for what else can man give to God apart from glory? Whether we give time, offering, service, or something else, thanks is truly what we give no matter what form it takes.
The “good” here is the same tov which God pronounced in his judgment of the creation before the fall (Genesis 1:4,10, etc.). When God uses “good” to describe a thing, it is not faint praise but an absolute judgment. When man uses “good” to describe God, he is using God’s own language out of humble respect and awe.
We are following the old 1978 NIV in this case, but hesed should be translated “mercy,” not “love.” His goodness and mercy move us to thank him as we see here, to serve him with obedience to his will, and to give him praise with our lives for all he has done. We, the redeemed, thank him—all of us from every direction, north, south, east, and west. Curiously, the Hebrew of verse 3 does not say “north and south” as we would expect when the compass points are being listed (as in Genesis 13:14; 1 Kings 7:25; Luke 13:29 and Revelation 21:13). Here our text actually has “north and the sea” rather than “north and south.” While it’s reasonable for modern readers to think in terms of the compass points this way, “sea” is also the second term in Isaiah’s: “from the north and from the ‘west’ (lit. “sea”), and some from the land of Sinim” (Isaiah 49:12, where Sinim may be a reference to China). Perhaps the “sea” here is a look ahead to the “sea” rescue stanza (verses 23-30). In fact, if we adopt this view, it’s possible that each of the four rescues is meant to refer to people being rescued by God from the four compass points. I will try to at least explore that possibility with each stanza.
4 Some wandered in desert wastelands,
finding no way to a city where they could settle.
5 They were hungry and thirsty,
and their lives ebbed away.
6 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
7 He led them by a straight way
to a city where they could settle.
We don’t know whether the “some” that begins verse 4 should just be “they” or if “some” is acceptable. It is indefinite in Hebrew. The way we take this word will influence the way we take the four rescue incidents described. Are they all just an example of rescue (“they”) or are they four specific episodes in Israel’s history (“some”)? My application of the Psalm will assume that it could be four separate episodes (“some”) but that we can and should apply the Psalm to our own experience and to God’s great goodness in saving us.
The desert wandering to the “east” (verse 3) could be a reference to the sojourn in Babylon or even Abraham’s youth in Ur of the Chaldeans (Genesis 11:28) rather than the time Israel was in Egypt (Egypt would be seen as either south or west of Israel, but not east). Perhaps the Psalm’s vagueness about details and the inclusion of “a city where they could settle” helps to show that God helps everyone in distress, everyone who cries out to him, giving them a home in the city of God, which is his eternal kingdom and not an earthly kingdom at all (John 18:36). But returning to the journey of Abraham, we have the testimony of Moses that Eber and his family (the Hebrews) lived “from Mesha all the way to Sephar, in the hill country of the east. These were the descendants of Shem” (Genesis 10:30-31). Where would their dwelling place be? God brought them through famine and drought (“they were hungry and thirsty”) as well as oppression, war, and disease (“their lives ebbed away”). They prayed, “cried out to the LORD in their trouble,” and he heard them.
The Lord leads us by a straight way (Psalm 107:7) and through a narrow door (Matthew 7:13-14; Luke 13:24). Pray that he will keep you on the path that leads to eternal life, and follow his guidance as you go. “The path of life leads upward for the wise to keep him from going down to the grave” (Proverbs 15:24).
8 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for men,
9 for he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things. (NIV ‘78)
Here the Psalm reminds us of Mary’s Magnificat: “He has filled the hungry with good things but he has sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1:53). This also calls to mind the sufferings of David when his son Absalom tried to take the throne from him. David and his entourage fled from Jerusalem. The King crossed the Kidron Valley east of Jerusalem and moved toward the desert (2 Samuel 15:23). He was pelted with filth, dirt, and curses as he went (2 Samuel 16:5-13), and he was urged to cross the fords of the Jordan rather than remain close by (2 Samuel 17:16). It was in a city there in the hills of Ammon or Moab that David found rest (Psalm 107:7, 9). From there he conducted the war against the rebellious army that ended with his son Absalom’s death east of the Jordan where “the forest claimed more lives that day than the sword” (2 Samuel 18:8).
God’s wonderful deeds for men include the glorious gifts and heaven, which can rightly be described as “satisfying the thirsty and filling the hungry with good things.” These and so many more good things God has done for us “according to his compassion and many kindnesses” (Isaiah 63:7). Live and serve the Lord with contentment today as his rescued child and heir. You have a place in heaven, not simply permission to be there, but a place prepared for you by your Lord (John 14:2). Since this is the city to which we are drawn, we “stand aloof from the counsel of the wicked” (Job 22:18). We give him glory and we give him praise. He is our Savior, our Redeemer, and our God.
Pastor Timothy Smith