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God’s Word for You

Psalm 107:17-22 Salvation Unto Us Has Come (Part 3)

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, April 13, 2022

17 Some became fools through their rebellious ways
  and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.
18 They loathed all food
  and drew near the gates of death.

The third rescue described in this Psalm is that of the deathly ill. If the compass points of verse 3 are relevant to these four rescues, then this one should have taken place in the north (unless the four rescues are arranged chiastically, in which case a radical re-analysis of the Psalm would need to be carried out). Those who were profoundly ill in the north (or at all) could be a prophetic look at the ministry of Jesus in Galilee during his ministry, since so many people in Capernaum, Bethsaida, Nazareth, Cana, Nain, Syrian-Phoenicia, and other places were healed by Jesus. Yet calling these people “fools through their rebellious ways” would be incorrect, and it is more likely that the Psalm is describing the terrible conditions in the early days of the exiles either to Assyria or Babylon, or even the abduction of Lot and his family by the kings or warlords of Elam, Goiim, Shinar and Ellasar (Genesis 14:9,12). The rebellious Israelites captured by the Assyrians or the people of Sodom carried off by the thugs of Elam and Shinar would certainly fit the description of “suffering… because of their iniquities.”

The words “loathed all food” easily make one think of the language of Job (see Job 33:20 and also 19:17 and 10:1). The verbs are not identical, and only 33:20 is about food, but it comes as no surprise to any of us who have lived through the recent Covid pandemic that a distaste for food would be a symptom of a serious illness. Another phrase that has an affinity with the terminology of Job is “the gates of death” (see Job 17:16 and 38:17). When we meditated on the book of Job a few years ago, I presented a list of twenty-nine words and phrases (such as “Leviathan” and “tempest” or “storm”) that are somewhat rare but occur both in Job and in the Psalms of Asaph. As our study of this Psalm continues (with no author mentioned), notice how many points of contact there are between this Psalm, the Psalms of Asaph (that is, Psalms 50 and 73-83) and Job.

19 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
  and he saved them from their distress.
20 He sent forth his word and healed them;
  he rescued them from the grave.

Once again, it is not simply the appeal for rescue, but the appeal that comes from faith. These people, dying of their illnesses, were crying out to the Lord by name and not to pagan gods or demons to save them. An appeal to a false god is the very same as a prayer to the devil. “They sacrificed to demons,” Moses said, “which are not God—gods they had not known, gods that recently appeared, gods your fathers did not fear” (Deuteronomy 32:17). In that telling verse, Moses declares at least five things about false gods and demons:

1, False gods are not the true God at all, no matter what the misguided and unbelieving theologians of the modern age try to twist into fine sounding, reasonable arguments. They may as well paint a skunk black and call it a cat. I still won’t let the thing into my house.

2, When people worship any false god, they are truthfully worshiping a demon. Whatever form that worship takes on: prayer, song, dance, or the sweetest portrait painted by the gentlest hand. It’s still as deadly as a rattlesnake coiled up in a ditch. Whatever is not done according to the will of God is sin, and sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4).

3, False gods are gods that “they had not known.” The true God is not secretive, nor does he withhold himself from his worshipers.

4, False gods are “gods that recently appeared.” The true God is infinite, with no beginning or end: He is “the eternal God” (Romans 16:26); “the Rock eternal” (Isaiah 26:4); “the eternal King” (Jeremiah 10:10); and “his ways are eternal” (Habakkuk 3:6). And again, he is “the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Timothy 1:17).

5, False gods are “gods your fathers did not fear.” That is, false gods do not inspire faith, but only terror.

These people, dying of their pain and disease, cried out to the Lord God of heaven, and he saved them. How does God save them? By sending forth his word, the gospel, which is the only means by which God works faith and salvation in our hearts and lives.

This is not a passage that communicates anything against the medicine of the age, as if God commands Christians to avoid medicines and rely only upon prayer. This would be rejecting God’s providence and his shaping of the world for our benefit. Certainly we may utilize both foods and medicines alike “without raising questions of conscience” (1 Corinthians 10:25). Israel sent medicinal balm as a gift to the man of Egypt, the man he did not yet know was Joseph his son (Genesis 43:11). We see God’s people using medicines throughout the Scriptures (2 Chronicles 28:15; Isaiah 1:6; Jeremiah 51:8; Ezekiel 27:17; Luke 10:34; James 5:14) as well as many mentions of doctors and physicians (Mark 5:26), not the least of which is Luke himself (Colossians 4:14). To seek a physician apart from asking the Lord’s help is foolish (2 Chronicles 16:12), but which of us would not use a bandage on a small cut, or ask a doctor to set a broken bone if he happened to diagnose the need to do so? But we do these things with prayer for God’s healing, since true healing comes from God even when he works through the ministrations of doctor or nurse.

21 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love
  and his wonderful deeds for men.
22 Let them sacrifice thank offerings
  and tell of his works with songs of joy.  (NIV ‘78)

As they are healed, the sick raise their voices to God to give him praise and thanks for the good things that he has done, for his compassionate healing, for rescuing them from physical death. It is the rescue from the second death (punishment in hell) that we are happiest about. “Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection,” (that is, coming to faith) John says. “The second death has no power over them” (Revelation 20:6). Consider the tearful joy of another Psalm: “You, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from stumbling” (Psalm 116:8). Here is rescue from hell, from grief, and even from sin. This is God’s wonderful deed for mankind, given through Christ. To him be glory forever.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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