God’s Word for You
Psalm 107:23-30 Salvation Unto Us Has Come (Part 4)
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, April 14, 2022
23 Others went out on the sea in ships;
they were merchants on the mighty waters.
24 They saw the works of the LORD,
his wonderful deeds in the deep.
25 For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
that lifted high the waves.
26 They mounted up to the heavens
and went down to the depths;
in their peril their courage melted away.
27 They reeled and staggered like drunken men;
they were at their wits’ end.
This fourth terror from which God saved his people is in the sea (see also verse 3). Perhaps the ordeal of Jonah comes to mind, or the whole fleet wrecked at Ezion Geber in the days of King Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:36-37). There is also the terrible prophecy about Tyre when “the east wind will break you to pieces in the heart of the sea” (Ezekiel 27:25, 27:26-34). In the New Testament there were incidents with the Apostles (Mark 4:37; John 16:18) and Paul, who was shipwrecked three times (Acts 27:14-44; 2 Corinthians 11:25). But every sailor or traveler who has ridden out a storm at sea understands the fear (sometimes more, sometimes less) that each list or plunge of the ship might be the last.
Israel had few seagoing merchants, but there were some. For many centuries, the Philistines inhabited the Mediterranean coastline, and the ports were closed to Israel. Yet they used Joppa as a good harbor, and ships set out from there (Jonah 1:3) and arrived there with lumber and many other things (2 Chronicles 2:16; Ezra 3:7).
The description of the storm is terrifying. The waters, we are reminded, “are mighty” themselves. But the Lord worked up the storm down in the depths, “his wonderful deeds in the deep,” and stirred up a tempest. Job describes something similar when he says, “By his power (the Lord) churned up the sea” (Job 26:12). This storm in our Psalm was a tornado or a hurricane “that lifted high the waves,” so that “they mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths.” This is the image of the high “mountainous” waves, sometimes thirty, forty, or more feet tall and the correspondingly deep troughs that open up below. As long as there is plenty of sea room, a ship with its bow (or front) turned toward the wind can ride out a storm like this. But ancient ships often traveled close to the shore, not daring to wander out of sight of the land.
These perils are a comparison for us of the dangers of living in sin. Who or what can save us from the deadly catastrophe of our sinful condition? Left to ourselves, we can only “weep in the anguish of our soul and with bitter mourning” (Ezekiel 27:31). This realization comes from God. “This,” Luther says, “is the thunderbolt by means of which God with one blow destroys both open sinners and false saints. He allows no one to justify himself. He drives all together into terror and despair” (Smalcald Articles, III, iii, par. 2). This is the hammer Jeremiah describes: “My word is a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces” (Jeremiah 23:29). When that hammer has smashed the heart, the gospel turns us to Christ to beg for forgiveness.
28 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.
29 He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven. (NIV ‘78)
Here is the conclusion of so many miracles of Christ, where the terrified disciples were given help when they were sure they were dead men. To cry out to the Lord in our trouble is the privilege of the Christian, who always has the Lord as his refuge in a time of trouble (Nahum 1:7). “The earth and sky will tremble, but the Lord will be a refuge for his people” (Joel 3:16). And when we share the gospel of forgiveness with one another, as our Lord guides us to do (“as we forgive those…,” Matthew 6:12), then “each man will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm” for the people in his life (Isaiah 32:2).
Our God has stilled the raging storm of our accuser. The hissing lies are hushed. The calm seas are the new life we have in Christ. And as the mariners of verse 30 were “guided to their desired haven,” so are we guided by the Holy Spirit. He teaches us to keep a weather eye open, to avoid the storms if we can. “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires” or “offer the parts of your body to sin as instruments of wickedness” (2 Corinthians 6:12,13). “Our God has not deserted us. He has granted us new life to rebuild and repair” (Ezra 9:9). And so we live, repairing the temples of our own lives and bodies to serve God throughout this lifetime. When we encourage each other in faith and raise up a new generation for service to Jesus, then we will be truly glad.
Pastor Timothy Smith