God’s Word for You
Psalm 107:39-43 Salvation Unto Us Has Come (Part 6)
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, April 16, 2022
39 Then their numbers decreased, and they were humbled
by oppression, calamity and sorrow;
40 he who pours contempt on nobles
made them wander in a trackless waste.
41 But he lifted the needy out of their affliction
and increased their families like flocks.
42 The upright see and rejoice,
but all the wicked shut their mouths.
The misfortunes of the wicked are given to them to turn them to seek God. Those who have heard God’s name and who know some of the things he does may indeed listen to the gospel of his forgiveness and be turned back to faith. Those who have not will only be hardened in their unbelief.
The righteous will be blessed by God. Our author recalls Jacob’s flocks increasing during his days with Laban (Genesis 30:43). The Lord’s holy Christian Church will be lifted from distress and affliction and be brought forever into heaven, but we will also be blessed in this lifetime. He brings us his word, the gospel promise of comfort and forgiveness, and he brings us closer to him through his blessings, especially through the preaching of law and gospel and as we receive his forgiveness in the sacrament.
Not all readers will be interested in the textual analysis that follows. You may wish to jump down to the comments on the final verse (43) below.
As with almost every section of this Psalm, there is yet another affinity between Psalm 107 and Job. Here we have the phrase “He pours contempt on nobles” (verse 40) which is identical to the same words in Job 12:21. The second part of verse 40, “he made them wander in a trackless waste” is likewise identical to Job 12:24. A third phrase, “the upright see and rejoice” (verse 42) is also similar to Job 22:19, “the righteous see and rejoice” (the NIV inserts “their ruin” in Job 22:19, but it is not present in the Hebrew text). These phrases are similar but not identical because of the subject words, “upright” vs. “righteous,” although the identities of these subjects are the same.
We have seen these affinities between Job and Psalm 107:
- “The deepest gloom” (Psalm 107:10; Job 38:17).
- “the gates of death” (Psalm 107:18; Job 17:16, 38:17)
- “his wonderful deeds in the deep/churned up the deep” (Psalm 107:24; Job 26:12)
- “He pours contempt on nobles” (Psalm 107:40; Job 12:21)
- “he made them wander in a trackless waste” (Psalm 107:40; Job 26:21)
- “the upright/righteous see and rejoice” (Psalm 107:42; Job 22:19)
Sometimes there are parallels and even quotations of verses between books of the Bible. Psalm 107:35 is identical, for example, with the second half of Isaiah 41:18. But to have six such examples in this Psalm with the book of Job suggests that this Psalm (which lists no author) may have been written by the same author as Job, or that the author of one (either of Job or of this Psalm) was a scholarly student of the Scriptures and had a great fondness for the other document. In Job, we found almost 30 such affinities and quotations between Job and the Psalms of Asaph. To me, this suggests that Asaph, who was one of David’s musicians, was the author of more than his Psalms, but also of Psalm 107 and the book of Job as well. Of course, we will reserve the final judgment of these things for our eternal time of praise and of “looking into these things” (1 Peter 1:12) with the angels and Asaph in Paradise.
I am aware that many readers have no interest in excursions like this one. I beg their indulgence, for sometimes the boy tending the herd climbs a hill that holds no interest to his dear striped and speckled goats. He will leave the hilltop soon enough, and return to the herd. And, yes, one or two of them will let him know that they didn’t want to follow him there, but perhaps the bellwether did.
43 Whoever is wise, let him heed these things
and consider the great love of the LORD. (NIV ‘78)
True godly wisdom is to put faith in God above all things, as the First Commandment teaches us. True wisdom considers the Lord and sings: “Great is the Lord’s love toward us!” (Psalm 117:2). His saving hand has been shown again and again in our Psalm: He rescues those who wander in the desert. Anyone who studies the barren pages of human philosophy, the useless and depressing habit of constant introspection apart from Christ, or the savage and relentless wasteland of our modern atheistic culture can’t help but hunger and thirst for something better, something to soothe the bitterness. And God leads them to the delicious fountains of his saving word.
He rescues the chained prisoners, those who are oppressed by lovelessness, hatred, persecution, or other attacks, for such things are the cruel torture of the devil. He sends his angels into their prisons and makes their chains fall away (Acts 12:7, 16:26). For “nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few” (1 Samuel 14:6).
He rescues the deathly ill from their illnesses. He brings the true law to blast away at false preaching and its obfuscating smokes and he brings the pure gospel to rinse away everything that is unclear with the singular message: Christ crucified for our sins and risen for our justification. For if anyone lives by another doctrine, he argues against Christ’s Passion. God brings these medicines to burn away the infection of false teaching and to heal the body of faith with the living hope of Jesus our Lord. He teaches us to listen carefully to the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures that point us to Christ, and to be deaf whenever anyone speaks apart from Jesus Christ.
He rescues all of us who sometimes get storm-tossed and swept away by the surging hurricanes of the world and its dangerous nonsense. The whole world is frequently astonished by the ravings of the devil and his followers (Revelation 13:3), but when even God’s people are led astray and are swept up in these storms (Galatians 2:13), the Lord comes walking over the water to calm the waves. “Take courage!” he cries to us, “It is I! Don’t be afraid” (Mark 6:50). And he brings us to the sheltering harbor of the Gospels and the clear, well-proven soundings of the Epistles, and makes sure we are safe and moored securely to the cross with the bowline of faith.
Heed these things. Live according to the ways of Jesus Christ who died for us, so that by believing in his death you may escape death.
Pastor Timothy Smith