The Thanksgiving of the Redeemed

a brief study of Psalm 107, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 2 July 2010


Many of us would probably have heard of the famous words of Augustine: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, [O Lord], and our heart is restless until it resteth in Thee.” Augustine said these words in the opening paragraph of his Confessions. Where did Augustine get the idea for these words? It believe the idea arose both from his own conversion experience; and from the picture painted in Psalm 107. We read in verse 4—

4 They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. 5 Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. 6 Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses.

Does this not paint a beautiful picture of the conversion experiences of the redeemed of the Lord? Their souls were restless and wandering aimlessly. Then, like the Prodigal Son, they came to themselves (cf. Lk 15:17), and began to cry out unto the LORD in their troubles, and the LORD delivers them out of their troubles.

Well, it is true that verse 3 may at first look appear to suggest that this Psalm is about the re-gathering of Israel scattered in the world. But take careful note: when the Lord alluded to this verse in Luke 13:29, He suggests that this is about the gathering of the gentles from all over the world.

The Lord had warned the unbelieving Jews that they will weep for their unbelief when they are thrust out of the kingdom of God. But “they [i.e. the Gentiles] shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God” (Lk 13:29).

So then, Psalm 107 is best understood not as a thanksgiving psalm for the nation of Israel re-gathered, but as a thanksgiving psalm for the redeemed and for the Church. So we may entitle it: “The Thanksgiving of the Redeemed.”

This psalm has essentially six parts. The first part is an introduction, which is a call to give thanks to the LORD. Then, the next 4 parts, verses 4-31 paints for us four pictures of man in his desperation and how God redeems him. Then from verse 32 to the end, we have picture of the blessings of the Lord upon the redeemed and the congregation of the redeemed.

Let’s look at this Psalm very briefly. Consider first the introduction, which is…


1. A Call to Thanksgiving

1 O give thanks unto the LORD, for He is good: for His mercy endureth for ever. 2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy; 3 And gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south.

Does not these opening words resonate with your heart, you who have been redeemed by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ?

We were under the bondage of Sin and Satan, the enemy of our soul. Wherever we were in the world, whatever was the station of our life, we were unknowingly slaves to the Wicked One. Our lives were meaningless and empty, full of turmoil and discontentment. But thanks be to God, the Lord in His mercy redeemed us, and plucked us out of the hand of the enemy of our soul. And He brought us home.

He gathered us from, as it were, the four corners of the world, to care for us together as His people. O let us not fail to thank Him for His bountiful mercies.

Let us thank Him, especially as we consider the desperate state that we were in when He redeemed us.

First of all, we were like…


2. Travelers Wandering Hopelessly in the Desert (v. 4-9)

This is painted for us in verse 4-9. Take notice of how this paragraph is written, for this same pattern will be used in the three remaining  pictures of man that will be painted.

In each of these pictures, you will see a description of our former misery; followed by the refrain: “Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses.” And this is followed by a corresponding description of precisely how the Lord delivered us. And in the midst of this, there is another refrain in the words, “Oh that men would praise the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!

In this first picture of us wandering in the desert, notice how we “wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way” (v. 4a); how we “found no city to dwell in” (v. 4b); and how “hungry and thirsty, [our ] soul fainted in [us]” (v. 5).

We were in other words, restless in our hearts, lost, aimless, frustrated and discontented. Is that not an accurate description of what you were before your conversion?

Then the fullness of time, by the grace of God, you came to yourself, you cried unto the Lord. And He delivered you out of your distresses.

How? You were lost and wandering aimlessly; He led you forth by the right way (v. 7a). You had no city to dwell in; he brought you to a city of habitation (v. 7b), even heavenly Jerusalem and made you a citizen of Her. You were spiritually hungry, but He filled your empty soul with goodness (v. 9).

Oh will you not praise the LORD for His goodness and His wonderful works to the children of men (v. 8)!

But again, we were like…


3. Prisoners Sitting in Darkness in Prison (v. 10-17)

Not only were we wandering aimlessly. We were sitting in spiritual darkness, bound by the chains of sin, awaiting certain death (v. 10).

This had come about because of sin. Sin is lawlessness, a rebellion against the words of God; and a contempt of His counsel (v. 11). For this cause, God humbled us, by consigning us to “labour for that which satisfieth not” (Isa 55:2), with no one to help us when we fall, and no one who can address our concerns or complaints (v. 12).

It was by the mercies of the LORD that we were brought to ourselves, and we cried unto Him for deliverance; and He delivered us (v. 13).

How? Well, we were in darkness and bondage; He broke our chains and brought us out into the light (v. 14). We were freed from the curse of the Law and the wages of sin. He broke the gates of brass and cut the bars of iron asunder (v. 16) so that we are no longer under the grip of the power of sin which makes us rebels and children of God’s wrath. We now have a Christian freedom—freedom to do what is right and good. We were made to know the truth, and the truth made us free (Jn 8:32).

O beloved brethren and children, would you not praise the LORD for His goodness and for His wonderful works towards you?

But not only were we like prisoners in bondage. We were also like…


4. Sick Persons Lying in Beds of Affliction (v. 18-28)

We were once fools (v. 18). The fool has said in his heart, there is no God. So we refused to live according to God’s ways. So instead of a life abundant and free, we were like sick persons lying in bed with no spiritual appetite (v. 18). We were, living-dead; and were it not for the mercies of the LORD to bring us to ourselves, we would have perished.

But thanks to God, He quickened us and enabled us to cry unto the LORD, and He saved us from our distresses.

How did the LORD save us? He sent the Word to heal us and deliver us from destruction (v. 20). No only did we hear the call of the Lord to come forth; we heard also His instruction. We were taught the narrow way that leads to life. We were given life abundant and free.

 21 Oh that men would praise the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! 22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing.

Brethren and children, we have every reason to give praise and thanks unto the LORD. Let us offer the calves of our lips in thanksgiving. And let us joyfully declare of His works in saving us unto all who would hear (v. 22).

But again, we were not only like a languishing sick person. We were also like…


5. Sailors Tossed About in the Sea (v. 29-32)

We were living in this world, full of ambition to be rich or even to gain the whole world. We eagerly made use of every opportunity. We would even, as it were, take to the ships to do business in great waters (v. 23). Instead of serving the Lord; we sought to do things our own way like Jonah.

The LORD out of His electing love for us, raised a storm, and sent gigantic waves. Again and again, our ship was lifted up into the air and plunged into the depths. We were tossed to and fro on deck, staggering like a drunken man not knowing what to do.

Then by the mercies of the LORD, we were brought to ourselves and given the strength to cry out unto Him for salvation. He heard our cries and delivered us out of our troubles (v. 28)

How? Verse 29—

29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. 30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so He bringeth them unto their desired haven.

Does this not sound very familiar? Remember the disciples of the Lord were caught in storm and how the Lord awoke and rebuked the wind and the waves. “Peace, be still!” He said, and immediately the wind ceased and there was a great calm (Mk 4:39). Is that not a picture of how the Lord overcomes the storms in our lives to give us peace, even a peace that the world cannot understand.

Gone were the turmoil. Gone were the roller-coaster emotions of anger and bitterness mixed with short-term thrills. In their place is a peace and stability and contentment in the Lord.

31 Oh that men would praise the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! 32 Let them exalt Him also in the congregation of the people, and praise Him in the assembly of the elders.

Let us beloved brethren praise the Lord for His goodness and mercy towards us. Let us do so not just individually, but in the congregation of the people.

Let us praise and thank Him for what He has done for us individually and corporately. Let us also praise Him for the blessings bestowed upon us individually and corporately as we enjoy an earnest of the heavenly inheritance until the day when we will forever rejoice in Him in the Celestial City.


5. The Blessings We Enjoy Even Today (v. 33-43)

Now, we know that this paragraph is not about final rest, because we see that there is still oppression, affliction and sorrow (v. 39); and iniquity (v. 42).

But the state of grace is nevertheless a state of great blessings. From wondering aimlessly in the wilderness, we have been given rest. From bondage, we have been given freedom. From the death and sickness, we have been given life and health. From the turmoil of great storms, we have been given peace and calm.

And though we continue to fall short of His glory, He blesses us according as we seek first His kingdom and righteousness. This seems to be what the last part of this Psalm is intended to convey, for we read in v. 42The righteous shall see it, and rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth.

Thus in verses 33-34, we are told of how the Lord curses the land when the wicked dwell in them. Rivers become desert and fruitfulness turn into barrenness where the wicked dwell.

On the other hand, for the sake of His redeemed, “He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings” (v. 35). 

He provides for them a place to live, to cultivate and to farm and to build their families (v. 36-38). Now, in Old Covenant days, this blessing would have been literal. Today, the blessing may or may not be literal; but certainly no less real, for the Lord Jesus himself promised: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt 6:33).

And not only does He bless us materially. He brings us through trials and tribulations as a school for sanctification. But even then, He protects us and restores us (v. 39-41). We may assume He does so when we cry out in repentance and dependence upon Him, for otherwise why would the righteous… see it, and rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth” (v. 42).

The fact is, “these things” happen according to the covenant “lovingkindness of the LORD” (v. 43).


Conclusion

This is Psalm 107, the thanksgiving psalm of the Redeemed. May the Lord grant us that we will not only sing this Psalm with grateful hearts, but reflect often on what a great privilege we enjoy as God’s redeemed.

Let us remember that the Redeemed are in a state of grace. If our hearts are restless; or we are in bondage to sin; or we are spiritually sick or we are tossed to and fro, confused and exasperated. It may be because of backsliding or sin. And as such, only repentance and faith in Christ Jesus will restore our joy. Amen. Ω