Thursday, May 7, 2009

God Blesses the Needy in Psalm 107

Like September 11 and the Bali Bombings, the Boxing Day 2004 Tsunami will live on in the memories of this generation for the rest of their lives. It’s almost untenable the sheer size of loss in those disasters, but in particular the Tsunami was different in that it was what we might call an ‘act of God.’

And Psalm 107 reminds us via some rich imagery around catastrophic environmental events in history which he brought to pass, theologically, in judging the peoples--both the Israelites and the gentiles. It describes God as the ‘Lord of reversals’--the Saviour of “desert wanderers, prisoners, the sick, and sailors”; the avenger of the needy.[1]

There is a simple pattern in the psalm that echoes the pattern found in Judges. The people stray from God only to be judged; they cry out in repentance and he comes subsequently to redeem them.


The theme of redemption is central to this psalm; redemption of the needy and lowly of heart. But what this psalm does, in harping on God’s redemptive action, is it explains the circumstances surrounding each event via a recount and how it came about; it’s a history lesson poetically put.[2]

Most of all, it is an inter-generational warning to remain humble before God, as this is the antecedent for redemption every single time. When the God-follower remains humble he or she receives the redemptive life continually.

Thanksgiving / Thankfulness

Another refrain throughout the psalm, in fact, the underpinning issue as the people look back on their history via oral tradition, is thankfulness for God’s ‘unfailing love and wonderful deeds’ (vss. 8, 15, 21, 24,[3] 31). This is like a choral injunction giving the psalm a smooth meter.

The psalm is a narrate celebration of several famous accounts littering the Old Testament of God’s true faithfulness like the call of Abraham, Elihu’s speech in (and to) Job, the Exodus, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the period of the Judges, etc. It is therefore a liturgy of thanksgiving, both of the individual and the community,[4] for God’s consistent action for those genuinely calling on him in need, and importantly, against those who stray from his law.

The LORD satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry (v. 9)--physically, yes, but most appropriately and with sound accord, spiritually. When God redeems he does so consistently and without recourse. We can entirely rely upon this action. And we ought to be so thankful that God’s action, when he takes it, is basically very predictable.

We must honour him first, and alone, in our obedience to his higher law of love and steadfast faithfulness. We can hence be utterly thankful at all times (1 Thessalonians 5:18).[5]

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
[1] Craig C. Broyles, Psalms – New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999), p. 408.
[2] James L. Mays, Psalms – Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville, Tennessee: John Knox Press, 1994), p. 345.
[3] Verse 24 simply has ‘wonderful deeds,’ and does not have ‘unfailing love.’
[4] Philip S. Johnston & David G. Firth (eds.), Interpreting the Psalms: Issues and Approaches (Leicester, England: Apollos/InterVarsity Press, 2005), p. 299.
[5] This verse says in bold, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” –1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (TNIV).

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