Psalms 107:1. O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
In the heading of this Psalm we are reminded that the psalmist here exhorts the redeemed, in praising God, to observe his manifold providence over travellers, prisoners, sick men, seamen, “and in divers varieties of life;” but, inasmuch as the exhortation is specially addressed to the redeemed of the Lord, I shall endeavour to cast the red ray of redemption over it, and to explain these various circumstances as relating to the spiritual experience of God’s people, and to their deliverance out of divers perils to which their souls are exposed. “O give thanks unto the Lord.” This seems to imply that we are so slow to praise God that we have to be stirred up to this sacred duty. This exhortation looks as if we needed to be entreated to give thanks unto the Lord. Yet this ought not to be an uncongenial or disagreeable task. It ought to be our pleasure to praise the Lord; we should be eager to do it; and yet it is to be feared that we are often silent when we ought to be giving thanks unto his holy name. He deserves them, “for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.”
Psalms 107:2-3. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy; and gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south.
Whenever God’s people are redeemed from the hand of the enemy, and gathered unto himself, it is always by his grace and power. They are not only gathered to him, but they are gathered by him; and therefore let them all praise his holy name.
Psalms 107:4. They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in.
This is the experience of all God’s redeemed and gathered ones; they were, at one time, all lost, and wandering to and fro in the wilderness, as God’s ancient people did.
Psalms 107:5-6. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.
This is the point to which a true spiritual experience sooner or later brings all God’s elect ones; they cry unto the Lord in their trouble. The end, the design of their trouble is that they may cry unto him; and when they do so, it is absolutely certain that they shall be delivered out of their distresses.
Psalms 107:7-11. And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation. Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness. Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the most High:
All God’s people, all his redeemed have been made to feel, in a greater or lesser degree the agony of their spiritual bondage. They have been like captives sitting in darkness, dreading death, realizing that they are utterly unable to deliver themselves. They have been rebellious against the words of God, and have despised his counsel, so that it is absolutely needful that they should be brought to their right position, and be made to kneel before the Lord in true humility of heart.
Psalms 107:12-16. Therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help. Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bards in sunder. Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder.
Is any child of God thus shut up in the dark? Those of you who have ever been lost in a London fog know what a depression of spirit it brings upon you while you are in the impenetrable darkness, out of which you cannot see any way of escape. All that you can do is to stand still and cry out for help. Well, try what crying to God will do for you in your spiritual depression. Your spirit is cast down into the very deeps; then, out of the depths cry unto the Lord, as Jonah did; rest in him, trust in him, and see whether he will not bring you up into the light of his countenance.
Psalms 107:17-18. Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted. Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death.
All God’s redeemed people have suffered from soul-sickness, and some of them have suffered from it so acutely that they have lost all appetite for spiritual comfort. “Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat;” they cannot bear the sight or the thought of it. A man in this condition says, “Do not bring me any food; I loathe it.” The very nourishment that might have restored him he rejects because of the nausea which soul-sickness brings.
Psalms 107:19-20. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.
He healed them with his Word; and there is a specific, in God’s Word, for every form of spiritual malady. What we need to know is where the particular remedy for our special form of soul-sickness is to be found; and this the Holy Spirit will teach us if we will but ask him.
Psalms 107:21-22. Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.
The psalmist exhorteth the redeemed, in praising God, to observe the different forms of his mercy. He views the chosen people as travellers, captives, sick men, and seamen, and in each of these classes he exhorts them to praise the Lord.
Psalms 107:1. O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good:
He is essentially good. His name God is only a shorter form of good. Yet, if we were to lengthen it, there could be no more goodness found in it than is found in the three letters, “God.”
Psalms 107:1. For his mercy endureth for ever.
That is the form which his goodness takes in relation to us, his sinful creatures; as we deserve nothing, everything that he gives us is a gift of mercy, and what a range his mercy takes! “His mercy endureth for ever.”
Psalms 107:2. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;
If nobody else will say that God is good, let his redeemed ones say it. If others are silent, let them speak to his praise, if others are doubtful, let them declare positively that the Lord is good, and that his mercy endureth for ever.
Psalms 107:3. And gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south.
We were scattered in various directions by our own folly and sin;-“ Each wandering in a different way, but all the downward road;-and he gathered us unto that blessed Shiloh of whom Jacob said, “Unto him shall the gathering of the people be.”
Psalms 107:4. They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way;
Ah, the way of a sinner, convinced of sin, is indeed a solitary way; he has a sorrow which he cannot tell to anybody else, a stranger intermeddleth not with his grief
Psalms 107:4. They found no city to dwell in.
There are no cities in the wilderness for people to dwell in. We look for a city that is out of sight at present, “ a city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God.” Here, in this fleeting world, we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.
Psalms 107:5-6. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.
They were a long while before they prayed to the Lord, but it was not a long while before he answered their prayer. When they were brought to that then, that is to say, when they were so hungry, and so thirsty, and so faint that they could do nothing else but cry, then, the moment that they cried unto the Lord, “ he delivered them out of their distresses.”
Psalms 107:7. And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation.
“He led them . . . that they might go.” The leadings of divine grace do not destroy the activities of the human will. God does not treat us as if we were blocks of wood or stone, but he treats us as reasonable beings.
Psalms 107:8-9. Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.
We hardly looked for that verse to follow the preceding one. We might have thought that the psalmist would have written, “for he brings them to a city of rest.” God always exceeds our expectations. He not only brings his wandering people home, but he feeds them bountifully when they are there. He holds high festival within Zion’s gates, and the citizens of the new Jerusalem are fed with the finest of the wheat. Surely souls so blessed must praise Jehovah for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men. Now comes another picture, the picture of the captives:-
Psalms 107:10-11. Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; because they rebelled against the words of God, and condemned the counsel of the most High:
They “sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,” for they have lost all energy. They sit down in dumb despair, for at last their sins have found them out. They rejected God, and he has left them to suffer the consequences of their sin: “ being bound in affliction and iron “
Psalms 107:12-13. Therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help. Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble,-
This seems to be always the last thing that people in trouble do; until they hunger, and thirst, and their soul faints, as in the former case, or until they fall down utterly helpless, as in this case, they will not pray. But “then they cry unto Jehovah in their trouble,”-
Psalms 107:13-16. And he saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder. Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder.
All glory be to the great Liberator’s name! Now comes the picture of sick men, which is also the portrait of ourselves:-
Psalms 107:17. Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted.
Perhaps affliction comes to their bodies, but more especially it attacks their hearts,-they have heart disease, a mortal tremor within, or a terrible fever of fear.
Psalms 107:18. Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat;
You cannot comfort them, they cannot or will not receive the truth that would sustain them, they have lost all appetite for spiritual food.
Psalms 107:18. And they draw near unto the gates of death.
They seem to come close to those great iron gates that shut out all hope for ever, they can hear them grind upon their massive hinges; they begin to realize what the wrath of God means.
Psalms 107:19. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble,
Fools though they are, they have sense enough to do this.
Psalms 107:19. And he saveth them out of their distresses.
So that a true prayer from one who is near unto the gates of death is a prevailing prayer. We earnestly urge all to repent long before they come to a dying bed, but if they are on a dying bed, if they are literally near unto the gates of death, here is evidence that, if they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, he will not close his ears or his heart to their prayer.
Psalms 107:20. He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.
The Word of God has a sort of omnipotent power in it. By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, and by the Word of the Lord are sick souls healed. That Word can do anything that God purposes. “Where the word of a king is, there is power;” but where the Word of God is, there is omnipotence.
Psalms 107:21-22. Oh that man would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.
Now we come to the seafaring men:-
Psalms 107:23-24. They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep.
These words apply not only to seamen literally, but also to others who are called to endure great storms while sailing across the sea of this mortal life,
Psalms 107:25-26. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.
For even he who has his “ sea legs “ on finds them of little use to him when such a storm as this is tossing everything in a dreadful hurly burly. “They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths,” and this experience is repeated, perhaps, hundreds of times, day and night, sometimes for weeks together.
Psalms 107:27. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end.
But, oh! when souls are caught in a storm of conviction of sin, this is a true description of their spiritual distress,-they are at their wits end, and do not know what to do. Everything about them is shaking, and they themselves are reeling to and fro, sometimes this way and sometimes that;-staggering, scarcely able to believe anything, seeing some things double, and everything out of place.
Psalms 107:28. Then they cry-
Yes, then, when they are reeling and staggering; that is a queer condition-is it not?-in which to be praying, reeling to and fro, and staggering like a drunken man: “Then they cry.”-
Psalms 107:28. Unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.
Then God will hear the prayer of a staggering man, and the prayer that has not any sense in it because the man who prays is at his wit’s end. By “sense” I mean not following the consecutiveness of an orderly petition; the prayer itself seeming to reel to and fro. The suppliant is so overpowered by sorrow that he might be thought to be drunken, as she was to whom Eli so harshly spoke bidding her put away her wine from her, whereas she was overcome by sorrow. God hears us when we cannot hear ourselves pray, and when we cannot put the words of our supplication in proper order, God knows what we mean to say, and gives us what we really need.
Psalms 107:29. He maketh the storm a calm,-
What a change! And what a blessing it is to get into one of God’s calms, for they are far beyond the ordinary calm of nature; then do we enjoy “ the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.”
Psalms 107:29-32. So that the wave thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
Psalms 107:23-24. They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters ; these see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep.
The Jews were never given to navigation. To “go down to the sea in ships,” seemed a very extraordinary thing to them; they looked upon it as a going down, as it were, into a dreadful abyss. We, who are more accustomed to going to sea than they were, talk of “the high seas;” but they spoke of going “down to the sea.” They never went to sea except on business. King Solomon had no pleasure yacht. There was never one of that ancient race who cared to trust himself upon the sea except as a matter of sheer necessity, and those who did so were looked upon with wonder by their land-loving friends. “They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord;”—that is, his greatest works, both in the sea and on it. They know what storms are, and they see what omnipotence can do, and they come back to tell of the wonders of God upon the mighty deep. This verse may be read spiritually as well as literally. God calls some of his servants, as it were, to go down to the sea in ships. They are tried with poverty, with personal sickness, with temptation, with inward conflicts, with fierce persecutions; and God never calls them to these trials out of mere caprice, there is always a reason for it. They go down to the sea in ships to “do business in great waters.” There is something to be gained from their trials, and something to be learned from them. They “do business in great waters;” and “these see the works of the Lord.” Others hear about them, and believe what they are told concerning them; but these see them. They see what God has done in their case,—how he sustains, how he delivers, how he sanctifies trial, and overrules it for his own glory, and his people’s good: “These see the works of the Lord.” And they also see the wonders of the economy of grace. They are made to experience the heights and depths, the lengths and breadths, of that love which; passeth knowledge; they see “his wonders in the deep.” You and I need not desire to have trouble, as though we put out to sea for our own pleasure; but, if God calls us to sail upon a sea of troubles, if he sends us there upon his business, we may depend upon it that he means that business to end to our profit and his own glory.
Psalms 107:25-27.—For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end.
Here we learn something of what sailors see, and of what tried Christians experience. These great storms arise by God’s commandment;—not as many say, nowadays, “by the laws of nature.” The wind, which had been quiet, heard God’s voice, and raiseth itself up, like a wild beast from its lair: “He commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind;” and no sooner does the great wind begin to blow than the white crests of the waves are seen, and the white horses fly before the blast which lifteth up the waves on high. Then the ship, however staunch it be, seems to have no greater power of resistance than a frail sea bird; and it is tossed up and down, up and down, from the trough of the sea to the billows’ crown: “They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths;” and their very soul begins to melt. Brave men as they are, it only needs a sufficient amount of storm to make their hearts turn to water and their spirits dissolve into the turbulent element that is all round them: “their soul is melted because of trouble.” Then they cannot keep their standing: “they reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man.” What is worse, they cannot control their brains; they “are at their wit’s end.” What can they do in such a case as that? There is an end to all human wit and wisdom when the great storms are out upon the sea. You who have ever had deep spiritual trials know the analogy of all this. There may come times—there have come times to some of us—when, at the command of God, or by divine permission, there has been a fierce blast of temptation or a fiery trial, and then all that was peaceful round about us before suddenly turns into a whirlpool of tempestuous billows, and we are tossed to and fro at the mercy of the winds and the waves. Sometimes we ascend in presumption, and then we go down into the very depths of despair. At one moment, we are joyous with hope; and, a moment later, we seem ready to give all hope up, our courage fails us, and our soul dissolves within us, If you never have known this experience, I pray that you never may know it; but some of us have had stormy times when we have seemed to have no foothold, when we have reeled to and fro like drunken men,—when the best faith we have had has been little better than staggering. Still, it is better to stagger on the promise than to stagger at it; and we did still stand though we staggered, and we were at our wit’s end. We could not see what to do, and we could not tell what to do, and we could not have done it if we had known what to do; we were brought to such an extremity that we seemed to have neither wit nor wisdom left.
Psalms 107:28. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.
This shows that, although they were at their wit’s end, they had wit enough or wisdom enough to pray. Their souls were melted, so they let them run out in prayer. It is a good thing to get the soul melted, for then it will flow out like water before the Lord. Note that these sailors cried to God when there was no one else to whom they could cry: “Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble.” Learn from this sentence that, when your soul is melted because of trouble, you can still pray. When you reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, you can still pray and when you are at your wit’s end, you can still pray. Prayer is never out of season; it is a fruit of grace that is acceptable to God in autumn and in winter, in spring and in summer. Long as you live, and even when the worst comes to the worst, cry mightily unto God, for he will surely hear you. Was it not so with us when we were in spiritual trouble, and could do nothing else but cry unto the Lord? It was a poor prayer that we offered, but it was a real prayer that we presented when we cried unto God. Mark how quick God is to hear such prayer as this: “Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.” He brought them into them, and therefore he brought them out of them. It was God who took Jacob into Egypt; and, therefore, though it took four hundred years to bring Israel out of Egypt, God brought them out at last. He kills, and he makes alive; he wounds, and he heals. Rest you in this truth as a matter of absolute certainty.
Psalms 107:29. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
At the first, God made everything out of nothing, so he can easily make a calm out of a storm; and he can make the storm a calm for you whenever he pleases to do so. Your troubled feelings, your tossings to and fro, may soon subside into “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding,” which “shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Psalms 107:30. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.
And there is no music that is sweeter to the mariner’s ears than the rattle of the chain as the anchor grips the bottom of the harbour, and the ship rests from all her tossings. The Lord will give you grace, my brother, my sister, to let down your anchor;—or, rather, to throw it up “into that within the veil,” for that is the way that your anchor goes; and then you shall be glad because you will be quiet. I believe that there is often, a greater, fuller, deeper joy in being quiet than there is in making a noise. There are times when it is good to praise the Lord with the high-sounding cymbals and with the harp of a solemn sound; but, in the deepest joy of all, we are still before God, and praise is silent before God in Zion.
Psalms 107:31. Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
Should they not do so? Those who have survived the storms at sea, or the still greater storms within their own souls, should surely take care to praise the Lord. If we know how to pray, we ought also to know how to praise. Prayer and praise ought to form the two covers of the book of our life, and our life is not well bound unless these are the two covers to it, with a good stiff back of faith to bind the two covers firmly together, and to hold every leaf in its proper place.
Psalms 107:32. Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
Let them not only praise the Lord in private, but let them also sound out their song of gratitude to God where the greybeards are gathered together, and let the men of experience, the officers of the church, the leaders of the Lord’s people, help them in the expression of their gratitude.
Psalms 107:33-34. He turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the water-springs into dry ground; a fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.
Hearken unto this, ye who are men of understanding. God can soon take away from any people the privileges which they cease to prize. He sent barrenness upon the earth in the days of our first father, Adam; and he has long cursed with barrenness the very land in which this Psalm was written. He can give us what he pleases, and he can take it all away when he pleases. And, spiritually, God can easily turn a fruitful land into barrenness. The means of grace, the ministry of his Word which was once very rich and fertile to you, may suddenly lose all its savour and all its fruitfulness. Ay, even his own Word, which may be compared to water-springs, may suddenly seem to you to be but as dry ground; and your secret devotions, your reading of godly books, your conversation with gracious men and women, all of which were like wells of water, may seem to be dried up. If you walk contrary to God, he will walk contrary to you. “He turneth a fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.” When the people of God fall from their steadfastness, when they wander from the paths of holiness, it is easy for God to let them know that the best means are only means, and that the best earthly supplies are barrenness itself apart from him. God grant that it may never be so with any of us! But now see what happens when the Lord turns his hand the other way:—
Psalms 107:35. He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into water-springs.
He can make the sandy desert into a lake of water, he can make that which was barren as the desert of Sahara to become as fruitful as the garden of the Lord. And if you are just now mourning your barrenness, believe in the omnipotence of his grace which can work such wonderful transformations as these for you. “All my fresh springs are in thee,” said the psalmist; and so they are with us; therefore, why should not those fresh springs now flow into our nature so as to make the dry ground into water springs?
Psalms 107:36-37. And there he maketh the hungry to dwell, that they may prepare a city for habitation; and sow the fields, and plant vineyards, which may yield fruits of increase.
See, brothers and sisters, when God blesses us, then we begin to work for him. When he works, we work. He blesses the barren land with fruitfulness, and then we sow the fields, and plant vineyards. We do not sit still because God is at work; nay, rather, we obey the apostolic injunction, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
Psalms 107:38-39. He blesseth them also, so that they are multiplied greatly; and suffereth not their cattle to decrease. Again, they are minished and brought low through oppression, affliction, and sorrow.
God has a great many rods, and we get a great many smarts because of our many sins. If we were but saved from our sins, we should not need all these rods, “oppression affliction, and sorrow,” — tribulation, and anguish, and pain, and distress. I will not tell you the names of all of them, but they are very many, and their strokes are very painful. May God grant that we may be quit of sin, for only so shall we be quit of many of these sorrows.
Psalms 107:40. He poureth contempt upon princes, and causeth them to wander in the wilderness, where there is no way.
God makes very little of earth’s biggest men: “He poureth contempt upon princes.” He has wonderful ways of making very poor those who are very rich in themselves. He makes those who were lords of all the fields to be exiles and wanderers in the wilderness, where there is no way. Do not get proud, brethren, or else that may be your lot. He who is so near perfection that he need not pray, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” may before long be so near desperation that he will not have to pray even the publican’s prayer. Let none of us become too great, lest we soon be made very little.
Psalms 107:41. Yet setteth he the poor on high from affliction, and maketh him families like a flock.
God always has an eye of pity for the poor, and especially for the spiritually poor. While “he poureth contempt upon princes” with one hand, he is lifting the poor from the dunghill with the other.
Psalms 107:42. The righteous shall see it, and rejoice:
When God’s providence and grace are at work with men, the righteous shall see it, and understand it, and be glad.
Psalms 107:42. And all iniquity shall stop her mouth.
She is generally very noisy and boastful; but, sometimes, when God’s judgments are abroad, she is obliged to hold her tongue. “All iniquity shall stop her mouth.” O Lord, stop it speedily, for she is making a great noise just now!
Psalms 107:43. Whose is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving kindness of the LORD.
Those who watch providence will never be without a providence to watch?