From My Soul Waits
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. (vv. 6, 13, 19, 28)
Psalm 107, which opens the fifth and final “book” of the complete Psalter, belongs to the type of psalms known as “historical” because it recounts events of God’s saving intervention in the lives of his people. It is a story of God’s deliverance. Indeed, it is four stories wrapped into one.
The opening call to “give thanks to the Lord,” (1) is inspired by God’s steadfast love, a love that not only “endures forever” but also shows itself in very specific divine acts. The psalmist illustrates the people of God being redeemed and gathered from the four compass points of the Earth (3) with four examples of God’s “wonderful works,” (8).
1) vv. 4–9: Those who were lost in wilderness places cried out to the Lord as they wandered and fainted. God heard their cry, led them along clear pathways, and brought them safely to new dwelling places. They are to thank the Lord, for he fills the hungry with good things.
2) vv. 10–16: Those who were oppressed by darkness and despair, even held captive, by their own rebellious ways, cried out to God to deliver them from their distress. God brought them into the light of day, opening their eyes and shattering their chains. They are to thank the Lord, for he breaks the bonds that imprison them.
3) vv. 17–22: Those who were sick and suffering, whose maladies had brought them even to the point of death, cried out to God to save them. God sent forth his life-giving word, bringing healing and wholeness to those at the brink of destruction. They are to thank the Lord, tell of their deliverance, and sing for joy!
4) vv. 23–32: In the fourth and longest story (particularly loved by the seafaring world), those who “went down to the sea in ships” only to discover that their tiny vessels, no matter how grand while docked at port, were no match for the raging seas, cried to the Lord in their trouble. God stilled the storm that engulfed them, hushed the roaring winds, and brought the terrified voyagers – “at their wits’ end” (27) – to a safe haven.
One can imagine the psalm being sung by a huge assembly in the temple as one voice proclaims each example of God’s saving power, and answer is made by a chorus of cheers calling for thanksgiving and praise. The Jewish people would have surveyed their history and identified those occasions when these stories first took shape. As metaphors for our own histories, these same stories find reflection in our own lives without much effort – when we are lost, weighed down, sick, and tossed about by events or emotions beyond our control. At such times, says the psalmist, the wise person will pay attention to the work of God (43), finding evidence of the incarnate love of God there, even in the midst of troubles. Then the redeemed will add their own voice of thanksgiving for all the wonderful works of the Lord, and the song will be sung again.
From The Fathers
Psalm 107 clearly proclaims the good news of the descent of God the Word from Heaven and the result of his coming. For it says, “He sent his Word and healed them.” And we say distinctly that the Word of God was he who was sent as the Savior of all humankind. He healed and rescued them from their destruction. He did this simply by breaking what are called the gates of death and crushing the bars of iron. (Eusebius of Caesarea)
Wandering … falling … lying down … reeling.
These have all been among my conditions.
Leading … raising … healing … saving.
These have all been among your answers.
When I cry to you, and when you answer,
let me always remember … and give thanks.