One of the most comforting words that God has spoken into my life the last two months has been this psalm. It begins with a rejoicing cry, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” The very next line is a cry to all those who trust in God, the redeemed, to echo this truth, “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so!” But the next clause brings a hint of what this psalm is about, “whom he has redeemed from trouble.” In this psalm it is obvious that redemption is not related to redeeming coupons or paying off a promissory note. Instead it is clear that redemption here means being saved from something. And that something is defined as trouble. Therefore, there is something that these redeemed ones should be thankful about. The Psalmist is strongly encouraging them to be thankful to the LORD for redeeming them from a sorry situation.
Now the Psalmist probably had specific groups in mind, but in speaking to those groups he does something that is very helpful to us. He gives us four distinct examples of the type of redeemed people who can say, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” And more than that, he tells us exactly how those people were redeemed in the first place.
First, Ps 107:4-9 describes those who were exiled and wandering in the wilderness. Many of us, who have wandered and felt alone both in a physical and spiritual sense, can relate to this group of people. Notice Ps 107:6, “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble and he delivered them from their distress.” They did not work for their deliverance. They did not read their Bible more or get up earlier or work later or serve more or tithe more. They cried out to the LORD and he delivered them.
Psalm 107:10-16 describes another group of people. While in the first group nothing was said about how they ended up wandering and looking for a city, this second group is in much deeper trouble because of their own actions. “Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High” (Ps 107:10-11). Their own rebellion got them into serious trouble. They rebelled against the words of God. That is serious. They also spurned the counsel of the Most High. That, too, is serious. What would you expect to happen to these people? Look at Ps 107:13, “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” What did they do in order to be redeemed? They didn’t do anything, instead they cried out. What kind of God is this who redeems rebels when they cry out to him?
The third group were not rebels, but fools. “Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction” (Ps 107:17). They were sinners, to be sure, but they aren’t described as rebels, just foolish. They foolishly sinned and reaped the consequences. So, what did this group do? “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction” (Ps 107:19-20). It is the second sentence that brings a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. He healed them and delivered them from their distress. Again, it was not their doing but their crying out that brought redemption from trouble.
Clearly there is a pattern here. The fourth group (Ps 107:23-32) is made up of business types in shipping who are caught in a storm that comes upon them from the hand of the LORD. They are frightened to death and react in an evil way, at least initially. Then they, too, cry out to the LORD, and he redeems them from his own storm. “He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed” (Ps 107:29).
The main point of this psalm is that these people are redeemed and therefore they should “give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.” But clearly something else in this psalm is absolutely critical to our eternal existence. This psalm includes the greatest good news that you will ever hear. The LORD is a redeemer. In other words, he is in the business of saving people. He saves people who are wandering and looking for a home. He saves rebels who have spurned his word. He saves people who are fools and sin foolishly. He saves people who are living their lives and encounter the power of God in natural calamities. He saves people who cry out to him in faith.
If you are in trouble, if you are wandering or in prison or a fool or simply living life, cry out like the tax collector in Luke 18:13-14. Jesus said, “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other.” Whether you are wandering or rebelling against the word of God, whether you are a fool or simply doing your job, I beg you to cry out to the only one who can redeem you. Then, when he delivers you and heals you and leads you by a straight way and brings you out of darkness, you too can say with the redeemed, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!”