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A SONG of thanksgiving, first for deliverance from the Babylonish captivity (Psalms 107:1-3), and then for other deliverances (Psalms 107:4-32), passing into a general account of God's providential dealings with mankind, both in the way of chastisement and of loving-kindness, but especially the latter (Psalms 107:33-42). The composition closes with a single gnomic reflection on the wisdom of pondering such matters as those brought forward by the writer.
Formally, the psalm falls into seven divisions:
(1) a thanksgiving for the return from Babylon (Psalms 107:1-3);
(2) one for deliverance from the perils of travel (Psalms 107:4-9);
(3) one for deliverance from prison (Psalms 107:10-16);
(4) one for recovery from sickness (Psalms 107:17-22);
(5) one for escape from the perils of the sea (Psalms 107:23-32);
(6) a general account of God's dealings with men (Psalms 107:33-42); and
(7) a commendation of the entire subject to the consideration of God's people. Parts 2, 3, 4, and 5 are terminated by a refrain.
O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good (comp. Psalms 106:1; Psalms 118:1; Psalms 136:1). For his mercy endureth forever (see the comment on Psalms 106:1).
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so. "The redeemed of the Lord" in this place are those whom the Lord has just delivered out of exile and captivity (comp. Isaiah 44:22-24; Isaiah 51:11; Jeremiah 31:11; Zechariah 10:8, etc.). The writer calls on them to give voice to the thanksgiving of Psalms 107:1. Whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy; i.e. of Babylon.
And gathered them out of the lands (compare the prayer of Psalms 106:47; and for the expression, "the lands"—i.e. the foreign countries—see Psalms 106:27; Ezra 9:1). From the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south. The present Hebrew text has מִיָּם, "from the sea" and so the LXX; ἀπὸ θαλάσσης—but it is thought that probably מִיָּם is a corruption of מִיָּמִין (Cheyne), which would mean "from the south."
The form is historical, but the intention is to describe a recurrent event. Men from time to time wander—lose their way—either literally, or in the wilderness of life, grow faint and weary, and are ready to perish. But if they cry to God, God gives them aid, succors them, saves them. Then let them praise and thank him.
They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. It is, perhaps, best to divide this verse as was done by the LXX; who attached דרךְ, "way," to the latter clause. So Cheyne, who translates, "They wandered in the wilderness, yea, in the desert; they found no road to a city of habitation." So also Rosenmüller.
Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Either actual hunger and thirst, or dissatisfaction with life, may be intended.
Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble (comp. Psalms 106:44, and the comment ad loc.). And he delivered them out of their distresses. "Distresses" may be a plural of amplification, or it may point to the triple suffering—hunger, thirst, faintness.
And he led them forth by the right way; or, "by a straight way"—a way in which there was no crookedness. That they might go to a city of habitation. The same phrase as in Psalms 107:4. A city suitable for habitation is meant.
Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness! Here the refrain occurs for the first time. Note its repetition in Psalms 107:15, Psalms 107:21, and Psalms 107:31. It is an earnest call on those who have experienced God's mercies to be thankful. And for his wonderful works to the children of men! or, "his wonderful doings."
For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness. The "satisfaction" intended seems to be spiritual rather than material (comp. Psalms 34:10; Luke 1:53). God alone can satisfy the cravings of man's spiritual nature.
There are others afflicted differently—struck down by some grievous calamity, imprisonment, earthly ruin, down fall of their hopes, a sense of their bondage to sin—who suffer perhaps even more than the dissatisfied wanderers. They too may cry to God in their trouble; and when they do, they experience his mercy. Let them join in the chorus of praise.
Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death (comp. Job 16:16; Job 36:8). The expressions used are purposely vague, being intended to cover various sorts of misery. Being bound in affliction and iron; i.e. "in an affliction which holds them like bands of iron" (comp. Psalms 107:17).
Because they rebelled against the words of God. Such deep affliction as is here spoken of scarcely ever comes upon any but those who have offended God by resisting his will. And contemned the counsel of the most High (comp. Proverbs 1:25). The "counsel of God" is the course of conduct which he has prescribed to man, whether through the reason and conscience that he has implanted in him, or through his revealed Word.
Therefore he brought down their heart with labor; rather, with misery, or with sorrow. They fell down; i.e. collapsed—sank to the earth. And there was none to help. They were like Job; no one gave them any help in their affliction.
Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses (comp. Psalms 107:6, and see also Psalms 107:19 and Psalms 107:28).
He brought them out of dark ness and the shadow of death. Wherein they sat (Psalms 107:10). And brake their bands in sunder. Freed them from their fetters (Psalms 107:10), whatever they were.
Oh that men, etc.! A repetition of Psalms 107:8.
For he hath broken the gates of brass. God completely liberates the un happy ones who turn to him; removes every restraint that confines and galls them; breaks on their behalf, as it were, "gates of brass." And cut the bars of iron in sunder. Snaps fetters and prison bars.
A third class of persons under God's displeasure are punished by grievous sickness, and brought to the very verge of the grave. They, too, in many cases, turn to God, and, "crying to him," are delivered from their peril. It is for them, under such circumstances, to make a return by means of praise and thanks giving.
Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted. Some read חוֹלִים, "sick men," for אֱוִלִים, "fools," here. But the change is not necessary. Folly and sin are regarded as two aspects of the same moral condition by the sacred writers, and sickness is spoken of as an ordinary punishment for them (Job 33:17-22; 2 Kings 5:27; 2 Chronicles 21:15; 2 Chronicles 26:16-19; Acts 12:23).
Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat (comp. Job 33:20; Psalms 102:4). And they draw near unto the gates of death. See Psalms 9:13; and compare Ἤκω νεκρῶν κευθμῶνα καὶ σκότου πύλας λιπών (Eurip; 'Hec.,' 1)
Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he sayeth them out of their distresses (see above, Psalms 107:6 and Psalms 107:13).
He sent his word. and healed them; rather, he sends his word, and heals them (see the Revised Version). The "word" intended may be a message sent by a human messenger, like the "word" sent to Hezekiah in. his sickness (2 Kings 20:4; Isaiah 38:4); or it may be a thought suggested to the mind either directly by God, or by an angel, like that spoken of in Job 33:23, Job 33:24; or, lastly, it may be the actual Word of God (John 1:1), the Son, sent by the Father. But this last sense can scarcely have been in the writer's mind. And delivered them from their destructions; or, "from their grave-pits" (Kay, Cheyne). The word used occurs only here and in Lain. Job 4:20, where it is translated "pits."
Oh that men, etc.! A repetition of Psalms 107:8 and Psalms 107:15.
And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving; compare the expression, "the calves of our lips" (Hosea 14:2), and see also Hebrews 13:15. And declare his works with rejoicing; i.e. joyfully pro claim the great things that God has done for them.
Finally, there are eases among those whose business requires them to traverse the sea, where the danger is great, and death seems imminent. Let such persons cast themselves upon God, and "cry to him in their trouble," and they too will be heard and delivered. Must it not be their duty also to give thanks?
They that go down to the sea in ships. That many of the Israelites engaged in maritime pursuits appears from 1Ki 9:26-28; 1 Kings 10:22; 1 Kings 22:48; 2 Chronicles 20:36; as also from Judges 5:17; Psalms 48:7; Proverbs 23:34; Proverbs 30:19; and from many passages of the Apocrypha. Joppa was at all times an Israelite port, from which trade was carried on by the residents (2 Chronicles 2:16; Ezra 3:7; Jonah 1:3). That do business in great waters; i.e. the sea of Galilee and Lake Merom.
These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. Storms, tempests, and sudden deliverances are the "wonders" especially meant (comp. Acts 27:14-44; 2 Corinthians 11:25).
For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind (comp. Psalms 147:15, Psalms 147:18; Jonah 1:4). The operations of nature are constantly spoken of in Scripture as God's direct doing. Which lifteth up the waves thereof; or, "the waves that are his" (compare, in Psalms 147:17, Psalms 147:18, "his ice, his cold, his wind").
They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths. Tossed on the foaming billows, now carried up until they seem almost to touch the sky (see Genesis 11:4), anon sinking into the trough of the sea, and as it were swallowed up in its depths. Their soul is melted because of trouble; or, "their soul melteth away in the trouble" (Cheyne).
They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man. The oldest sailor "loses his sea-legs," and staggers about the deck like a landsman, or like one drunk. And are at their wit's end; literally, as in the margin, and all their wisdom is swallowed. But the English idiom of the Authorized Version is a very happy, one, and exactly expresses the writer's meaning. All the seaman's intelligence is at fault, and can suggest nothing.
Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. Practically identical with Psalms 107:6, Psalms 107:13, and Psalms 107:19.
He maketh the storm a calm; i.e. he causes the wind to drop, and to be succeeded by a "great calm" (comp. Matthew 8:26). Such sudden changes do sometimes occur, not only in inland seas, but on the Mediterranean (see Jonah 1:15). So that the waves thereof are still; literally, the waves of them; i.e. of the great waters (see Psalms 107:23).
Then are they glad because they be quiet; or, "because they be at rest," i.e. no longer tempest-tossed. So he bringeth them unto their desired haven; literally, the haven of their desire; i.e. the haven where they desire to be.
Oh that men, etc. Repeated from Psalms 107:8, Psalms 107:15, and Psalms 107:21.
Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people. The psalmist holds it to be not enough for men who have received deliverances to thank God in their hearts, or secretly in their chambers. He requires them to make public profession of their thankfulness "in the congregation of the people." The Christian Church maintains the same attitude. And praise him in the assembly of the elders. The elders led the congregation and presided in it (Ezra 3:9-11; Ezra 6:16-22; Nehemiah 8:4-9; Nehemiah 9:4, Nehemiah 9:5; Nehemiah 12:27-43, etc.).
Professor Cheyne finds in this passage—which he views as an "appendix" to the psalm—a falling off from the earlier portion of the psalm, and a set of "sentences strung together without much reflection." But to others the transition from special deliverances to God's general dealings with mankind seems an enlargement and an advance in the thought, although the language may be less graphic and more commonplace than in the former portion of the composition.
He turneth rivers into a wilderness. God can, and does, by the operation of his providence, turn lands naturally fertile—lands abounding with streams—into arid wastes, either by such a physical catastrophe as that which blasted the cities of the plain (Genesis 19:24, Genesis 19:25), or by such moral changes as have turned Babylonia from a garden into a desert, a miserable howling wilderness (comp. Psa 13:1-6 :15-22; Psalms 1:2; Jeremiah 1:13-15, 38-40; Jeremiah 51:13, Jeremiah 51:37-43, etc.). And the water springs into dry ground. The phrase is varied, but the meaning is the same. God has full control over nature, and can either take back his blessings, or render them of no avail.
A fruitful land into barrenness; literally, into saltness. The judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah is probably in the writer's mind. For the wickedness of them that dwell therein. God does not capriciously withdraw his blessings from a land. If he turns a fruitful land into a barren one, we may be sure that the inhabitants have provoked him by their sins.
He turneth the wilderness into a standing water; rather, a wilderness (comp. Isaiah 35:7; Isaiah 41:18). And dry ground into water springs. The entire verse is antithetical to Psalms 107:33.
And there he maketh the hungry to dwell. God gives the laud, which he has thus blessed, to some previously famishing people; as he did Canaan to Israel after they had had but scant fare in the wilderness. That they may prepare a city for habitation; literally, and they prepare. It is naturally their first thought to prepare themselves a settled dwelling-place (comp. Genesis 4:17; Genesis 11:4; Genesis 25:16, etc.).
And sow the fields; literally, and sow fields—the first act of a settled population. And plant vineyards. The second act in a wine-producing country. Bread and wine were recognized in the East as the prime necessaries of life (see Genesis 14:18; Judges 9:13; Judges 19:19; 2 Samuel 6:19; Nehemiah 5:15; Psalms 104:15; Daniel 1:5, etc.). Which may yield fruits of increase; rather, and get them; literally, make them. The expression, "fruits of increase," points to the abundance of the harvest and vintage.
He blesseth them also, so that they are multiplied greatly. With in creasing prosperity comes increase of population, naturally—i.e. by God's ordinary providence. This increase is, however, only a blessing within certain limits. And suffereth not their cattle to decrease. This modest under-statement suggests an enormous increase (comp. Job 42:12).
Again. There is no "again" in the original, but merely the usual yaw conjunctive. Still, in the thought, there is no doubt an abrupt transition. The writer turns to the darker side of the picture. They are minished and brought low. God shows his providence, not merely in blessing, but also in chastising. Even the very nation which has been the most highly favored may, by misconduct, fall under his displeasure and suffer at his hands. Their population is diminished; they arc "bowed down" (Revised Version), or "brought low." Calamities of various kinds befall them. Sometimes their decline is brought about through oppression, which may be either the cruel rule of a native monarch, such as Saul, or the still heavier yoke of a foreign power, like Egypt or Babylon. Sometimes it comes from such an affliction as bad harvests, plagues of locusts, or pestilence. Sometimes it is brought about by sorrow—the death of a good ruler in the flower of his age, the extinction of a royal stock, the destruction of a nation's best and bravest on battle-fields, and the like. But in all calamities alike it is God's hand that deals the blow.
He poureth contempt upon princes. A direct quotation from Job 12:21, but not therefore to be regarded as spurious, since the sacred writers often quote one another, and the psalmists especially are very much in the habit of citing, or referring to Job (see, in this very psalm, besides the present passage, Psalms 107:10, Psalms 107:18 (bis), Psalms 107:20, Psalms 107:34, Psalms 107:41, and Psalms 107:42). And causeth them to wander in the wilderness; rather, a wilderness (comp. Job 12:24). Where there is no way. "Wandering in a wilderness without a way denotes helpless embarrassment" (Hengstenberg).
Yet setteth he the poor on high from affliction. Even in such dread calamities, when a whole nation is punished, God's providence protects the poor and needy—not of course in all, but still in very many, eases. The mower's scythe passes over the humblest flowers. And maketh him families like a flock (setup. Job 21:11). Those whom God thus preserves he collects into "families," and looks after as carefully as a shepherd looks after his sheep.
The righteous shall see it, and rejoice. Experience will justify God's ways to man. "The righteous"—his people—will see that the general course of God's providence is such as described (Psalms 107:33-41), and will "rejoice" that it is so. And all iniquity shall stop her mouth. The gain sayers, unable to impugn the righteousness of the Divine proceedings, shall have no resource but to sit still and hold their tongues.
Whoso is wise, and will observe these things; rather, let him observe these things. It is assumed that they are open to be observed by all; they are the patent facts of human life. Even they; rather, and they. Shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord; literally, loving-kindnesses; i.e. many acts of loving-kindness.
Deliverance and indebtedness.
We can never measure what we owe to God for his daily loving-kindness. Indeed, it is only the wise who observe and take account of the Divine source of all human blessings, that at all understand how great is our debt of gratitude (Psalms 107:43). But we are too apt to overlook God's goodness to us even in the more striking events of life. How often in the course of our life are we cast upon the kindness of the Divine Redeemer!
I. THE MANIFOLDNESS OF OUR NEED.
1. Our necessity takes various temporal or bodily forms. It may be:
(1) Distance from home; sometimes in the land of the alien and the enemy (Psalms 107:3, Psalms 107:4); sometimes in oppressive and depressing solitude (Psalms 107:4); sometimes in pecuniary straits.
(2) Cruel and almost intolerable restraint—in the home, in the school, in the institution, in the prison (Psalms 107:10-12).
(3) Bodily evil—sickness, pain, prostration, dependence on the ministry of others (Psalms 107:17, Psalms 107:18).
(4) Perils of travel by sea or by land—e.g; the journeys of Paul and all missionaries (Psalms 107:23-27).
2. Our necessity often takes the much more serious aspect of spiritual evils. These may correspond to those of the flesh. They may be:
(1) Distance from God.
(2) Spiritual bondage, in which we sigh and struggle for a freedom which seems beyond our reach.
(3) Unsoundness of soul, loss of all appetite for the heavenly and the Divine.
(4) Inward commotion, profound unrest.
II. THE TRUE ACCOUNT OF OUR DISTRESS. Its origin is to be found in ourselves—in our own folly, in our own iniquity, in our willful departure from God; and in the consequent penalty which God's righteousness exacts (see Psalms 107:11, Psalms 107:12, Psalms 107:17).
III. THE ONE REFUGE OF THE HEART. Men that forget God at every other time remember him in the hour of trouble and of danger. When they are brought very low, when there is "none to help" (Psalms 107:12), when the gates of death are seen (Psalms 107:18), "then they cry unto the Lord." The refrain of the psalm is the habit of the heart of man when his case is desperate, and his soul is "faint within him." Nothing but the dark night will bring out the heavenly star.
IV. DIVINE INTERVENTION. (Psalms 107:7, Psalms 107:13, Psalms 107:16, Psalms 107:20, Psalms 107:29, Psalms 107:30.) Sometimes very markedly, sometimes indirectly and through various agencies or instrumentalities, God makes his delivering power to be felt. But in whatever way, directly or indirectly, it is in the exercise of his power and by forces which he has ordained, originated, and maintained, that the wanderer finds his way home, that the fever abates and the patient is healed, that the deer of escape is opened and the prisoner comes forth. It is of him and through his grace that the prodigal returns, that the tyrannous habit is broken, that the soul is made pure and sound, that peace and rest come back to the troubled heart, that the light of heaven shines clear on the pilgrim's path.
V. THE PLACE OF GRATITUDE IN THE HEART AND LIFE OF MAN. (Psalms 107:1, Psalms 107:2, Psalms 107:8, Psalms 107:15, Psalms 107:21, Psalms 107:22, Psalms 107:31, Psalms 107:32.) This should be a very large place. The redeemed of the Lord should "say so." They should sing his praise with joyful lips; they should daily offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving; they should carry with them everywhere a sense of deep indebtedness; they should feel that for the special temporal mercies of God, and also for his restoring and reconciling grace in Christ Jesus, they owe a continual, an unbroken, an abounding gratitude—a gratitude that should find vent in sacred song, in blameless conduct, in cheerful submission, in earnest and persevering labors.
The wheel of providence "goes full circle," lifting up the lowly and abasing the proud. God turns the rivers into a wilderness, and the wilderness into standing water, etc. (Psalms 107:33, Psalms 107:35).
I. THE DIVINE OVERTHROW. He cast out the guilty inhabitants of Canaan, and planted in their place the children of Israel; but when these rebelled against him, he rejected them, and sent them forth into a strange land. Thus has God humbled nations age after age; thus has he humiliated Churches—both great ecclesiastical organizations, and such Churches as those we read of in the Apocalypse (Revelation 2:1-29; Revelation 3:1-22.). And thus may we expect that he will bring down all communities that forget their Creator, that are false to their Redeemer, that are unfaithful to their mission.
II. THE DIVINE UPBUILDING. (Psalms 107:35-38, Psalms 107:41.) A people, a Church, a society, may be very low, there may be but a spark of life in it; yet it need not despair. There is a hand which can kindle the faintest spark into a noble flame; there is One who can turn the sterile desert into the fruitful field. Far above all means and measures is the consideration—Is God's favor gained? Our expectation is from him. "Let Israel hope in the Lord." There are three things which avail to secure his good pleasure and his restoring power.
1. Penitence for past misdeeds and present unworthiness.
2. The faith which leads to earnest prayer for his blessing.
3. The appropriate, devoted action to which he calls us.
Under these conditions we may look for a Divine revolution—evil and sorrow overturned, righteousness and prosperity restored.
HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY
Wherefore men should praise the Lord.
Such is the theme of this glorious psalm. "It contains the thanksgiving of exiles (Psalms 107:3) apparently not yet returned to Jerusalem, but already escaped from the thraldom of Babylon." Note—
I. ITS GENERAL LESSONS.
1. It tells of present earthly troubles. They were such as the returning exiles had met with, for Babylon was not the alone place of exile. There had been weary wanderings in the barren, waterless, and burning deserts; cruel and hopeless imprisonment; sickness nigh unto death; perils by sea (cf. Jeremiah 16:15; Jeremiah 40:12; Daniel 9:7). And it repeatedly declares the real cause of human troubles—the wickedness of men.
2. It warrants our praying for deliverance from such troubles. It tells how all the troubled ones did this. And, indeed, it is an instinct in man to thus pray.
3. It promises that God will answer such prayers. "He delivered them" is four times affirmed (Psalms 107:6, Psalms 107:13, Psalms 107:19, Psalms 107:28).
4. It demands that therefore men should praise the Lord. It expresses a longing desire that men should do this, but also a tacit confession that many of them would not. These are the lessons that lie on the surface of the psalm. But are they true? Consider, therefore—
II. THE QUESTION OF THEIR TRUTHFULNESS.
1. The psalmist had no doubt about it. But in our day many doubt it much. They say all these troubles come to men now, and instead of deliverance such as is here affirmed as ever taking place in answer to prayer, there is in the majority of such cases no deliverance at all.
2. Calvin argues (see Perowne, in loc.) that no doubt the most do perish, but, then, all deserved to; therefore if any are saved it is by the great mercy of God: God was not bound to save any of them. But how can any thoughtful soul be satisfied with such reply? It is like Calvin, but all unlike the teaching of Christ.
3. The true reply is, that God answers prayer in different ways. He will ever give the best thing—of which he only can be the Judge-but that may not be the thing we cry for and when he does literally deliver, it is rarely by interfering with natural laws, but rather is it by suggesting to men's minds how they may work out their own deliverance. He teaches them here to use the laws of nature so as to win what they desire; but he does not miraculously set those laws aside. It is true God ever answers sincere prayer, but not that he does so in the literal, direct way which the psalmist believed. But if we allow ourselves, as we surely may, to regard these distresses as patterns and images of spiritual distresses, then the declarations of the psalm are absolutely true. Therefore consider—
III. ITS SPIRITUAL SUGGESTIONS.
1. That in these earthly troubles we have such as are spiritual faithfully represented.
2. That we may and should pray for deliverance from them.
3. That such prayer shall be surely answered.
4. That then it is our bounden duty to praise the Lord. "Whoso is wise will consider these things, and," etc. (Psalms 107:43).—S.C.
Praise, its desirableness, absence, and source.
This psalm one of those many Scriptures which show God's mindfulness of the needs, not alone of one land and age, but of all. For see what variety of condition, character, occupation, experience, are portrayed in this one psalm—the desert, the city, the sea, the prison, the traveler, the exile, the sailor, the disease-stricken, the captive, the storm-tossed, the rescued. And thus it is that all men, of all ages and all lands, may find, whatever their condition, in this blessed book that which meets their case, which seems written for just such as they. But the psalm mainly contemplates God's great deliverances, and is a summons to all men to praise the Lord for his goodness. This is the burden of the text, and it plainly teaches that for men thus to praise the Lord is—
I. INFINITELY DESIRABLE. The psalmist longs that they should do this; he seems eagerly waiting for that outburst or' praise which he feels ought to be forthcoming. And it is thus to be desired:
1. Because it is so right. If this could not be said of it, nothing else that might be urged could justify such longing after it. But this can be said. For God's goodness deserves men's praise. Think how great, how varied, how constant, how all undeserved, how costly, is the goodness of God to men, and how it follows them continually all the days of their life here, and then goes with them into the eternal life. If a fellow man have shown to us, when in distress, great kindness, we are not slow to acknowledge it; or if we were, the verdict of our fellow-men would at once condemn us.
2. It so brightens our life. That which darkens life is the dwelling on its unhappy events, or on those which we think unhappy. But if we would brighten life, we have to reverse this process. Collect the happy facts of life, and let memory recollect and ponder them. It will be found that however great the sum of our sorrows may be, the sum of our joys is greater.
3. It gives us courage in the conflict with the social evils of the day. There are many such. They are demanding men's attention more and more. The bitter cry of multitudes of our fellow men can be no longer stifled or ignored. And good men are setting themselves to see what can be done to remedy these wrongs. But every one knows that it is much easier to point out a wrong than to find a remedy. For there are so many who profit by the wrong, that they will never, if they can help, let go their hold of it. All man's selfishness rises up to guard it, and its defenses are strong indeed. But what can so encourage us to assail these strongholds of wrong as the conviction, wrought by the habit of praising the Lord for his goodness, that he whom we know to be good cannot but be against such wrong, and with those who seek to remedy it? There will be heard in their souls the ancient stirring cry, "Deus vult!" and like as that emboldened men in the days of the Crusades, so for this far more important and difficult crusade it will serve the same blessed office of emboldening the hearts of those who undertake it. But such custom is—
II. LAMENTABLY ABSENT. The text is both a confession and a bitter complaint of this fact. But why is this? Wherefore is it that men act towards God in a way which would cover them with shame were they to act so in regard to their fellow-men? The very words of the text suggest not a little of the answer.
1. Many do not believe in the Lord. They will not absolutely deny his existence, but they are not at all certain of it. And such uncertainty paralyzes praise. They, of course, believe in some "force," some efficient power, which produces what they see. They cannot help believing in that. But what it is they do not pretend to say. They are materialists, evolutionists, agnostics, but no more.
2. Others question the "goodness" for which men should praise the Lord. They are bewildered at many aspects of the natural world and of the social world, that seem to throw grave doubt on that goodness. And when they look within and see what they themselves are, how evil and wrong; and when they listen to what not a few theologians tell them of God, and the doom he destines for the mass of men, a very sea of doubt and misgiving surges over them, not to say swallows them up.
3. And others deny any "wonderful works." They do not believe in the supernatural, and all miracle is but myth. They believe only in the reign of law, and that things happen not in any "wonderful" way, but according to fixed, orderly, and ascertained law. They have a natural explanation for everything, and need no Divine intervention to account for aught that has occurred. They believe in "wonderful works" done by "the children of men," by their genius, skill, daring, but not in any done for them. Such are some of the silencers of men s praise and gratitude. But, whatever the cause, the effect is most sad. Man's own self becomes, to him who believes not in God, the greatest and most important being he knows, and what but hideous selfishness can follow? And he who doubts—as, alas! so many do—
"That he and we and all men move
Under a canopy of love
As broad as the blue sky above,"
—what is there for him but to sink down into a wretched pessimism, a despair of good, such as may be met with in wide regions of the thought, speech, and writing of this unbelieving age? Pride, miserable atheistic pride, is another of the Dead-Sea fruits which grow on the tree of unbelief in the supernatural. Believing that man is self-made, he has a wonderful respect for his maker, but no gratitude to God. What, then, is to be done? for surely the spirit of praise—
III. IS EARNESTLY TO BE SOUGHT AFTER. But how may men be made to praise the Lord for his goodness—how? This is, indeed, an important question, and almost as difficult as important. Not, we think, by their simply going over the mercies they have received, because, unless they believe them to be God's mercies, the mere enumeration will do no good—will probably only foster pride. But we believe that St. John supplies the true answer. He says, "We love him, because he first loved us." This is the genesis of the spirit of praise, its true point and spring—our seeing and believing God's love to us in Christ our Lord. So, then, would we quicken this spirit of praise in ourselves, let us get back whence it first began; and would we awaken it in others, the best, we believe the only way, is to—
"Tell them the old, old story
Of Jesus and his love."
Four portraits of one soul.
I. INQUIRE AS TO THE SOUL.
1. The psalm tells of ransomed exiles, of redeemed Israelites, and recounts the sad but varied experiences through which they had passed. Some had been wanderers, some captives, some stricken with mortal sickness, some all but lost at sea.
2. But in all ages of the Church this psalm has been taken as telling not merely of the literal facts which it records, but as setting forth in vivid and varied way the history of every soul as yet unsaved. It is, then, of the soul not yet saved that this fourfold portraiture is given.
II. LOOK AT THE PORTRAITS.
1. That of the wanderer. Out of the right way, in the wilderness, and going astray there; very miserable since he can find no home or rest; famine stares him in the face, and his soul faints within him. Is not this a true description of such as are unsaved? Every detail answers to his experience and condition. "All we like sheep have gone astray." Wanderers from God, and weary because of it,—such is the unsaved soul.
2. That of the captive. He is shut up in some dark dungeon, fettered hand and foot, doomed to die; he has brought it all on himself by his rebellion; the weight of his trouble has utterly east him down; he lies prostrate on the ground, without help or hope. Here, again, the real resemblance between this portrait and the unsaved soul can be readily seen. Many such can bear testimony that they have been through it all. Christ speaks of such as captives, held fast behind prison doors and bound (Luke 4:18). Then:
3. That of the man stricken with mortal disease. Fools are they, and not simply unhappy, for these also have brought their misery on themselves; they are sinners as well as foolish. But now, so stricken with sickness are they, that they turn from all food, and are at the point of death. Sin is such a disease, and they are fools who bring it on themselves; and the effects of it are just what is said, and there is but a step betwixt them and death.
4. The storm-driven mariner ready to perish. Again we have a portrait of the soul, so driven and tossed by the tempests, trials, and storms of life, that he has almost made shipwreck. We may be going on in our ordinary pursuits when these dreadful tempests rise; and then, at our wit's end, not knowing what to do, our soul is melted because of trouble. Oat of Christ, we are ever exposed to such storms; for his word alone can still the tempest, and bring us to the haven where we would be.
III. OBSERVE THE POINTS OF DIFFERENCE AND RESEMBLANCE.
1. Of difference. The first tells of the unrest and failure of the soul to find satisfaction apart from God. The second, of the awful power, oppression, and cruelty of sin. "O wretched man that I am! who," etc.? (Romans 7:24). The third, of the paralysis of all spiritual energies, and the drawing ever nearer death of all the faculties of the soul, which sin causes. The fourth, of the liability to sudden and overwhelming destruction of the soul unpiloted by Christ.
2. Of resemblance. All such souls have to suffer. That suffering reaches extremity ere succor comes. Nor does it come then until prayed for; but then it does come and according to the need of each. The Lord alone sends it. The effect of it is ever to wake up praise; to make the soul long that others may praise, and to grieve that they do not.—S.C.
The Pilot, the passage, and the port.
"So he bringeth them to their desired haven." These three themes are suggested by the words. Therefore consider—
I. THE PILOT. He is the Lord Jesus Christ. We need his aid. Some think they can manage well enough without him, and hence refuse his aid; but no ship ever yet came safe to port without that aid. Receive him, therefore. His knowledge is perfect. His wisdom never errs. His power is omnipotent. His terms are such as all can comply with—trust and obey. His authority is from God. There are many pretended pilots; he alone is sent of God. He never fails.
II. THE PASSAGE. "So he bringeth them," etc. How?
1. By his Holy Spirit he guides the soul.
2. By his Word. "Thy Word is a lamp unto," etc. (Psalms 119:105).
3. By his gracious providence, sending now one influence and now another to further our course.
4. By the ministries of his Church—the means of grace, prayer, sacraments, etc.
III. THE PORT. It is our desired haven. Desired because there is:
3. Joy and happiness.
The loving-kindness of the Lord.
I. WHAT IS IT?
1. "These things" here spoken of are not merely the gracious deliverances which were granted in answer to the people's cry, but the terrible troubles which led to that cry unto the Lord. The deliverances are but parts of these things.
2. And often there is no deliverance. The weary wanderer sinks down on the sands and dies; the captive perishes in his dungeon; the man stricken with mortal sickness enters those gates of death to which he had drawn near, and does not come back; the storm-beaten ship goes down with all on board.
3. Deliverances arc the exertion, not the rule. In these cases is there no loving-kindness of the Lord? Some say there is not, and they further say God is not either.
4. But these things arc part of what we are to observe. No doubt they do make the loving-kindness of the Lord difficult to understand. It seems as if the observing of them were just the thing which would hinder, not help, that understanding. But we are to look at the psalm as a whole; not at the deliverances only, nor the troubles only, but at all together.
5. So looking, we shall see that the loving-kindness of the Lord is his bringing our heart, our will, to be at one with himself. This is his great, his blessed, and most loving gift. When it is wanting, there comes rebellion and sin of all kinds, and following close after that, trouble and sorrow; but when it is present, then these things depart. When it is absent, no amount of earthly good satisfies or can make really blessed; when it is present, no amount of earthly sorrow can rob the soul of its peace and trust. This, then, is the loving-kindness of the Lord—the heart that always says to God, "Thy will be done."
II. WHAT THIS LOVING-KINDNESS DEMANDS.
1. That the rebellious heart should be brought down and humbled. (Cf. Psalms 107:12.) In each of the scenes so vividly portrayed this is what is seen: the stout self-trusting and self-satisfied heart has disappeared, and a meek and lowly one has come instead.
2. God must insist on this; for until it is brought about, there is no way open for peace with God. Will we not see this at once, and take on us the Savior's yoke, and learn of him who was meek and lowly in heart, and so find rest in our souls?
III. WHAT IT WILL SURELY DO. It will take measures for the accomplishment of that which is so essential. There are two methods by which God's loving-kindness brings down the proud heart.
1. By his Holy Spirit. He convinces of sin, withers up the pride and self-sufficiency which lurk within us, and leads us in all humility to the feet of the Lord. He is ever striving to do this. Happy are they who yield to him. But this may fail. Therefore:
2. His providence is set to work. The consuming fire of God's terrible punishments burns up the rebelliousness which nothing else will purge away. The stout heart is made to yield, and the obstinate will to give way.
3. But the ordeal is fearful. Nothing but the loving-kindness of the Lord will hold men down to it. Let us not compel him thus to deal with us. Let us accept the yoke of wood, lest he put upon us the yoke of iron.
1. Love orders our lives. That is the meaning not only of the gentle but also of the awful, ways of God.
2. Love must have the obedient heart.
3. The wise only will see all this, and they must "observe these things" in order to understand. It was the secret of Christ's peace, for he understood the loving-kindness of the Lord.—S.C.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
The Lord's people are a redeemed people.
"The ransomed of Jehovah" (Perowne). This has been well called "the psalm of life." While its figures are partly suggested by the history of Israel, it is a meditative rather than historical psalm. "It presents to us, first, a magnificent series of pictures of various crises of human life—of the distress which throws men at such times on God in prayer, and of his gracious answer of deliverance; and next, a more thoughtful contemplation of God's government of the world by blessing and chastisement, by exaltation of the meek and humiliation of the proud." It is evidently composed by one of the returned exiles, and represents the pious feeling of a man who is rejoicing in some new and wonderful redemption of God. In the light of the new experience he reads his own life, and the story of his race, and he can see that God has always been, in every sphere, the Redeemer, Deliverer, and Ransomer. God has a fourfold claim to be called the "Redeemer" of his people.
I. GOD'S CLAIM ON THE GROUND OF THE GREAT REDEMPTION. That was the deliverance of Israel from the Egyptian bondage. Of it Israel was ever kept in mind by the Passover rite; by Divine revelations; by appeals of psalmist and prophet. It was a great redemption in view of
(1) the distress from which it delivered;
(2) the wisdom and power displayed in it;
(3) the issues to which it led.
Israel was bound to regard itself as a redeemed people, bound in allegiance to its Redeemer, who is to be served by thankful, loving obedience.
II. GOD'S CLAIM ON THE GROUND OF THE MANY REDEMPTIONS.
1. These appear to view in the wilderness-journey, when again and again God delivered the people from their circumstances, their enemies, and themselves.
2. They appear to view in the period of the Judges, when God graciously responded to penitence and prayer, and raised up national deliverers.
3. They appear to view in the period of the prophets, when God held back again and again his threatened judgments. The true reading of each individual life shows the same ever delivering, rescuing, redeeming God.
III. GOD'S CLAIM ON THE GROUND OF HIS LATEST REDEMPTION. That, to the psalmist, was the rescue from the Babylonish captivity. A wonderful restoration considered as to
(1) its time,
(2) unexpected manner,
(3) important issues,
(4) fulfillment of promises.
The feature of it that most pleased the psalmist was the gathering of the scattered Israelites, and the uniting of representatives from all the tribes to form the new nation.
IV. GOD'S CLAIM ON THE GROUND OF HIS SPIRITUAL REDEMPTION. That which was wrought by the agency of the Lord Jesus Christ. The soul-redemption, of which all other redemptions could be only the foreshadowing and illustration. Jesus reveals God the Redeemer.—R.T.
Psalms 107:8, Psalms 107:9
A fourfold view of God's relations.
This point is illustrated from the first thirty-two verses of the psalm, the verses taken as text being the refrain closing the first section. Summing up God's relations with his people, Delitzsch suggestively says:
1. God gave them the lands of the heathen (see Psalms 105:44).
2. God scattered them in the lands (see Psalms 106:27).
3. God gathers them from the lands (see Psalms 107:3). The thirty-two verses, or rather those from Psalms 107:4 to Psalms 107:32, contain four mental pictures:
(1) of pilgrims in a barren land of thirst and distress;
(2) of captives languishing in a captivity, which is the punishment of sin;
(3) of foolish men smitten by God's hand with sickness, even unto death;
(4) of sailors in extremity of danger on the sea. God is seen in his general relations to all, and in his special relations to each.
I. GOD THE REFRESHER; or, the pilgrim's Provider and Guide. Two sources for his figures are before the mind of the psalmist.
1. The old wilderness-journey of the Israelites.
2. The recent desert-journey of the exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem. Both presented peculiarities of difficulty, trial, and need. In both God had most graciously overcome difficulties, and secured all needed supplies. In neither had his people wanted any good thing. This will readily be illustrated by details of these journeys.
II. GOD THE LIBERATOR; or, the captive's Deliverer. Here the same two sources provide the figures. Once Israel was captive in Egypt, and then God brought his people out "with a high hand and outstretched arm."—Recently they had been captive in Babylon, and the interweavings of Divine providence, which led to their return to their own land, were no less wonderful and no less gracious. There is a higher sense in which God, through his Son Jesus Christ, now gives "liberty to the captives."
III. GOD THE HEALER; Or, the willful man's Savior. The association of this figure is not so easy to trace. There is very probable allusion to those times of pestilence in the wilderness-journey which followed on the people's sin; and the people were led into sin by foolish, willful individuals, such as Korah or Dathan. But even when suffering was direct judgment on sin, God magnified his mercy in healing and restoring.
IV. GOD THE CONTROLLER; or, the sailor's Preserver. Israel seems to have had no mercantile associations with the sea before the time of Solomon; but in the time of captivity the Israelites were scattered abroad, and engaged in commerce in all lands, so sea-figures had become familiar. But the reference here may be typical; the perils of the sea picturing all kinds of human peril that are beyond man's control, but within God's control. For what he is to his people, we are bidden to thank and praise the Lord.—R.T.
Prayer for temporal good.
The trouble was trouble in their outward circumstances. The cry was a prayer. The answer was a gracious Divine dealing with these troublous circumstances. Whatever may be urged against its reasonableness, the fact cannot be gainsaid that Bible men and women did pray to God about their material needs, and did find those needs supplied after prayer. The philosophy may be beyond us; the fact is plain. "This psalm teaches us not only that God's providence watches over men, but that his ear is open to their prayers. It teaches us that prayer may be put up for temporal deliverance, and that such prayer is answered. It teaches us that it is right to acknowledge with thanksgiving such answers to our petitions. This was the simple faith of the Hebrew poet."
I. PRAYER FOR TEMPORAL GOOD IS NATURAL. It is a natural impulse which every one feels; even the atheist feels it in the time of shipwreck. It is natural to man
(1) as a creature, having creature-wants for which it cannot itself secure the supply;
(2) as a child, who has a stronger impression of material than of spiritual need. All natural impulses have a sound basis. There is that in God which responds to them.
II. PRAYER FOR TEMPORAL GOOD IS REASONABLE. Because we can see that forces are continually acting upon and modifying forces (as when I raise my arm, and make vital force counteract the natural force of gravitation); and no man has any right to say that prayer is not a higher force, which can modify, or lead to the modifying, of both vital and physical forces. Prayer may set moving the Divine forces which control and readjust the working of the material forces. It is often said that natural law never changes; but it needs to be seen that natural laws are always cross-working, and even preverting, each other's working It cannot be unreasonable to conceive of the Divine will as a controlling law, working in material spheres.
III. PRAYER FOR TEMPORAL GOOD IS ACCEPTABLE. This may be shown by several considerations.
1. God, in every age, has asked it of man. Referable to outward needs, he says, "For all this will I be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them."
2. Man, in every age, has prayed about such things. Illustrate by instances taken from each period of Bible history. There are supreme cases in which men have even given up working, prayed and waited for God to act. It is unfair to give such cases no consideration.
3. God has, in every age, interfered in men's lives, in order to answer their prayers. "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard, and saved him out of all his troubles."—R.T.
Bringing affliction on ourselves.
"Foolish men," so called "because of the moral infatuation which marks their conduct. Men of earthly, sensual, selfish minds, who turn a deaf ear to warning, and despise counsel." The "fool" of the Bible is usually the strongly self-willed man, who accepts no guidance or control, but persists in following the "devices and desires of his own heart." Such a man is sure to bring trouble upon himself. It is true that all men are tempted into self-will at times; but the case introduced here is that of men who are persistent in their self-will, and let it fashion their course of conduct, their habit of life.
I. AFFLICTIONS ARE THE NATURAL CONSEQUENCE OF WILFULNESS. Because the willful spirit is sure to lead to acts which involve trouble. The world is ordered according to the will of God; and it keeps the order when man's will is in harmony with God's will. Illustrate by the peace of a country, and welfare of all its inhabitants, when the will of the people and the will of the governing body are in harmony. Every self-willed citizen spoils the harmony for the whole, and brings trouble on himself. So in God's kingdom. The self-willed (foolish) man is a disturbing element; and the king, all law-abiders, and all the arrangements of the kingdom, must be against him. He cannot get his own way; he must "bring affliction on himself," and not on himself alone. It is a searching and humbling inquiry—How many of our earthly afflictions are the direct result—the natural consequence—of our willful persistence in wrongdoings? The humiliation of the review of life is the discovery of how many troubles were our own fault, and might have been avoided by mastering our self-will. "Many sicknesses are the direct result of foolish acts. Thoughtless and lustful men, by drunkenness, gluttony, and the indulgence of their passions, fill their bodies with diseases. Men, by a course of transgression, afflict themselves, and are fools for their pains."
II. AFFLICTIONS ARE THE DIVINE AGENCY FOR BRINGING WILFUL ONES TO REASON. Perhaps it is true that God's afflictions are never "judgments," in the sense of mere vindicatory punishments. But they are not always "judgments" in the sense of "chastisements." They are—certainly they are for the persistently willful—"judgments" in the sense of "humiliations." Their design is to break men away from their self-confidence. And therefore the affliction is so directly connected with the sin, and men are compelled, humiliatingly, to admit that they have brought their troubles on themselves.—R.T.
Thanksgiving when prayer is answered.
Men are much more ready to pray than to give thanks; to express their desires than to recognize the response made to their desires. Men fail in gratitude rather than in petition. Therefore do the apostles specially urge this grace, and require its cultivation by the Christian disciples (see Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2; Hebrews 13:15). The call to thanksgiving is the refrain of the palm. Man is seen to gain no blessing save through the ministry of him who is the "Author and Giver of every good and perfect gift." And man's sin is seen to be restraining his lips, and failing to make due recognition of "grace abounding." A life full of God's benedictions should be a life full of God's praise. In this text the general duty is presented under two figures.
I. THANKSGIVING AS A SACRIFICE. The peculiarity of a sacrifice is that it is a silent act. It is something a man does which has its own voice, and need not be accompanied with any words. When the old Jew brought his animal to the priest, according to the rules of the Mosaic ritual, he did not need to say anything by way of explanation. The priest perfectly understood what he meant. Some act of Divine mercy was filling him with thankfulness, and his offering found for it expression. Philip Henry puts this sharply: "Thanksgiving is a good thing, thanksgiving is a better." The self-offered in sacrifice speaks our gratitude to the listening ear of God. A man can show himself grateful by his manner of life. Bouar prays—
"Fill thou my life, O Lord my God,
In every part with praise,
That my whole being may proclaim
Thy Being and thy Ways.
"Not for the lip of praise alone,
Nor e'en the praising heart,
I ask but for a life made up
Of praise in every part."
"I beseech you therefore that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice;" so says St. Paul. And it is to be a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
II. THANKSGIVING AS A TESTIMONY. "Tell out his works with gladness." Here thanksgiving is a voiceful act. "I will not refrain my lips, O Lord, thou knowest." "Praise is the only employment in which self finds no part. In praise we go out of ourselves, and think only of him to whom we offer it. It is the most purely disinterested of all services."—R.T.
The desired haven.
"So he bringeth them unto the haven where they would be" (Prayer-book Version). The picture of the sea connected with this text is "painted as a landsman would paint it, but yet only as one who had himself been exposed to the danger could paint the storm—the waves running mountains high, on which the tiny craft seemed a plaything; the helplessness of human skill, the gladness of the calm, the safe refuge in the haven." It is difficult for those who love the sea to enter into the feelings with which Eastern people in olden times, and especially the Israelites, regarded it. That feeling of mystery and dread must have been intense before Solomon's time, when a commercial navy was employed in both the Mediterranean and Red Seas. For the severity of a storm in the Mediterranean, the story of Jonah, and of St. Paul's shipwreck, may be studied. What seems more especially to have influenced ancient minds was the constant unrest of the sea. This is reflected in many of the Bible references to it; and this has always struck both poetic and pious minds.
I. THE FASCINATION OF REST. To man it is the supreme idea of heaven; it is the perfection of bliss on earth. That not so much because of toil, as because of change and trouble. The rest man seeks is not rest from work, but rest from worry. The activity of work is, for healthy minds and bodies, the truest rest. But uncertainty, change, anxiety, make us long for the moral rest, which can only come when God's will is no longer checked by man's. It is not the rest of the grave man wants; it is the rest of the "desired haven"—the rest of the moral issue of life. Every man is, according to his own idea, moving towards and into rest. Alas! that so many make shipwreck.
II. THE SYMBOL OF REST. A "desired haven." Harbor after a long and stormy voyage. "In the fierce gales of November or March, when the shrieking blasts drive furiously up the channel, and the huge mountain-billows, green and white, open threatening graves on every side, how welcome would be a safe harbor, easy of access, and placed at a part of the coast which else would be unsheltered for many leagues on either side!" (Gosse). "The stately ships go on, to the harbor under the hill" (Tennyson). The point suggestive of practical teachings is thrown out by the Prayer-book Version. Our "desired haven" is, "the haven where we would be." It is the realization of our life-objects, of our hopes; and so we are led to discuss men's life-aims. Their rest, when they gain it, too often proves to be no rest. He only reaches rest that is rest indeed, who has voyaged life's seas in hope of entering at last the harbor of God.—R.T.
God's commonplace mercies.
The difference in the style and contents of the latter part of this psalm has been noticed by almost every writer. The pictures, with their closing refrain, cease; and in a hurried way instances of God's providential government are given. It has been thought that the psalm was completed by another poet; but in that case the structure of the psalm would have been closely imitated. The peculiarity of this portion may be explained by showing that the psalmist had spoken of God's gracious relation to special forms of trouble; and he might leave the impression that God was only in them. And men might be feeling very deeply how commonplace their life was. Without such special experiences they might take up the notion that they were out of the spheres of special Divine mercies; and so the didactic psalmist puts in a word for these: in a few skilful sentences he sketches ordinary, commonplace life, and shows God's relation to it. The things briefly mentioned suggest—
I. THE COMMONPLACE ADVERSITIES OF LIFE. Such are the difficulties of the seasons, the rains, the floods, the drought, in their relation to agricultural life.
II. THE COMMONPLACE ENTERPRISES OF LIFE. Working for a living, tillage, building, planting, tending cattle, etc.
III. THE COMMONPLACE DISASTERS OF LIFE. Accidents, diseases, plagues, etc.
IV. THE COMMONPLACE ENMITIES OF LIFE. For few men pass through many years without suffering from the mischief-making schemes of those who, by reason of envy or masterfulness, make themselves their enemies. The psalmist urges that God is quits as truly in the commonplace as in the unusual. He is working through our everyday life experience some high and gracious moral end. And therefore every man should be quick to observe the "loving-kindness of the Lord," and ever ready to "praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men."—R.T.
The wise observance of God's loving-kindness.
The Prayer-book Version reads, "Whoso is wise will ponder these things;" will think about them; will brood over them. The signs of God's active and gracious working, in men's lives, is clear enough, but only to the "wise," who "thoughtfully ponder what the thoughtless pass by."
I. THE LOVING-KINDNESS OF GOD IS NOT APPARENT TO EVERYBODY. Many are stumbling over the severities of God's dealings, and, indeed, over the presence of evil, in the senses of wrong and calamity, in his world. How can the God of love stand aloof, and permit the misery of the earth? How can the doom of vast masses of humanity be consistent with Divine love and Fatherhood? We venture to say that these difficulties are felt because men are carried away by surface appearances, and do not ponder. They look upon the events of a limited time and space, and do not try to estimate God's dealings in view of all time and all space. Mistake follows studying parts; it is relieved by studying wholes. It. is not easy to appraise aright passing things; we cannot see how they fit. A bird's-eye view sets things in places and relations, and so explains a great deal.
II. THE LOVING-KINDNESS OF GOD IS REVEALED TO THE UNBIASED. And they only are the "wise." Every bias, prejudice, preconceived opinion, is a limitation of faculty, a misdirection of judgment. And if man would understand God's ways, it is of supreme importance that he should clear his mind, and come with the simplicity of true wisdom, to such studies.
III. THE LOVING-KINDNESS OF GOD IS REVEALED TO THE THOUGHTFUL. Here the idea is that mistake is made by coming to a too hasty decision or judgment. The thoughtful man is the man who is content to keep on thinking; who wants to see things all round and all through before he makes up his mind. Quietly wait to see the loving-kindness. It is often only revealed when the ends of God's dealings are reached.
IV. THE LOVING-KINDNESS OF GOD IS REVEALED TO THE EXPERIENCED. It is the man who only observes it who is so often misled. The man who feels it will be sure to realize the loving-kindness at last, if not at first.—R.T.
HOMILIES BY C. SHORT
God's watchful care.
"Whatever the circumstances under which the psalm was written, there can be no doubt as to the great lesson which it inculcates"—that God watches over men, and his ear is open to their prayers. Look at some illustrations.
I. GOD HAD ANSWERED THE CRY OF THE JEWS IN EXILE, AND RESTORED THEM TO THEIR OWN COUNTRY. (Psalms 107:2, Psalms 107:8, Psalms 107:9.) They were called on to give thanks for thou wonders, and to remember that "he filleth the hungry soul with good." God is working toward the deliverance of all enslaved nations. This thought is amplified in Psalms 107:10-16, with special reference to the sins that had plunged them into such helpless affliction, and therefore how much they should praise God for loving-kindness!
II. THE EMPHATIC THOUGHT IN Psalms 107:17-22 IS THAT GOD DELIVERS WICKED MEN, WHEN THEY CALL UPON HIM, OUT OF THE VERY SHADOWS OF DEATH. God pities transgressors, and loves them with an infinite compassion in their terrors and sufferings. He sendeth his word—the message of his mercy—and healeth them; delivers them "from their graves."
III. Another example: HE DELIVERS THE SAILOR. FROM THE STORMS OF THE SEA. (Psalms 107:23-32.) Wonderful description of a storm and its subsidence. "Then are they glad because they be quiet, and he leadeth them to their desired haven." The psalmist is writing poetry under the inspiration of a devout faith; and not science, discussing the unchangeable laws of material nature. The preacher must do his utmost to reconcile poetry and science in the theology he teaches.
IV. Now the current of thought changes its direction, but only for a moment. GOD SOMETIMES MAKES THE WICKED AN EXAMPLE OF HIS TEMPORAL JUDGMENTS. (Psalms 107:33, Psalms 107:34.) But this thought is uncongenial, and is soon changed again for the thought of God's mercy. The wilderness is crowned with cities; and the poor and humble are raised to the condition of princes, and the rich and the proud overthrown. The question at the close most suggestive, that it is only the observant and the wise that can understand the loving-kindnesses of God; only they that can approach to the solution of the great problems of God's providence.—S.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 107". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27