The Testimony of the Redeemed - Psalm 107
Mark Kolchin - July 16, 2003
One of the most effective tools in the advertising industry is the personal testimonial. Marketers will often utilize this strategy to create interest in a particular product that they want the public to try. One reason why it is so effective is because it relates in a very personal way in which an item has changed someone's life - in some cases dramatically and often irrefutably. Just as the testimonial is very effective in the world of advertising, the personal testimony is very effective in communicating how God has changed us. We are reminded in 1 Peter 3:15: "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear". We should always be ready to tell others why there is a difference in our lives. The reason why the Queen of Sheba embarked on her long and arduous journey across the wilderness was because she had heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord. (1 Kings 10) Someone had been talking! It was someone testimony about this great king that heightened her interest to check the veracity of these claims. When she did, she came back a different person, personally enriched by this great king. When someone hears the testimony of how our King has changed their lives, - Someone who is "greater than Solomon" (Matt. 12:42), the result can be the same.
In Psalm 107, we find a psalm that describes the testimony of the redeemed. Actually, it is four different testimonies of redemption - four general ways depicting the way in which the Lord rescues His people from their distresses and redirects their path. Although it has a primary application to the nation of Israel whose history is outlined in these scenarios, it also has a secondary application to all who have been redeemed by God. The Psalm divides easily into three sections: The Praise of the Redeemed (vv. 1-3), the Pictures of Redemption (vv. 4-32), and the Power of the Redeemer (vv. 33-43). In the first section, the redeemed of the Lord are encouraged to speak up and not be silent in their testimony. They are exhorted to give thanks for two reasons: God is good and His mercy endures forever. (v. 1) This goodness and mercy will be the recurring theme throughout the Psalm. This opening verse links this Psalm with the previous two, 105 and 106, but the difference between them is this: in this Psalm God's faithfulness is highlighted in contrast to Israel's unfaithfulness in the other Psalms. Further, the prayer offered in Psalm 106:47 asking the Lord to save and gather His people from among the nations is answered in verses 2-3 of Psalm 107, a fitting introduction to Book Five of the Psalms. Enemies have always surrounded Israel on every side - enemies from which Israel has been delivered in the past and will likewise be delivered in time to come. Similarly, God's people have also been redeemed from the hand of the enemy - an enemy that at one time held us captive at his will (2 Tim. 2:26) until the goodness and mercy of God rescued us in our distress. In a very real sense all believers have also been redeemed from the hand of the enemy and gathered from every corner of the globe - from east, west, north, and south and from every kindred, and tongue, and people and nation. (Rev. 5:9) No wonder the redeemed of the Lord are encouraged to "say so"!
Pictures of Redemption
The body of the Psalm, (verses 4-32) portrays four different ways in which the Lord extricates His people from the path of destruction to a life of praise. Each redemption scenario has four components: a problem, a prayer, provision and praise. Not only does it outline Israel's history through the centuries, but its also provides a snapshot of God's dealings from among the "children of men", a specific reference to fallen humanity.
To the Solitary (vv. 4-9)
The first redemption story depicts someone wandering through the wilderness in a solitary way, obviously searching for something to quench their hunger and thirst. Because they cannot find it, they cry out to the Lord in their trouble and He delivers them in their distress. God leads them forth in the right way and to a city of habitation - a place where they can dwell permanently. The result is that they are satisfied and filled. How well this describes the personal testimony of many Christians who have come to know the Lord in the depths of despair. Just as the solitary people in this psalm, they too had experienced the loneliness of sin, the aimless wandering through life, and the endless search for purpose and meaning and a source of refreshment in a spiritually arid environment. In many ways they are like the Ethiopian eunuch who was in the desert place when introduced to the Savior. They also cried out to the Savior who heard their cry and responded putting them on the right path, the path of life where there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11) which leads to a city which has foundations whose builder and maker is God. How many of God's people have a similar testimony - like Zaccheus, and the woman at the well (and me!) --whose longing, hungry souls were filled and satisfied with goodness (v. 9) when they called out to the Lord and trusted Him. Praise His Name.
To the Stubborn (vv. 10-16)
The next redemption story tells a different story. It is the testimony of those who got into trouble because of foolish actions on their part. They are depicted as sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death as if in prison. Because they rebelled against God's Word and despised His counsel, God brought them down to the point that no one could help them. (v. 12) In the midst of their problem, they direct their prayer toward the God of heaven who hears the cry of the distressed and provides for their need bringing them out of darkness and braking the bands that hold them fast. How many of God's people have this as their testimony! Raised in Christian homes, they test the patience of God by disregarding their good upbringing and despising godly counsel. They set their hearts to do wrong and suffer the harmful consequences of going their own way in a world under His control. Some end up even in prison for their foolish ways and find themselves in such a predicament that no one can remedy the situation. This could have easily been the testimony of King Manasseh who, though he was the son of good King Hezekiah, rebelled against the Lord and went the way of the world, eventually landing in a Babylonian prison. Far away from family and friends and with no one to help, he cried out to the Lord in his affliction and the Lord who heard his cry, rescued him in his distress and restored him to his kingdom. (2 Chron. 33) It was this type of testimony that caused Charles Wesley to pen these famous words: "My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose went forth and followed Thee". And it is the same testimony that any could have who find themselves in this same dilemma and turns to the living God who hears the prayer for help and is liberated from the cords of their sin.
To the Sick (vv. 17-22)
The third redemption story is similar to the previous one in that it depicts a life-threatening situation brought about by a person's own foolish, self-destructive actions. It depicts the person who because of sin becomes sick and is brought to the point of death. It begins, "Fools because of their transgression - are afflicted". Certainly, not all sickness is a result of sin as the Book of Job reminds us--but sometimes it is. As in this scenario, the situation looks hopeless indeed. Having completely lost their appetite and drawing near the gates of death, they call out to the Lord, who sends His word and heals them and delivers them. Miraculously, they are brought out from their despair to sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving and to declare His works with rejoicing. (v. 22) Such is the testimony of many a believer who can attest to the Lord's saving grace while they were on the exit ramp of life. But wondrously, God in His goodness and mercy, when they did not deserve it, sent His word and they found the Lord and were healed. God sent His Word - the Lord Jesus to save a lost humanity and God uses continues to send His Word to those in need. He sends it through His servants directly or through a tract passed on in a timely fashion or through a Gospel broadcast which is tuned in at an opportune moment. It is through the Word of truth that He begets a soul (James 1:18) and brings people out of their hopeless condition as a testimony to His Name. How good is the Lord and great is His mercy and saving grace!
To the Storm-tossed (vv. 23-32)
The fourth and final redemption picture in this psalm is altogether different. It portrays people going about in the business of everyday life, not doing anything wrong or acting in rebellion to the Lord. Instead they are depicted as going down to the sea in ships to do business in great waters. They acknowledge the work of the Lord and His wonders in the deep. But while they are on the water, the Lord allows them to experience His sovereign power as the wind and waves are lifted up. They are made to feel their helplessness and are at their wit's end. But at the height of their problems, they call out to the Lord who brings them out of their distress by calming the storm and stilling the waves. As a result, He brings them to their desired haven and they are glad (vv.29-30). There are many believers who have come to know their need of the Savior through the "storms" of life. The world would have classified them as "good people", responsible and productive citizens of society. In no way could they be classified as searching, stubborn or sick from sin. Yet because they were hit hard by the "storms" of life they were made to feel their helplessness before Almighty God who uses these traumatic incidents in life to bring people to Himself - as long as they cry out to Him. The mariners in Jonah's day are real case examples of this very truth. At first, when hit with a storm that threatened their lives they cried "every man unto his god" (Jonah 1:5). But after seeing the desperate situation they were in "they cried unto the LORD" (Jonah 1:14) and were eventually delivered. How mysterious are the ways of God that He would uses apparent catastrophe to bring about blessing. No wonder the psalmist exhorts the redeemed of the Lord to say so and to praise Him "for His goodness and for His wonderful works to the children of men.
The Psalm concludes with a description of the power of the Redeemer (vv. 33-43) who is able to change the course of nature to bring down the haughty and to raise up the oppressed. He can turn circumstance and situations around in a moment of time to bring glory to His Name. The psalm concludes with an open call to the wise to carefully observe these things so that they will come into an understanding of these things. As we recall the way that the Lord has dealt with us in our lives when we were in desperate need, we too will want to share the life-changing story with those around us - declaring with confidence that indeed the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever. And that same testimony can be on the lips of anyone who will simply acknowledge their need of the Lord and trust in Him and they too will come to understand the goodness and mercy of the Lord and His lovingkindness toward them.