God Humbles the Proud: Psalm 107


Psalm 107

 

1 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever!
2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
    whom he has redeemed from trouble
3 and gathered in from the lands,
    from the east and from the west,
    from the north and from the south.

4 Some wandered in desert wastes,
    finding no way to a city to dwell in;
5 hungry and thirsty,
    their soul fainted within them.
6 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
7 He led them by a straight way
    till they reached a city to dwell in.
8 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
9 For he satisfies the longing soul,
    and the hungry soul he fills with good things.


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10 Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    prisoners in affliction and in irons,
11 for they had rebelled against the words of God,
    and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
12 So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor;
    they fell down, with none to help.
13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
    and burst their bonds apart.
15 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
16 For he shatters the doors of bronze
    and cuts in two the bars of iron.

17 Some were fools through their sinful ways,
    and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
18 they loathed any kind of food,
    and they drew near to the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
20 He sent out his word and healed them,
    and delivered them from their destruction.
21 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!

22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
    and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

23 Some went down to the sea in ships,
    doing business on the great waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the Lord,
    his wondrous works in the deep.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
    which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
    their courage melted away in their evil plight;
27 they reeled and staggered like drunken men
    and were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He made the storm be still,
    and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
    and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
    and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

33 He turns rivers into a desert,
    springs of water into thirsty ground,
34 a fruitful land into a salty waste,
    because of the evil of its inhabitants.
35 He turns a desert into pools of water,
    a parched land into springs of water.
36 And there he lets the hungry dwell,
    and they establish a city to live in;
37 they sow fields and plant vineyards
    and get a fruitful yield.
38 By his blessing they multiply greatly,
    and he does not let their livestock diminish.

39 When they are diminished and brought low
    through oppression, evil, and sorrow,
40 he pours contempt on princes
    and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
41 but he raises up the needy out of affliction
    and makes their families like flocks.
42 The upright see it and are glad,
    and all wickedness shuts its mouth.

43 Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things;
    let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

  

Editor’s Note: In order to keep the length more manageable, this reflection only focuses on the last half of Psalm 107.

The Shipwreck (vv. 23-32)

The dilemma this passage deals with is a shipwreck – a hardship that is a kind of divine classroom, established by God with the purpose of teaching humility to the proud.

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“The psalmist expects that those who have studied in the Lord’s classroom will remember him as their loving teacher. Instead of honoring themselves, they will begin to honor him.

The shrewd businessmen sitting on the merchant ships of this psalm have carefully calculated everything carefully. They believe there is nothing in the world they cannot do. (v. 23) But when God brings out his teacher’s aids, the lesson began. When “God commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea,” proud merchants discover they are finite. “They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight.” (vv. 24-26) All their efforts are for naught; in the face of God’s great works, all their wisdom is exposed as foolishness. (v. 25)

It was only once these merchants discovered they were in a situation they could not handle that they begin to bow down to God and ask him for help. When God saw they had learned enough of the lessons of humility, the Lord adjourned the class and pulled back his teacher’s aids. (v. 28) Like schoolchildren who finally waited till the end so they could escape from class, these proud ones rejoiced. (v. 30) The psalmist expects that those who have studied in the Lord’s classroom will remember him as their loving teacher. (v. 31) Instead of honoring themselves, they will begin to honor him. (v. 32)

God Is Sovereign (vv. 33-43)

In this final section, the psalmist concludes the psalm’s ongoing pattern of affliction; crying out; salvation; and, finally, gratitude. The poet uses natural phenomena to reveal an important theological theme: God is sovereign.

The psalmist shows us this theme by referring to a series of contradictory natural occurrences. Consider this: the river becomes the desert, and the desert in turn becomes pools of water. The fruitful land becomes a salty waste, while the parched land overflows with springs of water. (vv. 33-35)  “He pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes.” (v. 40) In each instance, God is the one who acts. These changes do not occur according to human will, nor are they the result of some god’s manipulation. They are not coincidence or unprincipled capriciousness. Each change is a reflection of God’s will and is an act of his sovereignty.

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“Do you recognize the nature of the divine actor who stands behind all these wonders? Do you accept his sovereignty? Some people see that everything is in God’s control, and enjoy this truth.

After making these observations, the psalmist points out that this series of naturally occurring phenomena makes the upright glad, but shuts the mouth of the wicked. (v. 42) Two possibilities account for the very different reactions among people. First, do you recognize the nature of the divine actor who stands behind all these wonders? Second, do you accept his sovereignty? Some people see that everything is in God’s control, and enjoy this truth. Others, however, see only the natural occurrences, or perpetually resist the hand of divine providence.

Psalm 107 ends with a charge, calling those who recognize God’s hand to pay attention to everything they encounter, to learn to discern God’s works in all things, and to carefully consider God’s love, which is contained in all events. (v. 43)

Lee Haggai is a pseudonym for a house church pastor in Beijing. He and his wife have two children.

 

PRAYER

Lord,

You not only help the distressed, you are also redeem the rebellious. You not only lead the stray back home and comfort the frightened, you also show steadfast love and mercy to the unlovable. May I, and all those who have received your mercy, offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving as we witness your wondrous works to a rebellious people.

 Lord, I thank you for every classroom in which you have arranged for me to learn humility. If I had not encountered things I could not fix myself in some way, I would not have bowed down to you. Lord, I thank you for your presence in every classroom throughout life. If not for your love and mercy, I would not have left even one of those classrooms alive.

Father God, keep the hearts of all your children so we see and understand that your sovereignty is behind everything. Whatever happens, in your sovereignty, you are the one who causes it. You orchestrate everything for your glory and for the good of your children. Guide our eyes so we view all things through the lens of your sovereignty, and so we may experience peace in any circumstances. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

   


We are using the Psalms to guide our prayers for China

In 2022, our prayer movement is turning to the scriptural prayers found in the Psalms as we pray for the Chinese church. When you join our prayer movement, you will receive weekly prayer emails and a monthly newsletter so that you too can pray for our brothers and sisters in China.

  

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With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

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  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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