The Steadfast Love of the Lord (pt. 5)
Well, I don’t know if you are still hanging in there with Psalm 107 or not, but I would like to continue considering it. So far, we have considered two of the four groups of people that experienced the disciplining steadfast love of the Lord to humble them and bring them to Himself.
The first group are those whose lives were marked by aimless wandering and insatiable hungering. But in their desperation, they cried to the Lord, and He satisfied their need. God alone is the soul’s satisfaction.
The second group are those who were helplessly imprisoned because of their rebellion against God. But in their just incarceration, they cried to the Lord, and He delivered them from their bondage. God alone is the captive’s Liberator.
The third group for us to consider is found in verses 17-22. The psalmist calls them “fools through their sinful ways.” They were foolish sinners, and because of their foolishness they “suffered affliction.” The affliction that the psalmist seems to allude to is physical infirmity. They had no appetite and were staring at death (v 18). In other words, they were deathly sick.
Because of their personal iniquities, God gave them over to physical infirmity. Now, we have to be careful here, lest we think that every sickness is a result of personal sin. It certainly is not. But, to be faithful to the Word and helpful to each other, we must say that sometimes physical infirmity is caused by personal iniquity. James seems to make this connection in the 5th chapter of his letter: “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (v 14-16).
Clearly, both the psalmist and James understood that sometimes God uses sickness to get our attention. He may afflict us in order to heal us. That’s exactly what He did for the group in Psalm 107. Out of their affliction they cried to the Lord, and “he delivered them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them…” (v 19-20). And, the healing they received was both physical and spiritual. Their health was restored unto life. Their hearts were restored unto God.
In times of physical affliction, it would seem wise to search our hearts, for it is possible that our foolish sins are the source. If so, let us humbly confess our sins as the Bible directs and receive the healing power of the Lord’s steadfast love, remembering that the Lord Jesus “took our illnesses and bore our diseases” (Matt 8:17) all the way to the cross.
The Steadfast Love of the Lord (pt. 4)
In Psalm 107, the second group of people in need of the steadfast love of the Lord is found in vv 10-16. With dramatic depiction the psalmist describes their deplorable condition. They are sitting in “darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons…” (v 10). Their experience is one of darkness, danger, and bondage from which they have no hope for escape.
Also, they are physically worn down from “hard labor” (v 12). They are being used for someone else’s benefit, rather than enjoying the fruit of their own labors. They toil and struggle only to reap shame instead of satisfaction. They are basically imprisoned slaves. And they know it. So, their hearts are “bowed down,” and they see no one there to help.
What’s more, is that they are in this condition not merely because of ruthless, violent, and greedy men but because of their own actions. “For they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High” (v 11). They are imprisoned slaves because of their rebellion and disobedience. Sin always enslaves. Sin is always a shameful and cruel taskmaster. And, sadly, there are times that we find ourselves bound to its unbreakable irons and bowed down by its unrelenting demands. We know it’s our fault. We know it’s due to our spurning of the Word of God, but we can’t get out. Yet, it is exactly at this point that we are now in a position for a mighty deliverance. “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.”
Oh, the glory of God’s steadfast love; the power of His delivering grace! We lack the ability to be free. We don’t possess the power to get out. We don’t have the authority to demand release. But God does! Listen with fresh wonder to the dramatic language of the psalmist, “He… burst their bonds apart…. he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron” (v 14b, 16). The guilt is ours; the grace is His. We deserve the bondage, but He delights to set the captive free.
As our Substitute, the Lord Jesus was delivered over to shameful bondage because of our rebellion and contempt of God. He was scourged and condemned to be crucified. And as He carried the cross, He fell, bowed beneath the weight of our sins. On the cross He entered the dreadful darkness of the wrath of God which we deserved, and then, He gave up His life. He was placed in a tomb, sealed behind the iron doors of death. But, on the third day, He burst the the bonds and shattered the doors of sin and death, thus securing and declaring “liberty to the captives” (Lk 4:18).
Are we in bondage? Does some persistent sin still haunt us? Is our tongue or temper controlled by a wicked taskmaster? Does lust seem to demand our decisions? In the trouble of our own making, let us cry out to the Lord. For, in His steadfast love, He will deliver!
He breaks the power of cancelled sin, He sets the prisoner free; His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me. — Charles Wesley
The Steadfast Love of the Lord (pt. 3)
We are learning from Psalm 107 that the Lord’s steadfast love is expressed through His loving discipline. And mercifully so. For if the Lord does not discipline His people, then they would continue dangerously in sin away from Him. But God is too committed to His loved ones to allow them to do that. He will sovereignly act in their lives to bring them to see their desperate need and, therefore, turn to Him for help.
As I mentioned yesterday, the psalmist uses four different life experiences to illustrate God’s covenant faithfulness. Today, let’s briefly consider the first which is found in verses 4-9.
Verse 4 describes this group as “wander[ing] in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty their soul fainted within them.” Their lives were being threatened by the heat of the desert sun and the barrenness of the desert terrain. They had no city walls to protect from ruthless marauders and no community to support their need. They were hungry with no food in sight and thirsty with no water to seek. Thus, “their soul fainted within them.” (It’s amazing how much our inner man (soul) is affected by physical need. The Stoics and Christian Science folks deny reality.) These individuals were in desperate straits, and that’s exactly where God wanted them to be. Why? Verse 6 gives the answer: “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble and he delivered them from their distress.”
God designed the desperation of their need unto the fainting of their soul to be the means to draw them to Himself. For, He was their greatest need. More than shade, shelter, and security they needed God. More than food and water they needed God. Once they realized this, they turned to Him and in faith cried out and the Lord heard and responded! He “delivered them from distress” and “led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in.”
The lesson they learned is found in v. 9, “For, he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.”
What about us? First, the Lord still uses our physical needs to keep us humbly dependent upon Him as our faithful Provider. Jesus, taught the disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” We are not self-sustaining, and when we begin to think we are, God will act to remind us that we depend on Him.
Secondly, the physical need reminds us of a deeper spiritual need. Without God, we are living aimlessly and futilely. Life feels lonely and empty, and our souls faint within. We desperately long to be satisfied. Psalm 107 reminds us that only God can satisfy. As Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless, until they find their rest in Thee.”
So, are you in need today? Then humbly cry out to the Lord in your trouble. Turn to Him, for in His steadfast love He has turned toward you.
The Steadfast Love of the Lord (pt. 2)
Psalm 107 is all about the steadfast love of the Lord; His covenant faithfulness to those He has redeemed. It begins with a call to thankfulness and declaration on account of the Lord’s steadfast love and ends with a call to attend to and consider the steadfast love of the Lord. In between, the psalmist shows four life experiences of how the Lord manifests His steadfast love to His people. And, each one reveals that God’s covenant faithfulness is known through loving discipline.
Because of redemption through Christ Jesus, God is not only our Judge, but He has become our Father (Rom 8:14-17; Gal 4:4-7; 1 John 3:1-3). As our Father, He lovingly and faithfully disciplines for our good and not our harm. God’s discipline results in righteousness and peace. By it our Lord faithfully conforms us to Christ and keeps us in His love. Hebrews 12:5-7, 10-11 says: And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons… he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
So today, as we are just beginning to reflect upon Psalm 107 let us be filled (heart and mouth) with thankfulness because of the disciplining steadfast love of the Lord.
O love that will not let me go, I rest myself in Thee.
The Steadfast Love of the Lord
The Psalms have rightly been referred to as “the medicine cabinet for the soul.” In God’s kindness the Psalms provide a balm for wounded hearts, nutrition for weakend souls, and tranquility for anxious minds. They can restore the depleted, energize the weary, console the mournful, lift up the discouraged, and admonish the wayward. We would do well in our Christian pilgrimage to routinely keep ourselves in the Psalms.
So, if you happen to be reading this blog, I would like to invite you to join me in considering Psalm 107 over the next 2-3 days. Let’s try to read it a couple of times each day and, I will attempt to give a brief teaching/encouragement from it.
Why Psalm 107? Two reasons: one personal and the other biblical. The personal reason is that Psalm 107 blessed me on Monday morning and I trust it will do the same for you. The biblical reason is found in the Psalm itself. Psalm 107 concludes with these words, “Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD.”
There is wisdom to be mined in this Psalm, if we will give our minds and hearts prayerfully to it. So, I hope you will accept my invitation to saturate your soul in the steadfast love of the Lord found in Psalm 107.
Holiness Is Fitting
How often do you think about holiness? How often does holiness play into your decision making and attitudes? How often do you take the time to grow in and pursue holiness? If you are like me the answer is probably, “Not enough.”
Last week in my personal Bible reading, Ps. 93:5(b) arrested my attention and continues to challenge me. The Psalmist says, “Holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore.” As radiance befits a diamond, or laughter befits childhood, or romance befits marriage, so holiness befits God’s house. Because God is “Holy, Holy, Holy” (Is 6:3) it is only fitting that His house reflect His holiness.
But this begs the question, “What is God’s house?” Well, for the Psalmist it was the temple in Jerusalem. It was constructed, ornamented, and tended to in such a way so as to reflect the holiness of God. As the worshipper came, he was dramatically reminded of the holy character of the God he worshipped. As foreigners looked on, they would have received witness to Israel’s holy God.
But with the advent of Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, all of this changed. God’s house is no longer at the temple in Jerusalem. His house is His blood-bought, Spirit-indwelt people. Two things follow:
First, the local church (the people not the building) is the house of God. He meets with and dwells with His people when they gather in the name of Jesus (Matt 18:20). Paul told the Corinthian congregation, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?…God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” (1 Cor 3:16-17). Peter wrote, “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house….” (1 Pet 2:5). The local church is the house of the Lord and therefore ought to be marked by holiness. Our relationships to each other, our attitudes, actions, and words, our approach to and involvement in worship ought to be reflecting the holiness of our God, so that when we come and “foreigners” observe, all will know that God is Holy.
Secondly, the believer’s physical body is the house of God. Paul emphasizes this truth to the Corinthians when he writes, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor 6:19-20). Remember, holiness befits God’s house. Our bodies, then, are also to reflect the holy character of our God. They are not to be used for sexual immorality, abused by food or drink, or enslaved to any passion. Rather, we are to obey Paul’s exhortation in Romans 6:13, “Present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” God in Christ has redeemed us, body and soul, through the precious blood of Jesus and now indwells us by His Spirit. Holiness, then, befits our bodies.
So, in corporate life and in personal life, may God grant us the grace to reflect His holiness. For, “holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore.”
Remember The Basics
I’ve heard it said that the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi, once gathered his team together at the beginning of the season, took a ball in his hands and said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” His point was that his professional athletes should never forget the basics.
Sports are not the only areas of life that we are prone to forget the basics. We can also do it in our spiritual lives. In life’s busy demands and distractions, we need our attention drawn back to the basics.
For me, Psalm 86:11 is one of those Gentlemen-this-is-a-football type of Scriptures. It helps get my focus back on the basics. Listen to David’s prayer, “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.”
Three fundamentals of our walk with God stand out to me:
1) Learn. David humbly asks God to teach him. He longs to know the way of God. Yet, he knows that on his own he cannot know God’s way. He knows God’s ways are higher than his and that God’s thoughts are not his own (Is. 55:9). So, he beseeches God to teach him. He wants to learn the truth of God and His way. This is basic to his faith and ours. As disciples of Christ, we too, must be continual learners of our Master and God.
2) Live. Why did David want to learn the truth? Was it because he wanted to be a theological egg-head who could impress the people with his knowledge? Not at all! He tells us the reason: “that I may walk in your truth.” David wanted to learn the truth so that he could live the truth. He wanted to know the way of God, so that he could walk in that way. Knowledge without obedience is sinful. We need to learn the truth in order to live the truth.
3) Love. Notice David’s last request in the verse, “unite my heart to fear your name.” This is a petition motivated by love for God. David knew that his heart could be divided by competing loves and loyalties. So, he prays that God would “unite” his heart in order that his affection, devotion, direction, and adoration would be completely God-ward: “that I might fear your name.” David’s love for God was fundamental to his relationship with God.
If you are like me, you might find yourself returning to this passage from time to time just in order to be reminded of the basics; to recall the things that really matter. Namely, keep learning the truth in order to keep living the truth so that I may be growing in love with the Truth Giver.
Chuck Cook is the pastor of Grace Bible Church - Rolla.