Dear radio friends,
As we look into the mirror of God’s Word, the question we have to answer today is this: Is there in you and in me the desire to praise God? Does the heartfelt knowledge of God’s goodness and wonderful works cause your heart to feel compelled to praise the living God?
The text we will use is Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, and 31. It is the repeated refrain: “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!”
Psalm 107 has four basic sections, each leading to that same verse or theme, four sections alike in that they picture someone who is in distress and who cries to the Lord out of that particular distress. In verses 4-9 we have the picture of a traveler lost in the desert. In verses 10-16 we have the picture of a prisoner in iron bondage. In verses 17-22 we have displayed to us men who are sick. And in verses 23-32 we have sailors who are tossed in the tempest of storm. Each one of these sections concludes with our text. It is like a piece of music with a certain theme, the conductor giving variations on that theme, only to come back to it again. So the psalmist gives four different variations, four different distressful situations, only to come back to that theme, to his purpose in the psalm: “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” The question we have to answer today is this: Can you say that verse? Do you feel compelled to thank and praise the Lord for His goodness and for His wonderful works to you?
Now, if you have your Bible opened to Psalm 107, observe with me in the opening verses (1-3) that the psalmist calls the church together. He calls a meeting, as it were a massed choir, of Christians of all ages and all places, and he exhorts: “O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” Then he says that this must be done by all of God’s people, regardless of their particular circumstances. “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy; and gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south.” Such is his cry. East, west, north, south – from every point of the compass, from different temperaments and experiences; he calls all of God’s people to sing the same song: “O give thanks unto the LORD….” And with the repeated chorus: “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!”
Now, as I said, the psalm is really divided into four sections or four different experiences out of which men come to a heartfelt desire to praise and to thank God. Those four experiences are: travelers lost in the desert, prisoners in bondage, sick men, and sailors in a storm. Although the experiences are particular and unique, yet really they are the same. When we view them superficially they seem to be different. Yet, fundamentally, they are identical. They are problems that men face through various outward circumstances, but they have a common root to them. That common root is sin. All four describe the hopeless case that a person finds himself in because of sin. And the cry of the child of God arises out of his own understanding and distress of sin.
Let us look briefly at those four cases.
There is, first of all, the case of a traveler wandering hopelessly in the wilderness (vv. 4-9). “They wandered in the wilderness,” we read, “in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them.” He is referring, perhaps, to Israel in the desert for forty years. He pictures those who are looking for a city to dwell in. They are lost and without water, parched and thirsty, seeking but not finding, withered and dried up within, lonely and solitary, looking for what will give them rest and sustenance. They cross desert lands. They are deluded by mirages. They are tired and hungry and thirsty, looking there and then here and still looking for that rest and peace and satisfaction.
This is to us a picture of the barrenness of sin, of a life without God, experiencing emptiness and searching for something that will satisfy. The reality of this life is that, apart from God, nothing satisfies, nothing lasts, nothing can give rest to one’s soul. If there is no God, if one does not know the living and the true God as Father in Jesus Christ, then human life is empty. Finally one becomes cynical and gives up in despair.
Here the child of God is experiencing that emptiness of life under sin, that sin as it takes us away from the experience of God’s fellowship. So the psalmist could say in Psalm 63, “I long and thirst and nought can satisfy; I wander in a desert land where all the streams are dry.” But then, in verse 7, we read, “And he (God) led them forth by the right way that they might go to a city of habitation.” We could not find the way of ourselves. But it was grace which reached down to us and brought us to Christ, the stream of living water.
In verses 10-16 of Psalm 107 we have the second picture of a person in distress. Here the picture is of a prisoner in hopeless bondage. “Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron” (v. 10), and again in verse 16, “Gates of brass, … and bars of iron…” surround them. Note the full force of the description: how securely these people are imprisoned. They are helpless. Why? “Because they rebelled against the words of God, … therefore he brought down their heart with labour” (vv. 11, 12). What could more clearly show the tyranny of sin, the tyranny of evil thoughts, the tyranny of evil companions and of besetting vice? In our folly we think sin a plaything. But the Scriptures are faithful to us. They tell us that sin is really an iron bracelet – iron bars and brass gates. Can anyone deny the truth of the enslaving power of sin? Can you break off evil thoughts? Is it easy to part with evil company, evil habits, cruel tongue, and hatred? Is it easy to be free from them? Is it easy to control your mind from evil imaginings, lusts, and envyings? Is it easy to control the influence that others have upon you? Can you achieve freedom? Can you cast off the bars of sin, apart from the grace of God? No! Absolutely impossible. The only deliverer is Jesus Christ and the grace of God.
So, as I said, this may appear at first different from a lost traveler in the wilderness. Now we have someone who is in helpless bondage. Yet it is the same. We have the barrenness that sin brings into our life, the emptiness. Now we have another aspect of sin: its power to enslave, something from which only God can deliver.
The third picture in the psalm is in verses 17-22. Here the picture is a little different again. It is a person lying on his bed, afflicted and so desperately ill that he abhors all manner of meat and he draws near to the gates of death.
Here is not a person who is wandering in the desert. Here is not a person whose main characteristic is bondage to sin. But here is someone who is pining away through sheer misery. He has built up his hopes, perhaps, but these hopes have failed him. Now disillusionment seizes him. He is filled with terrible disappointment. That is the main thing in his life. Nothing, he says, avails. He will not be comforted. He has lost interest in everything.
That is also the picture of sin. Sin will cast you down. If you do not submit to the will of God, if you continue on in a sinful way, then hopelessness and despair will plague you. After awhile we say, we cannot pull ourselves together. We have no energy for anything. We are surrounded by misery.
But, again, the case is essentially the same. Whether one be in the emptiness of sin, or in the bondage of sin, or in the utter despair of sin, all of these are the ravages of sin. Again, it is only and can only be dealt with by Jesus Christ.
The last picture, verses 23-31, is the picture of a ship tossed about helplessly by the waves. The sailors are in a state of desperation. We read, “They that go down to the sea in ships, … he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.… Their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end.” The picture is of a gale-force wind blowing over the ship, waves reaching up to the sky, the souls of the sailors melted because of their trouble – a picture of how terribly sin upsets and throws into confusion and turmoil all of our life, so that our life is literally out of control! Passions driving one up and down, resulting in a home of bickering and squabbling and jealousy. They find themselves hopeless. Everything has failed. There is no place to look.
Four different pictures of distress. Yet, the psalmist says, “I have learned to sing a song of praise,” because the psalmist has experienced the deliverance of God. Whether it was in the way of experiencing the barrenness of sin, the bondage of sin, the misery or sin, or the utter confusion of sin, all of God’s people have experienced the knowledge of their sin, have been brought to know the fundamental hopelessness and helplessness of self.
Is that true of you? Have you been brought to know that?
Also, the child of God has been given to know the grace of God, the grace of God to bring them up out of their distress, out of their particular distress. Is that your experience? The exact aspect of the sin with which you struggle now is not as important as whether or not you have been brought to see the hopelessness and the helplessness of yourself under your sin, and the grace of God which brings us to cry unto the Lord. And the Lord, in mercy, hears and delivers us. He delivers us by the power of His word, by the power of His love.
So, the psalmist and we respond in the chorus, “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” You see, the experience of salvation, the experience of redemption from sin, fills the heart with praise and thanksgiving to God. Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness! We have experienced that the Lord is good to us. And that goodness is experienced in gracious deliverance.
There is God’s goodness, in His gracious deliverance from our sin. Do not ask, “What has the Lord done for me lately?” Do not ask that question! The child of God knows: He has delivered me from my sin.
We see then the folly of other remedies. So often, you know, we trust in ourselves or in other people. Then we are brought to the end of the road with ourselves and with all other human resources. And God turns us again unto Himself. We see that we are in His hands and that He alone has the power of deliverance. By the grace of God we cry to God. We plead for His mercy. And the wonder is that He hears! He stoops down and delivers. Instead of casting us into hell, He delivers of from our distress. Oh, that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, for the wonder of His goodness. In spite of our sin and our arrogance and rebellion, Christ Jesus has been given to die for us. Salvation is entirely gracious. It was not owed to you. It was not because of anything that you did. It was not because you accepted Christ, or because you made yourself somehow an object of His love, or because you chose Him and then God chose you. That is nonsense. That is not the way it is. The truth is, we are filled with the misery of our sin. But God, God who is rich in mercy, when we were yet enemies, reconciled us to Himself by the death of His Son. Read Romans 5:6ff.
Who can but sing when they understand this? Who can but thank the Lord when they realize this? What theme must surge through our hearts but the theme of praise and thanksgiving all day long. We must sing praises to the Lord. This is the theme of those who are in heaven. They shout, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and blessing…. Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever” (Rev. 5:12, 13). All day long they are before the throne and they praise and thank the Lord. Are you surprised? There can be but one song from the heart of those who have experienced the goodness of God, those who know the hopelessness and helplessness of their sin and the graciousness of God: “Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness and for His wonderful works unto the children of men.”
His wonderful works. Oh, what a wonderful work it is, this work of God, this work of God’s grace to deliver His children who are of themselves empty and imprisoned and desolate and out of control in their sin. Oh, what a wonderful work of God that He would lead us forth by the right way, that He would satisfy the longing soul, as the psalm says, that He would fill the hungry soul with goodness, that He would bring us out of darkness and the shadow of death, that He would break the gates of brass and cut the bars of iron, that He would send His Word and heal us and deliver us from our destruction, that He would make the storm calm so that the waves thereof are still. Oh, what a wondrous redemption!
God has delivered us. Regardless of the present state of his life, every child of God experiencing that grace of salvation has reason, compelling reason, constraining reason, to praise and thank the Lord.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, says the psalmist. There must be a full chorus. All of God’s people, out of the experience of salvation by grace, are called to praise and to thank the Lord. There are none who are excluded. There is no silent member in God’s chorus. There is no soloist (not just one who shouts forth in praise). You must not say, “Well, for me today it is only despair and I have nothing to thank God about.” You must not say that.
Let all the people of God say so. Say what? That God is to be praised and God is to be thanked. Perhaps death surrounds your family at this time of the holiday. Perhaps problems and burdens come upon you in your own personal life. Perhaps there are sins, grievous sins, against which you struggle. You say, “How shall I sing?” Child of God, walking in humility before God, confessing your sins, to you the song of praise and thanksgiving belongs. It belongs to you today as much as to one who leaps in joy because God’s way leads him in happiness. In the light of God’s goodness and saving wonder, all the people of God must unite in praise and thanksgiving to God our Father.
You, as a father or a mother, as a wife or a husband; you as a boy or girl, a child, an adult, a single or a married person; whether you have many children or are childless; whether you are old or young – do you know His goodness? Do you know His wonderful works to the children of men? Then praise is your duty! Your blessed and enjoyable task is to praise and thank the Lord, to thank Him for peace and rest in Christ Jesus, to thank Him for a spiritual city to dwell in, to thank Him that the bondage of sin has been broken and He has created in you new and holy desires, to thank Him for the knowledge of all He has done, to thank Him that He directs, by His sovereign will, each and every event in your life to lead to final glory, and to thank Him for the glorious salvation that is in Christ Jesus.
We must praise and thank Him. Do you? Is there in you this grace of God, a compelling desire to praise and thank the Lord? Oh, I know that our sin and our dullness does so much to muffle this. But is it there? Oh, I must praise and thank the Lord for His goodness and wonderful work, whatever the circumstances and conditions of my life. I must do so because of redemption. Then my heart, when I look upon that gracious redemption, cannot be silent. I must return and glorify God.
Whoso is wise will observe these things. They shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord. The angels understood it. The host of heaven understood it. Praise and thanksgiving is heard in God’s courts day and night. Why should we be excluded now? Why should not we who are the recipients of all of God’s goodness and wonderful works, why should we be silent? Must not we also join the chorus? Must we not also mingle our voices with those who sing the song of Moses and the Lamb?
Now thank we all our God!
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy word. Thou knowest, O Lord, that our hearts so often drag. Rather than praise we would murmur. Rather than thank we would complain. Lead us, O Lord, to see the lovingkindness in Christ Jesus our Lord, the wonderful works of our deliverance in order that we might be taught the song of praise and thanksgiving. Amen.