Saturday, 16 August 2014

(229) August 17: Psalm 107-108 Romans 15:21-33

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read consider how God’s love is expressed.

To ponder:
The previous psalms called God to gather his people from their exile amongst the nations (106v47). Psalm 107 thanks God for his goodness and enduring love in doing so (107v1-3). It speaks of various groups being scattered. First are those who wandered hungry and thirsty in the desert with no “city” to settle in. They cried to the LORD and he delivered them, leading them to a “city.” So they are called to thank God for his unfailing love and deeds in satisfying the hungry and thirsty with good things (107v4-9). The second group are those imprisoned and subject to hard labour. And here, it is acknowledged this was because of the people’s rebellion against God, despising his counsel – presumably the call of the prophets to repent. With none to help they cried to God and he saved them. They are also therefore called to thank him as the previous group, for his love and deeds, but this time because he breaks down the gates and bars of prisons (107v10-16). Some simply became fools and suffered illness because of their sin, unable to eat and almost dying. Yet they too cried to God, and he healed them by his word – as Christ did. So they are to give thanks as the others, but also sacrifice thank-offerings and tell of God’s works with joy (107v17-22). The final group took to the seas as merchants, seeing God’s works in the stormy waves that he spoke into being. But their courage failed and they didn’t know what to do, so they cried to God and he stilled the storm (again, as Jesus), guiding them to their destination. So they too are to give thanks and exalt and praise God amongst the people and elders (107v23-32).
            The point throughout is that whatever predicament we might face, God is sufficient to rescue us. And when he does, he should be thanked, praised and honoured before others. How much this applies to his deliverance of us from sin, death and the devil through Christ.
            107v33-43 display the principles at work: God turned fruitful land dry because of the wickedness of those who lived in it. The past tense may suggest the Canaanites are in mind, but there is an allusion to Sodom too (107v34, Gen 19v23-26). God also turned dry land into watery land, and brought the hungry to settle in a “city” there, being blessed with fruitful harvests, many descendents and large herds. This may refer to Israel inhabiting the land the Canaanites first inhabited. It is then noted that these people decreased in number and were humbled by hardship, with their nobles wandering in a wasteland. This may refer to the exile. The note that God “pours contempt on nobles” is, no doubt, a generalization reflecting his attitude to the proud. As for the needy: We read God lifted them from this affliction and increased their families – a sign of blessing. This may refer to the return from exile (as 107v1-3). The response of the upright to this is joy, in seeing the needy prosper. But the wicked shut their mouths, perhaps in shame, or in seeing they cannot defend themselves for their actions before God. The conclusion is that “the wise” should learn from this (107v43), recognising God’s love is of such immensity that he delivers whoever calls upon him and acts justly with the wicked and the upright. We should therefore ensure we are upright, call on God whenever in need, and rejoice to see him deliver others.
            In starting the next section of the psalms, Psalm 107 may set up a theme as Psalm 108 is a call on God for deliverance. It actually comprises Psalm 57v7-11 and 60v5-12 (see notes there). David begins affirming that he is “steadfast” in his devotion to God, and will praise him among the nations for the heights of his love and faithfulness (108v1-5). His prayer that God be exalted “above the heavens” is essentially that his praise would be infinite, stretching higher than the sky itself. It is partnered with a prayer that his glory, ie. the acknowledgement of his excellence, also be “over all the earth.” So David’s desire is that vertically and horizontally, God would be honoured everywhere. It’s the noblest desire.
            His request, however, is for salvation for those God loves, affirming God’s personal ownership and gift of the promised land, yet also his ownership (in less exalted terms) of the lands of Israel’s enemies (108v6-9). This is why David can be confident of God’s will and ability to act, knowing that man’s help against his enemies is worthless (108v10-13). God is able to do whatever he likes with the nations of men. Of course, God the Father exercised this same sovereignty to give Christ victory over all his enemies so that he would inherit all nations.

Praying it home:                                                                                   
Praise God for his great love that is so ready to hear and deliver. Pray that you would be wise enough to ponder it, rely on it, and thank God for it.

Thinking further:                             
None today.

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