Psalm 107: 1-9 & 43
What God Has Done For You
A young woman told her Christian flat mate that she had become a Christian because of her witness. The flat mate asked her how that could be since she was a very depressed Christian. The convert replied, “I do not have a problem with your depression. It is how you cope with it that has won me over.”
Job was the most righteous man in his generation. He was sick to death through no fault of his own. Though he did not curse God, he did curse the darkness and the day he was born. If you have not experienced such darkness of soul thank God. If you have then you know that no one needs someone else to tell them how dark it is. Young people today need a sense of hope. Old people die without hope. And everyone in between is dogged by degrees of despair.
Without hope it is hard to get up in the morning. How are we to speak life and joy into utter darkness? What is there for you to sing about? If you cannot sing, then you will appreciate me putting it this way: what is there for you to thank God for? What has he done for you? What has God done for me?
The Redeemed Remember Who They Are and Whose They Are
We had better hear a few word of hope from Psalm 107 before the lights go out and we resign ourselves to hopeless despair.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so (Let them tell their story)—
those he redeemed from trouble,
who he gathered from the lands,
from the east and the west, from the north and the south (sea).
The Redeemed are people whom God has gathered together from every direction, race, culture, experiences, education, situation and circumstance. They are ‘The Redeemed of the Lord,’ because the Lord Jesus has helped them in times of need. Pastor Ben told us last week that his father would say to him when he dropped young Ben off at a party, “Remember who you are.” That is like saying, “Remember whose you are.”
You need to be redeemed when you travel in any direction away from God. It works like this: Suppose on your travels, you are kidnapped by a cartel and they demand a ransom. A ransom is a redemption price; usually the amount of money it costs to buy something back. That is exactly what has happened to all of us. We lost our way. Our lives were hijacked and held to ransom by the devil. We needed redemption. Jesus paid the ransom — the redemption price. God the Father sent his Son to become the man Jesus. Jesus, the Son of God, let horrific things be done to him so that he could be our Redeemer.
Psalm 107 encourages the Redeemed to remember who they are. “This is who I was. This is who I am today. This is how God changed me.” Psalm 107 also encourages the Redeemed to tell their story, just like it is. “This is what God has done in my life.” What exactly has God done in your life? How has he helped you? Let’s read verses 4-7 together.
The Redeemed Say What God has Done For Them and How He has Helped Them (God”s Providential Deliverance and Salvation)
4 Some wandered in desert wastelands,
finding no way to a city to dwell in (where they could settle).
They were hungry and thirsty,
and their souls fainted within them (their lives ebbed away).
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way
till they reached a city to dwell in.
John Wimber was a giant figure in Christianity through the 1980s. He dwarfed anyone I met who could still stand on two feet. I imagine that he witnessed more miracles than most. In the late 1980s he had cancer and lay on death’s bed for 18 months. People cruelly said to him after he recovered that his lying on death’s bed must have been a wonderful time of rest in the Lord. He told audiences around the world to open their Bibles and write a prayer in the very front that God had taught him during that experience. People scurried to open their Bibles. He then said, “This is the prayer that God taught me to pray.” Drawing it out, he paused then said, “Help!” People waited, expecting more to come. So he added, “God, please help me!” That was all of it.
Psalm 107 is a ‘Song of The Redeemed.’ It mentions four groups of people who had needs. They had lost hope and needed God’s help. These four groups of people paint four animated pictures of life falling apart to help us see how God is at work in our lives. We just read the first. It was about the traveller who faced meaningless wandering through life (V 4-5). There are also the prisoners or persons doing hard labour who saw no way of escape from their troubles (V 10-12). Then there is the foolish who rebelled against God and became heart-broken, even sick to death (V 17,18). Last, there are the sailors. These are those who are cast about by storms in the pursuit of prosperity (V 23-27).
These experiences are both literal and figurative. In other words, they are based on real events such as “The Exodus,” “The Wilderness Wanderings,” and “The Babylonian Captivity.” They are also figurative, picturing the experiences we each go through. Sadly we forget that every story recorded in “The Bible” is our story, as well as the story of our ancestors in the faith. In other words, whenever God rescued someone from trouble he did it for you. It is a story with a lesson. But, far more importantly, it is a story with a promise of hope and rescue for you.
We tend to think that to give a witness it makes a better story if you had a really messed up life. An example is the gun toting ex-con Sam Childers, who became “The Machine Gun Preacher.” His is a hard core, but compelling story. Our stories are usually less dramatic.
Let me ask you a question: how many people do you know who have had a dramatic experience? Not that many! Let me ask you another question: what kind of hero does the average person need support from: is it the once-in-a-while hero? Or, is it the everyday hero who overcomes challenges like school, parenthood, ageing, despair and depression? We need superheroes from time to time. But superheroes are not usually the people who support you at school, in your relationships, or with parenting and life issues. They are FIOs who fly in and out of your life. However, everybody can be an everyday hero.
At the end of the day it does not matter what you have done in life. We are all sinners before God. We all need redemption. That means each one of us has a story to tell that is equal to any other. If you are the Redeemed of the Lord then God has put his mark on you to identify you as his child. It is like the sign of the cross. If God has marked you then you have “The X Factor.” God has redeemed you. He loves you immeasurably. He says, “You are mine. You are my sons, my daughters. I created you body, soul and spirit. I redeemed you body, soul and spirit. I sanctify you body, soul and spirit. I am well pleased with you. Take joy in me and what I have done for you.”
The Redeemed Say What They are Thankful For
The story is told of a preacher walking by a church one day when his eyes fell upon the devil sitting upon the stairs of a Church building looking all glum. The preacher asked the devil what his problem was. The devil replied, ‘They blame nearly everything that has gone wrong on me. I did not do half of what they say.’ I am not one of those people who blame everything on the devil, and I do not belong to ‘The PTLA Club,’ ‘The Praise the Lord Anyway Club.’ However, I have to confess that I am among those who have let the devil steal my joy. I simply want to make a point. Christians should be the most celebratory people on the planet. We have a lot to be thankful for. Verses 8 is a chorus line repeated throughout Psalm 107.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his steadfast (unfailing) love
and his wonderful deeds to the children of man,
for he satisfies the longing soul (the thirsty)
and fills the hungry with good things.
I really do not see it as my job to tell you what to be thankful for. While there is a lot of truth in the words of the song, ‘Count your blessings, name them one by one,’ I personally cannot stand people who offer cliches. I remind myself that they are probably maxed out and cannot handle other people’s problems. So they have a low tolerance level for pain and suffering. However, I do see it as my role to model to people that there is plenty in creation, redemption and sanctification to thank our Triune God for. What I want to do is help you discover baptismal joy.
When Pastor Ben was around five years of age, he was involved in a major accident with his family. They were on the way home to Renmark from the 1988 Expo in Brisbane. Their car had rolled. Their luggage was scattered 20 meters. I asked Pastor Ben’s father, Dennis, to speak in a youth service shortly after the accident. He predicted that people would expect him to tell how God protected them in the accident. He did tell that story, but only as an introduction. He went on to speak about something that had far more significance for him.
Dennis spoke with deep gratitude about God’s answer to his prayers which enabled him to be at his new born Sam’s baptism. Sam is Pastor Ben’s youngest brother. Dennis was interstate with a semi-load of oranges. He described every delay at the factory where he was. That meant he had to remain with his load till the following monday. The story was far less dramatic than many stories, and yet no less miraculous. The baptism of Sam meant that he was to go through another birthing process. This time into the family of God. Oh, the joy! The celebration of baptismal rebirth and redemption!
Dennis nailed it. That is my story! It is most of our stories! I was invited to attend a Pentecostal conference. There I was asked whether I had been born again. I had been waiting for such a moment. I smiled and looked lovingly at the man who had asked me and said, ‘Yes, I was born again on Christmas Day, 1956, exactly 25 days after I was born.’ He remarked, ‘That is interesting.’ The bell went for the next session to start. I think he was relieved. I was just getting warmed up. I think I had opportunity to share just a little more, which was that I have never known any doubt who my Heavenly Father was, because I grew up with a big brother named Jesus! I was taught to follow him everywhere. Oh, it’s exciting. When I was “goohing and gahhing” my parents and grandparents were teaching me about my “Abba Father.” When I was naughty I was taught about repentance and forgiveness, and daily dying to sin and rising to new life in him (Romans 6). I have never outgrown my baptism.
The fact is, I had to be taught the certainty of my salvation based on a relationship with my Heavenly Father through Christ and the Gift of The Holy Spirit. When Dennis told the simple story of how God answered his prayer to be present at Sam’s baptism, and what it meant to him, there was a sense of celebration amongst the youth and we young adult leaders present. We were not as liberated as an African Pentecostal church would have been, but we had little goosebumps all the same.
We are the Redeemed of the Lord! We are those whose very lives were “bought back” from slavery to sin by the blood of Jesus. The full price has been paid for us, “not with gold or silver, but with Jesus’ precious blood and his innocent suffering and death.” Thank God!
The Redeemed Ponder the Wisdom, Love and Compassion of God
Let the one who is wise heed these things
and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.
Psalm 107 encourages the Redeemed to remember who they are. “This is who I was. This is who I am today. This is how God changed me.” Psalm 107 also encourages the Redeemed to tell their story, just like it is. “This is what I was like, the way I used to live. This is how I live today. This is what God has done in my life.” What exactly has God done in your life? How has he helped you? The Redeemed of the Lord give thanks for all that God has done. They grow in wisdom as they meditate on his wonderful deeds.
If the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, then the love of God is the completion of wisdom. The more we pause and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord, the more we will pray for and serve other people. In doing so we grow in wisdom.
Here is something to do: take the time to read and meditate on Psalm 107. Think about which of the four groups of people you are most like; the travellers, the prisoners, the sick, or the sailors. Meditation is not a mystical thing for New Agers. It is taking in the Word of God. Then you can tell others like it is, how God is at work in your life.
You may relate to one picture more than another. For example, my father skippered a mission boat in extremely rough waters between the islands and mainland of Papua New Guinea. Waves would swamp the vessel. On his 80th birthday he uncomfortably spoke of depression that he had experienced and related to the image of the sailor tossed about on the seas. The picture foremost in his mind was that of Christ in charge of the steering wheel of the vessel, with the vessel as a picture of his life.
Each person has her own story to tell. Whichever picture is your most significant story is the one you are most likely to talk about. Sometimes you may not tell the story you connect to most, because other people can’t relate to it. In that case you might tell another story about when and how God helped you. Whatever story it is to be,
give thanks to the Lord for his steadfast (unfailing) love
and his wonderful deeds to the children of man