Psalm 107
Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
From the Sea to the City

Psalm 107:23-24

To return to London—in this forge of human work and passion—when one has been living with great nature, almost in solitude, is always a curious experience. The things which are considered of vast importance in London seem small; the battles waged ere with amazing ardour, needless and apart from the greater issues of life. Man, we think, is walking in a vain show, and disquieting himself in vain. The great things of nature, the mighty powers we have felt at work, have dwarfed the business and battles in which men are so impetuously concerned. Yet while we live in the movement of mankind, with a silent love and with faith in its salvation, knowing that in its errors there is truth, and in its wrong victorious good—we ought, when we have been for a time near to the life of nature, to be able to bring back from it some thoughts which may support, dignify, and add beauty to our life with humanity.

I. I have been staying in Cornwall on the very verge of the Atlantic; all day long, around the Lizard Point, the multitudinous ships passed by. I thought of all this energy of man, of all this sorrow of the world, as I watched the ships sail by, and wondered at that unconquerable force and hopefulness of mankind which failure only urged into greater activities—and wondering, I said, 'Almighty God is at the root of man, else long ago he had despaired'.

II. Secondly, could we but realize the Infinite, set free our thought from the limiting notions of space and time, imagine even in a little way the infinite scale in which things are done, all that I have tried to say would become clearer to us. We live and die, we think, in a finite world. In reality we are sailing in the infinite, and our little life here is like the momentary opening and closing of an eyelid in comparison with the endless being which even now belongs to us, and in which we live. The conception of the Infinite has been made a thousandfold easier to us by science. But its clearest revelation is in the soul itself. The soul knows, as it knows immediately what love is, that the Infinite is the fact which underlies the universe; knows that it is consciously at one with infinity and belongs to it for ever. To realize the infinite love, to feel our childhood to it, to live in it, to die for it, and to pass, after death, into closer union with it—that is to be a Christian and to have the Christian faith. And no words contain its fullness so completely as those which Jesus used, when he called the infinite Creator our Father, and us, who share in his infinity, His children.

III. This world in which we live, this limited world of time and space, this present in which we clash incessantly with transient and dying things, with interests of a day—this is only our momentary home. We are to do our duty in it, to share in its higher life, to love our comrades in its fleeting scene—but our true resting-place is not in the passing and the finite. We are sailing over the infinite which for the moment seems the finite, to a further infinite, on which, in a doubling and redoubling life, we shall sail forever.

—S. A. Brooke, The Kingship of Love, p. 1.

Reference.—CVII. 23, 24.—C. Kingsley, Discipline and Other Sermons, p. 23.

'Jesus, Lover of My Soul'

Psalm 107:30

To the Oriental mind in olden times the sea appealed chiefly as an object of terror. Its masterfulness was the one thing about it which affected the imagination. I. Notwithstanding all the study that has been given to it the sea remains the most masterful thing with which man has got to do. Only He who made the sea can get it to do His bidding. He sits above the storm and is King over it.

II. The sacred writers never conceive of the universe as a great machine with a great unknown behind it, to whom any individual man or thing is of no moment whatever. When they speak, as so often they do, of the operations of nature, it is by referring not to what are called the laws of nature, but to the authors of these laws.

III. However appalling and inscrutable the phenomena of nature may be, they are included in all the things mentioned by St. Paul as working together for good. The various parts of our lives, and the manifold events which go to make up history, cannot be rightly understood, if they can be understood at all, when they are taken by themselves; each has its place in the whole, and where that place is, He who has all eternity to work in will let us know some day.

IV. I wonder whether Charles Wesley was thinking of the scene associated with our text when he wrote 'Jesus, Lover of my Soul'. This hymn has been the salvation of many a voyager on life's troubled sea. For in truth human life may be likened to a voyage.

—W. Taylor, Twelve Favourite Hymns, p. 97.

References.—CVII. 30.—E. A. Askew, Sermons Preached in Greystoke Church, p. 51. Spurgeon, Down by the Sea, p. 170. J. M. Neale, Sermon Passages of the Psalms, p. 226. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, A Year's Plain Sermons, p. 254. CVII. 40, 41.—J. M. Neale, Sermons on Passages of the Psalms, p. 238.

Dark Days and Their Compensations

Psalm 107:43

Astronomy would be impossible if it were always daylight. Only in the dark do we grow aware of these companies of constellations to which the sunshine had blinded our eyes. The chief discoveries of the moral firmament only become possible to us under similar conditions. There are strange outlooks and splendours of the human spirit which never begin to reveal themselves until after the sun of prosperity and happiness has gone out of the sky.

I. This Psalm celebrates the blessed experience of those whom God takes down into the darkness that they may learn there the mysteries of His love. They are described as fainting travellers in the desert, as forlorn captives in the dungeon, as sick men about to die, as sailors ready to founder in a tempest. But in each case the result is the same. In their blackest extremity they find underneath them the Everlasting Arms, and they are brought back to praise the Everlasting Mercy. Do we not often meet with shallow Christians who are curiously uneducated in spiritual things, because their experience hitherto has included so little except sunshine?

II. How little of the Bible you can understand so long as you only read it in sunshiny weather. But in black midnight sorrows its pages begin to shine and burn like the stars. Scripture remains more or less a sealed volume to those who have never suffered. But our extremity becomes its opportunity, and we realize then that it carries the one prescription for the pain of the whole world.

III. The lovingkindness of the Lord is represented here as a great induction from the experience of His people. When we consider the manifold applications and consolations of the righteous, and learn how the saints are distressed and succoured and emptied and satisfied, there is borne in upon us a sweet and solemn sense of the everlasting faithfulness and patience of their Redeemer. The final value of a spiritual biography lies in the record of how God brought His servant through deep waters and dark nights, and how, having suffered the loss of all things, that man found his infinite compensation in the holy and acceptable and perfect will of God.

—T. H. Darlow, The Upward Galling, p. 27.

References.—CVII. 43.—C. Bradley, The Christian Life, p. 98. E. Thring, Uppingham Sermons, vol. i. p. 392. CVII.—International Critical Commentary, vol. ii. p. 357.

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.
They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in.
Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them.
Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.
And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation.
Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.
Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron;
Because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the most High:
Therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help.
Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses.
He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder.
Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder.
Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted.
Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death.
Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses.
He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.
Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.
They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep.
For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.
They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.
They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end.
Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.
He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.
Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
He turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground;
A fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.
He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings.
And there he maketh the hungry to dwell, that they may prepare a city for habitation;
And sow the fields, and plant vineyards, which may yield fruits of increase.
He blesseth them also, so that they are multiplied greatly; and suffereth not their cattle to decrease.
Again, they are minished and brought low through oppression, affliction, and sorrow.
He poureth contempt upon princes, and causeth them to wander in the wilderness, where there is no way.
Yet setteth he the poor on high from affliction, and maketh him families like a flock.
The righteous shall see it, and rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth.
Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD.
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