Psalm 107

In the Face of Danger

When did you last feel danger? What happened?

Danger has many forms. We can feel endangered by an immanent threat or by a loss of control. We sense an approaching hurt or a coming catastrophe or a looming presence unknown to us. Danger is more than the discomfort of steeping outside our comfort zones. It is a sharp, visceral sense that life as we know it will dramatically change for the worst or end all together.

When the danger passes, the sense of shock turns to relief. Thank you, Lord for saving us. Psalm 107 is such a thanksgiving for salvation. It praised God for his saving activity among the faithful.

The psalm can be divided into six sections:

1) A brief introduction of thanksgiving for the activity of God (107:1)

1 Give thanks to YHWH,
for he is good,
for his loving kindness endures forever.

World English Bible

2) descriptions of four dangers that a Jew might face:

A) Those scattered in the Diaspora, in a real or metaphorical desert without the means to maintain life. God gave them safety in cities (Jewish ghettoes in foreign cities?; 107:2-7).

2 Let the redeemed by YHWH say so,
whom he has redeemed from the hand of the adversary,
3 And gathered out of the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.
4 They wandered in the wilderness in a desert way.
They found no city to live in.
5 Hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted in them.
6 Then they cried to YHWH in their trouble,
and he delivered them out of their distresses,
7 he led them also by a straight way,
that they might go to a city to live in.

B) Those who found themselves in prison (for just or unjust reasons?). God gave them freedom as an answer to their repentance (107:10-14).

8 Let them praise YHWH for his loving kindness,
for his wonderful works to the children of men!
9 For he satisfies the longing soul.
He fills the hungry soul with good.

10 Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
being bound in affliction and iron,
11 because they rebelled against the words of God,
and condemned the counsel of the Most High.
12 Therefore he brought down their heart with labor.
They fell down, and there was none to help.
13 Then they cried to YHWH in their trouble,
and he saved them out of their distresses.
14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
and broke their bonds in sunder.

15 Let them praise YHWH for his loving kindness,
for his wonderful works to the children of men!
16 For he has broken the gates of brass,
and cut through bars of iron.

C) Those who were sick and at the door of death. God restored their health (107:17-20).

17 Fools are afflicted because of their disobedience,
and because of their iniquities.
18 Their soul abhors all kinds of food.
They draw near to the gates of death.
19 Then they cry to YHWH in their trouble,
he saves them out of their distresses.
20 He sends his word, and heals them,
and delivers them from their graves.

D) Those who traveled the sea, despite the dangers of storms. God brought the storms about, but also calmed the waters (107:23-30).

21 Let them praise YHWH for his loving kindness,
for his wonderful works to the children of men!
22 Let them offer the sacrifices of thanksgiving,
and declare his works with singing.

23 Those who go down to the sea in ships,
who do business in great waters;
24 These see YHWH’s works,
and his wonders in the deep.
25 For he commands, and raises the stormy wind,
which lifts up its waves.
26 They mount up to the sky; they go down again to the depths.
Their soul melts away because of trouble.
27 They reel back and forth, and stagger like a drunken man,
and are at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cry to YHWH in their trouble,
and he brings them out of their distress.
29 He makes the storm a calm,
so that its waves are still.
30 Then they are glad because it is calm,
so he brings them to their desired haven.

31 Let them praise YHWH for his loving kindness,
for his wonderful works for the children of men!
32 Let them exalt him also in the assembly of the people,
and praise him in the seat of the elders.

Notice the refrain the psalmist used to maintain the theme: Let them thank the Lord for his kindness, his awesome deed for us mortals (107:8, 15, 21, 31). In each danger, he gave the saved a reason to rejoice (107:9, 16, 22, 32).  (See verses in green.)

3) An ending that exalted God for upending the presumed order of the cosmos and society. In this way, God blessed his chosen. He laid fertile land to waste as a punishment for the wicked (107:33-34), but turned the desert into tilling ground for the impoverished faithful and gave them cities for their dwelling (107:35-38). He rejected the arrogant and haughty (i.e., the princes) and freed those oppressed by them (107:39-40). Justice resulted among the people and gave the wise pause (107:42-43).

33 He turns rivers into a desert,
water springs into a thirsty ground,
34 and a fruitful land into a salt waste,
for the wickedness of those who dwell in it.
35 He turns a desert into a pool of water,
and a dry land into water springs.
36 There he makes the hungry live,
that they may prepare a city to live in,
37 sow fields, plant vineyards,
and reap the fruits of increase.
38 He blesses them also, so that they are multiplied greatly.
He doesn’t allow their livestock to decrease.
39 Again, they are diminished and bowed down
through oppression, trouble, and sorrow.
40 He pours contempt on princes,
and causes them to wander in a trackless waste.
41 Yet he lifts the needy out of their affliction,
and increases their families like a flock.
42 The upright will see it, and be glad.
All the wicked will shut their mouths.
43 Whoever is wise will pay attention to these things.
They will consider the loving kindnesses of YHWH.

For the psalmist, this chant reduced all danger to the four categories in 107:2-32: life in a foreign land, imprisonment, health, and natural calamities. The fifth category (political oppression) he wove into ending (107:33-40). In each case, God’s overwhelming providence worked for the good of his faithful.

This psalm encourages us to have hope in the face of danger. God will protect us. His salvation may not be in a form we want, but he is faithful. He will not let us down.

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his mercy endures forever!

How have you thanked God for his mercy, even in the face of danger?