Monday, 19 March 2012

Psalm 107.1-22 [27/02/2012]

Psalm 107.1-22

1 O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever. 2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those He redeemed from trouble 3 and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

4 Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to an inhabited town; 5 hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. 6 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress; 7 He led them by a straight way, until they reached an inhabited town. 8 Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wonderful works to humankind. 9 For He satisfies the thirsty, and the hungry He fills with good things.

10 Some sat in darkness and in gloom, prisoners in misery and in irons, 11 for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. 12 Their hearts were bowed down with hard labour; they fell down, with no one to help. 13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress; 14 He brought them out of darkness and gloom, and broke their bonds asunder. 15 Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wonderful works to humankind. 16 For He shatters the doors of bronze, and cuts in two the bars of iron.

17 Some were sick through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities endured affliction; 18 they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. 19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress; 20 He sent out His word and healed them, and delivered them from destruction. 21 Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wonderful works to humankind. 22 And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of His deeds with songs of joy.

"Let the Redeemed of the LORD tell their story."  I don't know about you, but I am a huge fan of testimony.  If any of you were at the OICCU (Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union) mission when Keller was speaking you would each night have heard a testimony from someone who either never knew Jesus or who were brought up with a knowledge of Him but held no deep and life changing love for Him. 

      Often we find that many elements of such testimonies are the same.  A person lost in their life, wandering mindlessly and endlessly, unable to settle anywhere or be content, they are hungry and thirsty for something more, something to fill that chasm in their heart, they feel their very sense of purpose in life and their very being ebbing away - and then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble and Jesus delivered them from their distress and put them on the straight path towards the New Jerusalem.

      Or in another example, they were imprisoned to addictions such as drugs, alcohol, pornography, and self-harm.   Lost in a darkness they cannot escape from, held down by self doubt and self loathing, chained and shackled by a constant failure to appear good to others because inside they feel rotten - and then they cried to the LORD in their trouble and Jesus brought them out of that utter darkness and broke their chains. 

      Or yet others do not so much feel imprisoned by their addictions but instead foolishly dedicate their lives to them and try to build their identity in having the hottest girlfriend, or drinking more than anyone else, or being 'that guy' who smokes the weed and does the crazy things.  But following this foolish path they make themselves ill, all seems to be going well and then everything in their world crashes; a break up, a bad trip, a crime committed, a friend lost... and they lose their identity, they recognise what a fool they have been and they lose their desire for food and they become sick because they no longer see the point in living when they have nothing to live for - and then they cried to the LORD in their trouble and Jesus, the WORD of God, heals them and rescues them from the grave.

      There are two things in common with all these stories - desperation on the one hand and Jesus Christ on the other.  In Psalm 107 we see a picture of the human condition, we see a glimpse at reality as it stands - we are in desperate need of a Redeemer to save us from our mess, to show us the way, to break our chains, to heal our sickness.  And this is not just the case for the Jews in exile as many have supposed this psalm to be written about - but of all people including us here in this room, we need to repent and cry to Jesus just as much as every other person on the planet.

       The language of wilderness wandering in verses 4-9 has made some think this is about the Exodus from Egypt as God brings His people to His chosen city where His name is to dwell.   Yet others say it is written on the way back from exile in Babylon, again wandering in the wilderness but this time also the language of chains and in particular bronze gates with iron bars which are also mentioned in Isaiah 45. 

      But these scenarios say nothing about what the psalmist continues to speak of - people on the high seas.  Nor does it pass the test of the first three verses!  Who are the 'redeemed' that this psalm speaks of?  "Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story - those He redeemed from the hand of the foe, those He gathered from the lands, from East and West and from North and South."  Was the Exodus a redemption of people from all four corners of the globe?  No.  Was the return from Exile a redemption of people from all four corner of the globe?  No.

       So of what does this global redemption speak?  In Isaiah 43 we find it written "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name, you are mine...  Do not be afraid for I am with you; I will bring your children from the East and gather your children from the West.  I will say to the North 'give them up!' and to the South 'Do not hold them back.'"

      And who is it that brings this redemption to the people of God, that is those who cling to Him and love Him in faith?  Is it not the Suffering Servant as Isaiah goes on to explain?  And when Jesus begins His ministry what is His mission statement?  Taken from the Book of Isaiah?  "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim the Good News to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour"

 It is Jesus who gives the Good News of a straight path to the perfect city to those who are poor and hungry and thirsty wandering in the wilderness - Jesus is the Water of Life to the thirsty and the Bread of Heaven to the hungry and the Way the Truth and the Life to the lost.

      It is Jesus who proclaims freedom to the prisoners who are oppressed and blinded in their darkness, it is Jesus who sets them free and takes their chains upon Himself before nailing them to the rugged Cross as the Light of the World. 

      It is Jesus who is the Great Physician who throughout His glorious ministry speaks the words 'Your sins are forgiven' and immediately people who are near death both physically and spiritually are healed. 

      If we were to continue in the Psalm we would also see that Jesus is the one who calms the storm and saves those tossed around by life and incapable of saving themselves just as He did the Disciples on the Sea of Galilee.

      Truly verse 20 is the Gospel of hope and joy - "He (the Father) sent out His Word (Jesus) and healed them, He rescued them from the grave." That all sounds very familiar:  "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life."

      I love testimony, and we all have a great testimony to share because we are all sinners saved and redeemed at the same Cross by the same Saviour's Blood.  Every day we sin again and again, and if we think we don't then we deceive ourselves and claim God is a liar.  And each time we sin we deserve Hell, but by the Blood of the Lamb we are given instead a powerful testimony of God's mercy to us. 

     The psalm, at the end of each section where Jesus brings redemption, calls on the redeemed to give thanks to the LORD - verse 22 reads "Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of His works with songs of Joy" Is that not the call of us all, to offer our thanks to Him who saved us who could not save ourselves?  And then to tell others of His mighty work and to praise Him with songs of Joy? 

      Indeed Hebrews 13.14-15 reads "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that openly profess His name.  And do not forget to do good and share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." 

      When we leave here and go about our day, our week, let us remind ourselves of the Good News of Jesus coming and dying for us, and let that be the words on our lips, let us be empowered in knowing that we have been redeemed at the Cross, let us share our glorious faith with those who are still in darkness, still hungry for that 'thing' to fill the void in their lives, let us tell them the Gospel that they too might have a testimony. 

      God did great things in the OICCU mission and is continuing to do great things in the follow up course - but let us now, individually, dedicate ourselves to the Word of God Jesus the Messiah who whilst we were still sinners died to heal us, and let everyday be a mission for Him, and let us dedicate ourselves to having each and every day bring a new testimony for us to tell of what God has done in our lives


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