"For He Has Broken the Gates of Brass and Cut the Bands of Iron in Sunder"
Psalm 107 is a favorite of mine because of the recurring refrain:
"Oh that men would praise the Lord, for his goodness and for his wonderful works to the children of men."
This verse is one of those verses that captures what God wants from us. He wants us to love him and see him for what he is. God is good and he does wonderful things and these wonderful things are all around us and in our lives, but we often miss them.
The Psalm begins with this point:
1: O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
2: Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
The "redeemed" are those of us who have experienced the gift of God's salvation, i.e, have the privilege of knowing the Son of God who God sent into the world as a token of his love. It is to us that the responsibility falls of displaying the truth of God's love and mercy.
The Psalm continues:
2: Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;
3: And gathered them 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 solitary way; they found no city to dwell in.
5: Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them.
6: Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.
7: And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation.
8: Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
9: For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.
Verse 6 is interesting because it shows how out of the depths of our frustration, we cry to God and he responds. What is interesting is that he is always there but we often fail to cry out to him until we are in distress, from which no human can save us. God will deliver. He will lead us in the "right way." But there is one thing the Holy Spirit asks of us, that we would praise the Lord "for his goodness, and for his wonderful works." God satisfies and fills the hungry soul. This is a promise and not simply poetry. Praise and gratitude are not the product of poetry, they are the expression of the hearts that have seen God's power at work in their lives. God is asking for love, praise and gratitude. It doesn't have to be pretty or eloquent, it just has to be true.
Verse 9 is also important because when God opens up his hands to us, he gives us "goodness." It is very easy to misunderstand God's blessings. Trials and tribulations, difficulties and hardships are not gifts from God. 3 John 2 says, "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. " God's desire for us is to fill our souls with goodness. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God wants to give us an expected end, a future full of hope. Isaiah 58 lavishly anticipates the blessings God has in store for those who obey and seek him. God is not the source of our hardships.
Psalm 34:19 says, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all." We can't avoid the difficulties of life. But what we can count on is that there is a God who is good and wants, more than anything, to give us good things. He is there with us every step of the way and if, in our distress, we would only cry out to him, he will deliver and satisfy us.
10: Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron;
11: Because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the most High:
12: Therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help.
13: Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses.
14: He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder.
15: Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
16: For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder.
Verses 15 and 16 are never far from me. I sing verse 16 in my head often, I'm not sure why. It is a message of liberation much like we find in Luke 4:18 when Jesus says that the "Spirit of the Lord is upon me for he has sent to me . . . to set at liberty those who are oppressed."
What I find interesting in verses 10-16 is the idea of God being there for the forsaken and those unwelcome in "holy places." When Jesus walked the earth and was found eating with those whom the religious establishment and the conservative self-righteous disapproved of, Jesus made it clear that it is the "sick who need a doctor."
But even more, verses 10-12 go to the heart of the human condition. We are all afflicted by sin and are enslaved to it and our hearts are burden and depressed. We are bound as it were with bands of iron.
But then, when we acknowledge our helplessness, our rebellion, our sickness, then God saves us from our distress and from the shadow of darkness. Having done this for us, what then does the Holy Spirit express that God wants in return? "Oh that men would praise the Lord, for his goodness."
God has broken the "gates of brass" in our lives and "cut the bars of iron in sunder." We are free and as Jesus says, he who the Son has set free is free indeed.
This Psalm is the story of a saving God, a liberating God, whose desire is to make us free: free to love and praise him. I encourage reading the rest of the Psalm and see again and again how we are described in each situation and in our distress God saves us so that we may praise him.
17: Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted.
18: Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death.
19: Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses.
20: He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.
21: Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
22: And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.
23: They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
24: These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep.
25: For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.
26: They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.
27: They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end.
28: Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.
29: He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
30: Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.
31: Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
32: Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
33: He turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground;
34: A fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.
35: He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings.
36: And there he maketh the hungry to dwell, that they may prepare a city for habitation;
37: And sow the fields, and plant vineyards, which may yield fruits of increase.
38: He blesseth them also, so that they are multiplied greatly; and suffereth not their cattle to decrease.
39: Again, they are minished and brought low through oppression, affliction, and sorrow.
40: He poureth contempt upon princes, and causeth them to wander in the wilderness, where there is no way.
41: Yet setteth he the poor on high from affliction, and maketh him families like a flock.
42: The righteous shall see it, and rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth.
The Psalm ends with the following admonition:
43: Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD.
As Proverbs 1 tells us, "the fear of the Lord is the begining of wisdom." The wise person reads this Psalm and recognizes, "observes," these events in our lives and takes heed to the admonition to praise God for his goodness. This and only this, is the avenue then to a real understanding and encounter with God.