Give thanks for God’s love – Psalm 107

To give thanks for something is always good, but psalm 107 helps us reflect on God’s love towards us and to give thanks for the love behind the gift.

These notes accompany a sermon on YouTube. You can find other sermons in our Sermon Index.

God is your saviour 

Read Psalm 107:1-3. There are a few things to notice:

  • First and foremost, this is a psalm of thanksgiving. We often fail to thank God for what he gives us – we take things for granted. So we need reminding.
  • Second, verse 1 celebrates God’s “faithful love” – and the whole psalm repeatedly reminds you that all he does for you stems from his steadfast, faithful, covenantal love.
  • The command to “Give thanks” is actually plural; we’re all to do it. Psalm 107 is the first psalm in Book 5 of the Psalms.
    • Book 1’s psalms are very personal (mostly David’s).
    • Book 5 is very corporate, for God’s gathered people
    • That gives them a very different flavour from others.
  • And v3 speaks of God having “gathered” his people; it suggests that it was written after the exile.
    • The psalms of book 5 cover a wide timeframe; some are by David, others post-exile. They are quite varied.

So, as God calls people to himself, we’re given four “word-pictures” of the situations that he called them from.

  • Some wandered aimlessly, with no city to call home (v4-9)
  • Others were in prison, helpless (v10-16)
  • Some rebelled against God and became sick (v17-22)
  • And others were tossed to and fro in a storm on a ship (v23-32)

Sample account – the sailors

The writer repeats key phrases to make sure you get the point: Look at the last event, Psalm 107:23-32:

  • Sailors were caught in a terrifying storm (v23-27).
  • So, read Psalm 107:28. That phrase appears in all four situations. The people cried out to God and he brought them out from trouble.
  • V29-30 describe what he did – how his actions were exactly what was needed.
  • So read Psalm 107:31. Again, those words are repeated in each of the four times.

To be precise:

  • “Let them praise…” is literally “Let them give thanks…”
  • It’s a “3rd person imperative” – a command, not an encouragement.
  • And when he speaks of “wonderful things” that usually means “supernatural things” – things you couldn’t do yourself, things only a God of wonders could do.

So 4 times people in a bad situation cried out to God for help. 4 times he rescued them with just what was needed.

Why did he rescue them? Was it because they prayed with enough faith? Perhaps they were especially good with words in prayer? No, he rescued them because of his own great love. He answered prayer because he loves his own people.

So, 4 times over, the people are commanded to give thanks for two things:

  1. God’s great steadfast, faithful, covenantal love for them
  2. God’s supernatural intervention in the world in response to the prayers of his people.

At this point, we could reasonably stop and do the same. “Go now and do likewise” would be a worthy application for you. But there’s a big step we want to take first:

Jesus is your saviour

When we looked at Mark’s gospel we referred to Psalm 107 when we were thinking about Jesus calming the storm.

Read Mark 4:35-41.

That event comes in the early parts of Jesus’ ministry up north around Galilee. It’s part of a series of amazing things that reveal his identity. Those fishermen had been absolutely terrified of the storm. But once Jesus stood up and commanded the storm to be still, they were terrified of him. “Who is this man?”

  • You might not be very familiar with Psalm 107.
  • But to Jesus’ disciples, the book of Psalms was their hymn book. They’d know many of them by heart.
  • And it only takes a moment to put Psalm 107 and Mark 4 side by side and see what’s being said: 
    • Only God can calm a storm when his people cry out to him for help.
    • Jesus calmed a storm when his disciples cried out to him for help.

No wonder Titus 2:13 refers to “our God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.” He speaks again of our God and Saviour in Titus 3:4-7 When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.

Saved by grace

You didn’t deserve his help, but he’s merciful. As you turn to him for forgiveness, he’s ready to forgive. He gives you new life, declares you righteous, and gives you secure hope of eternal life with him. That life has begun, because the eternal Spirit of God dwells in you from the moment you become a Christian. He has saved you from your sin and the consequences of your sin.

The 4 situations in Psalm 107 all have a bearing for you.

  • Some wandered in the wilderness with no place to call home.
    • Christ calls you to the community of the church, gives you hope, and his people are the new Jerusalem – the city of God, your eternity.
  • Some were held in prison and hard labour
    • Christ has freed you from sin and guilt; he has taken your hard labour, fulfilled the sentence due for your sin. It is for freedom that Christ has set you free.
  • Some were sick from their own sinfulness
    • Christ has borne our infirmities; he assures you a future where there is no more sickness, decay, death, or tears.
  • Some were lost in a storm
    • Christ is God’s own Son; eternal creator, firstborn over creation, head of the church.
    • And it is such a one who gave his life to save you.

Small wonder you and I have even more reason to do as commanded by psalm 107 Let them praise/thank the LORD for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them.

Thank God for his great, steadfast, faithful, covenant love. Thank God for his supernatural intervention. For God loved you so much that he sent his own Son into the world, and as you trust in him you will be saved from perishing, alive eternally with God. So:

Give thanks

Verses 33-38 again speak of how God intervenes in the world for his people. Then verses 39-42 speak of how he reverses situations – the first shall be last and the last, first.

So read Psalm 107:43. You’re meant to look back and see the hand of God and give thanks. But there are some wrong turns you can make!

Wrong turn #1: “Cry out to God and he’ll rescue you.”

God is pictured here as saviour four times in four very different circumstances. Can you assume he’ll help you out of yours? Jesus prayed that somehow the cross might not be asked of him, saying to his Father “Not my will, but yours be done.” His prayer, his longing, could not be answered. Paul later prayed that the “thorn in his side” (whatever it was) would be taken away, but Christ refused his prayer. In each case, the eternal purposes of God were best served by his servants suffering. And, in each case, God was acting for the good of his people and for his own glory, which is always to our benefit (though we often deny that, thinking only of ourselves).

So no: Cry out to God, and he will answer in a way that is your best good. And your best good is to be like Christ – whatever that takes. But whatever you do, do cry out to God!

Wrong turn #2: “Sickness is a punishment from God.”

Someone said this to me quite recently. But it’s a wrong turn. Sometimes it’s true: Psalm 107:17-22 is just such a time. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul says that some people have become sick and even died because of their sin. Yet in John 9, Jesus says that a man born blind was absolutely not blind because of anyone’s specific sin. All sickness and death are ultimately caused by the sin in the world. But you can never say, “I am sick because I sinned” (unless it’s something obvious, like a STD).

Also, it’s inaccurate to say “God is punishing me” about anything. If you’re a Christian, Jesus has been punished for all your sin. All of it. God may well discipline, train, correct, or rebuke you – but it’s to put you on the right path, not to punish you.

Wrong turn #3: “Give thanks that you’re a Christian”

You can be chuffed if you’ve won a car by chance; but if someone gives you a car the response isn’t “I’ve got a car!” but rather, “Thank you so much”.

Psalm 107 does encourage you to think about the good things God has done for you, but to give thanks for the love behind the rescue. And praise him for his supernatural interventions – God acting on your behalf because he loves you.

Wrong turn #4: Individualism.

The Bible has absolutely no room for the idea of “private faith.” You’re to live for God and to proclaim him. Remember, Psalm 107 is a corporate psalm. We’re all to give thanks to him. And you’re to speak of him.

Read Psalm 107:2 again.

If you are a Christian, you came to Christ alone. No-one can do that for you. And then he grafted you into his church – we are one in him. So this psalm calls for us to celebrate him together. Since God loves you enough to supernaturally intervene in the world to save you – and continues to supernaturally intervene when you pray – then reflect on his great love and action, and give thanks.

And let’s do that together:

  • Corporate prayer and praise
  • Corporate thanksgiving (something we’ll be doing at the Harvest service at the end of September)
  • Conversation – sharing testimony about him – both the large and the small, so that we can amplify our shared experience, and praise.
  • Ask someone how they became a Christian; how the Lord has carried them; ask about a time when they cried out and God helped; and then together, praise him!