Theme: The LORD is Always Steadfast
1. When everything in life fades
2. When we forget and forsake Him
Psalm 107:1-8 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! 2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has 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 a city to dwell in; 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 till they reached a city to dwell in. 8 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! (ESV)
Think of a time when you’ve gotten a song stuck in your head and you’ve struggled to get it out. It happens often doesn’t it. And it’s usually a song that we used to enjoy quite a bit not that long before. It doesn’t take long for us to lose interest in a specific piece of music. I’ve come to the point where I mentally remind myself that when I really enjoy a song I need to pace myself in how often I listen to it, because I know eventually (sooner rather than later) its popularity is going to fade.
Music may be one of the most common examples of this, but really everything in life is exactly the same. It fades. It wears out. It becomes common, sometimes even despised by us. Jesus said something similar, “Don't collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don't break in and steal (Matthew 6:19-20).” Part of Jesus’ point was that earthly things wear out. It doesn’t matter how we feel about them in the moment, or how much value we place on them at the time, we know without a doubt it will fade away. So, Jesus says, collect heavenly treasures.
That brings us to the thoughts of our text today. What happens when we place an earthly value on a heavenly treasure? That’s sort of a summary of what God is talking about in this psalm. Psalm 107 forms a thematic collection with Psalms 105 and 106, and in their immediate context they address Israel’s history. Psalm 105 talks about the works of God early on in Israel’s history, many of the stories you know about from the book of Genesis. Psalm 106 connected those events to the current unfaithfulness of God’s people, and the direct consequence of captivity and exile under the Babylonians. Psalm 107 speaks of restoration from that judgment.
The problem that Israel had is that the LORD’s mercy became earthly and ordinary in their minds. It was like a song in their heads that began to annoy them. We might wonder how such a thing could happen given the extraordinary blessing of God’s mercy. Well, you don’t have to think too hard to find the answer. Look at the very first verse of our text: Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! This same phrase is found at the beginning of Psalms 105 and 106 also. It’s also scattered throughout the book of Psalms. If it sounds really familiar to you it’s probably because you’ve used it as a mealtime prayer – many of us do.
If this thought is familiar to you, then you know how easily it can be forgotten or forsaken. That’s what we do with familiar things, because their interest fades. This is especially true with prayers that we use repeatedly. There’s an extra challenge in using something familiar that you keep from allowing it to become hollow recitation. There is a place for repetition in our faith. Many of the prayers you grew up with as children are treasured in your heart throughout your entire life, and you desire the same blessing for your children. But the challenge is always present to keep them from beginning vain repetitions because of the tendency for things to fade in our lives.
We need to remember that the substance of our prayers, and any other truth from God’s Word, never fades from power or relevancy. Only we can create that false idea in our minds. God’s mercy is always abundant and present. It does not become something different or inferior just because we are used to hearing about it. We need to guard against the spiritual resentment that can build in our hearts against those truths that are well-known.
We’ve been talking about the phrase from verse 1, but that’s not the only well-known phrase in our text. Verse 8 reads, Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! Obviously, the thought here is almost identical to verse 1. What makes verse 8 interesting is that it appears exactly the same in vv.15, 21, and 31 of this psalm. Since many of the psalms were set to music, it’s quite probable that this verse was a refrain of some kind.
But the LORD had another purpose with this repetition. It’s symbolic of the very blessing the verse talks about. Regardless of how much we may tire of hearing about God’s grace – his love is steadfast. It is repetitive and consistent, not to annoy us, but because it’s the very thing we need. As the psalmist depicts many uncertain and trying times throughout the text, every trial is met with this refrain - Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!
Remember this – the element of life that leads to all earthly things fading, and spiritual things fading in our minds, is a problem on our end, not God’s. And despite the ways in which sin distorts the way we view God’s timeless truths, leading us to think of them more as hindrances than blessings, God will never abandon us to our own desire. Consider that point a bit more for a moment.
Life around us conditions us to strive for what we want at all costs. We are told that it is as oppressive and unfair when we aren’t able to have what we want. But as God tells us in His Word, sometimes the greatest thing He does for us is protect us against what we want. That is such a foreign thought in the world today that we really do need to step back and ponder its significance to fully appreciate it. More than any other generation of mankind, people today are living as if they have it all figured out and that we know exactly the way life needs to be. This attitude stems from the diabolical sin of pride. Even though this sin, the very same ailment that Israel suffered from, causes us to forsake God’s wisdom, truth, and even mercy in our lives, He never abandons us! His love is steadfast, not only in times when He grants our requests, but also in times when He protects us from the desires that would harm us. Isn’t it wonderful to be protected in this way? That’s why this psalm beckons us again and again not to forget or forsake the LORD’s mercy, especially in moments when we’re familiar with it because it’s been ever present in our lives.
Most evenings before bed I try to read a chapter of a book to the kids. A few months ago, we read Mutiny on the Bounty, a novel that is based on a real story. You may be familiar with the story but essentially it follows the journey of a ship named Bounty, under the command of Captain William Bligh. The story is memorable because in the middle of its voyage, a little under half the crew mutinied against Captain Bligh. The story of survival for those who remained faithful to Captain Bligh is remarkable to say the least. In a tiny wooden lifeboat that could barely hold all the men, they sailed 3,500 nautical miles in open water to safety. What they endured was nothing short of unbelievable.
I’m sure many of those men, as well as modern readers today, wonder – how did it get to that point? The story gives a few details that lead to an answer – Captain Bligh was a particularly harsh commander, the voyage had encountered several unexpected problems, some of the men were disinterested in returning to England, and there were others. As with many situations in life, no single reason was the sole reason, but it was really a combination of many factors, some within Captain Bligh’s’ control, some not.
The reason I think of this story today is that the psalm depicts the LORD’s steadfast love as rescuing His people from being lost and wandering in the wilderness. Israel’s ancestors knew this literally all too well as they wandered the wilderness during the Exodus. But the fading world around us can feel very much like a wasteland as well – especially in terms of spiritual nourishment. Within a situation like that, it’s tempting to look for reasons. Did we do something God didn’t like? Is He trying to punish me? Is it that person’s fault or that institution’s fault? Maybe we feel self-righteous and are always quick to blame others for our problems.
Like the HMS Bounty’s story, most of the time in our lives the trials we go through have a combination of different reasons. Living in hopelessness because of your mistakes or blaming others for everything wrong lead to the same place. It’s the futile, fading struggle in the wilderness of this world. But God tells you today, He can lead you out of the wilderness. He does so with His steadfast love. Consider that. We bring despair and struggle into our lives when we argue about every little detail concerning why – trying to blame others, trying to justify ourselves. Our ideas, hopes, feelings all change – almost daily. But the LORD who bought us with His own life never does. His love is faithful. It’s mercy precisely because He extends it to those who don’t deserve such a gift – whether it’s you or someone who wronged you. Because God is steadfast in His love, there is no place for despair and there is no reason for self-righteousness.
The gospel of Jesus is really the oldest story in the world, precisely because of it’s truth and faithfulness to sinners like us. Don’t let it fade in your mind or in your heart. No matter what you do wrong, or what someone else does to you, the LORD will be there to deliver. Amen.