Formally, the psalm falls into seven divisions:
Professor Cheyne finds in this passage—which he views as an "appendix" to the psalm—a falling off from the earlier portion of the psalm, and a set of "sentences strung together without much reflection." But to others the transition from special deliverances to God's general dealings with mankind seems an enlargement and an advance in the thought, although the language may be less graphic and more commonplace than in the former portion of the composition.
And there he maketh the hungry to dwell . God gives the laud, which he has thus blessed, to some previously famishing people; as he did Canaan to Israel after they had had but scant fare in the wilderness. That they may prepare a city for habitation ; literally, and they prepare . It is naturally their first thought to prepare themselves a settled dwelling-place (comp. Genesis 4:17 ; Genesis 11:4 ; Genesis 25:16 , etc.).
The wheel of providence "goes full circle," lifting up the lowly and abasing the proud. God turns the rivers into a wilderness, and the wilderness into standing water, etc. ( Psalms 107:33 , Psalms 107:35 ).
I. THE DIVINE OVERTHROW . He cast out the guilty inhabitants of Canaan, and planted in their place the children of Israel; but when these rebelled against him, he rejected them, and sent them forth into a strange land. Thus has God humbled nations age after age; thus has he humiliated Churches—both great ecclesiastical organizations, and such Churches as those we read of in the Apocalypse ( Revelation 2:1-29 ; Revelation 3:1-22 .). And thus may we expect that he will bring down all communities that forget their Creator, that are false to their Redeemer, that are unfaithful to their mission.
II. THE DIVINE UPBUILDING . ( Psalms 107:35-38 , Psalms 107:41 .) A people, a Church, a society, may be very low, there may be but a spark of life in it; yet it need not despair. There is a hand which can kindle the faintest spark into a noble flame; there is One who can turn the sterile desert into the fruitful field. Far above all means and measures is the consideration—Is God ' s favor gained? Our expectation is from him. "Let Israel hope in the Lord." There are three things which avail to secure his good pleasure and his restoring power.
1. Penitence for past misdeeds and present unworthiness.
2. The faith which leads to earnest prayer for his blessing.
3. The appropriate, devoted action to which he calls us.
Under these conditions we may look for a Divine revolution—evil and sorrow overturned, righteousness and prosperity restored.
Wherefore men should praise the Lord.
Such is the theme of this glorious psalm. "It contains the thanksgiving of exiles ( Psalms 107:3 ) apparently not yet returned to Jerusalem, but already escaped from the thraldom of Babylon." Note—
I. ITS GENERAL LESSONS .
1. It tells of present earthly troubles . They were such as the returning exiles had met with, for Babylon was not the alone place of exile. There had been weary wanderings in the barren, waterless, and burning deserts; cruel and hopeless imprisonment; sickness nigh unto death; perils by sea (cf. Jeremiah 16:15 ; Jeremiah 40:12 ; Daniel 9:7 ). And it repeatedly declares the real cause of human troubles—the wickedness of men.
2. It warrants our praying for deliverance from such troubles . It tells how all the troubled ones did this. And, indeed, it is an instinct in man to thus pray.
4. It demands that therefore men should praise the Lord . It expresses a longing desire that men should do this, but also a tacit confession that many of them would not. These are the lessons that lie on the surface of the psalm. But are they true? Consider, therefore—
II. THE QUESTION OF THEIR TRUTHFULNESS .
1. The psalmist had no doubt about it . But in our day many doubt it much. They say all these troubles come to men now, and instead of deliverance such as is here affirmed as ever taking place in answer to prayer, there is in the majority of such cases no deliverance at all.
2. Calvin argues (see Perowne, in loc.) that no doubt the most do perish, but, then, all deserved to; therefore if any are saved it is by the great mercy of God: God was not bound to save any of them. But how can any thoughtful soul be satisfied with such reply? It is like Calvin, but all unlike the teaching of Christ.
3. The true reply is, that God answers prayer in different ways. He will ever give the best thing—of which he only can be the Judge-but that may not be the thing we cry for and when he does literally deliver, it is rarely by interfering with natural laws, but rather is it by suggesting to men's minds how they may work out their own deliverance. He teaches them here to use the laws of nature so as to win what they desire; but he does not miraculously set those laws aside. It is true God ever answers sincere prayer, but not that he does so in the literal, direct way which the psalmist believed. But if we allow ourselves, as we surely may, to regard these distresses as patterns and images of spiritual distresses, then the declarations of the psalm are absolutely true. Therefore consider—
III. ITS SPIRITUAL SUGGESTIONS .
1. That in these earthly troubles we have such as are spiritual faithfully represented .
2. That we may and should pray for deliverance from them .
3. That such prayer shall be surely answered .
4. That then it is our bounden duty to praise the Lord . "Whoso is wise will consider these things, and," etc. ( Psalms 107:43 ).—S.C.
God's commonplace mercies.
The difference in the style and contents of the latter part of this psalm has been noticed by almost every writer. The pictures, with their closing refrain, cease; and in a hurried way instances of God's providential government are given. It has been thought that the psalm was completed by another poet; but in that case the structure of the psalm would have been closely imitated. The peculiarity of this portion may be explained by showing that the psalmist had spoken of God's gracious relation to special forms of trouble; and he might leave the impression that God was only in them. And men might be feeling very deeply how commonplace their life was. Without such special experiences they might take up the notion that they were out of the spheres of special Divine mercies; and so the didactic psalmist puts in a word for these: in a few skilful sentences he sketches ordinary, commonplace life, and shows God's relation to it . The things briefly mentioned suggest—
I. THE COMMONPLACE ADVERSITIES OF LIFE . Such are the difficulties of the seasons, the rains, the floods, the drought, in their relation to agricultural life.
II. THE COMMONPLACE ENTERPRISES OF LIFE . Working for a living, tillage, building, planting, tending cattle, etc.
III. THE COMMONPLACE DISASTERS OF LIFE . Accidents, diseases, plagues, etc.
IV. THE COMMONPLACE ENMITIES OF LIFE . For few men pass through many years without suffering from the mischief-making schemes of those who, by reason of envy or masterfulness, make themselves their enemies. The psalmist urges that God is quits as truly in the commonplace as in the unusual. He is working through our everyday life experience some high and gracious moral end. And therefore every man should be quick to observe the "loving-kindness of the Lord," and ever ready to "praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men."—R.T.
God's watchful care.
"Whatever the circumstances under which the psalm was written, there can be no doubt as to the great lesson which it inculcates"—that God watches over men, and his ear is open to their prayers. Look at some illustrations.
I. GOD HAD ANSWERED THE CRY OF THE JEWS IN EXILE , AND RESTORED THEM TO THEIR OWN COUNTRY . ( Psalms 107:2 , Psalms 107:8 , Psalms 107:9 .) They were called on to give thanks for thou wonders, and to remember that "he filleth the hungry soul with good." God is working toward the deliverance of all enslaved nations. This thought is amplified in Psalms 107:10-16 , with special reference to the sins that had plunged them into such helpless affliction, and therefore how much they should praise God for loving-kindness!
II. THE EMPHATIC THOUGHT IN , Psalms 107:17-22 IS THAT GOD DELIVERS WICKED MEN , WHEN THEY CALL UPON HIM , OUT OF THE VERY SHADOWS OF DEATH . God pities transgressors, and loves them with an infinite compassion in their terrors and sufferings. He sendeth his word—the message of his mercy—and healeth them; delivers them "from their graves."
III. Another example: HE DELIVERS THE SAILOR . FROM THE STORMS OF THE SEA . ( Psalms 107:23-32 .) Wonderful description of a storm and its subsidence. "Then are they glad because they be quiet, and he leadeth them to their desired haven." The psalmist is writing poetry under the inspiration of a devout faith; and not science, discussing the unchangeable laws of material nature. The preacher must do his utmost to reconcile poetry and science in the theology he teaches.
IV. Now the current of thought changes its direction, but only for a moment. GOD SOMETIMES MAKES THE WICKED AN EXAMPLE OF HIS TEMPORAL JUDGMENTS . ( Psalms 107:33 , Psalms 107:34 .) But this thought is uncongenial, and is soon changed again for the thought of God's mercy. The wilderness is crowned with cities; and the poor and humble are raised to the condition of princes, and the rich and the proud overthrown. The question at the close most suggestive, that it is only the observant and the wise that can understand the loving-kindnesses of God; only they that can approach to the solution of the great problems of God's providence.—S.