Psalm 107 celebrates two related themes: Yahweh’s covenant love and his salvation. The opening verses set the tempo: “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south” (vv. 1–3). Notice how Yahweh’s steadfast love and redemption are combined as the reason for the thanksgiving that the psalmist commends.
The psalmist continues by listing specific acts of divine deliverance that commend praise. Some were delivered from a desert wasteland (vv. 4–9), some from prison (vv. 10–16), some from Sheol (vv. 17–22), and some from the sea (vv. 23–32). In each instance, the reader is asked to praise Yahweh for his steadfast love, which secured the deliverance in question (vv. 8, 15, 21, 31).
In vv. 33–41, the psalmist rejoices more generally in the delivering power of Yahweh before concluding the psalm with a call for those who are wise to “attend to these things” and “consider the steadfast love of the LORD” (vv. 42–43).
While there is no superscription to provide context for the circumstances of the psalm, it appears apparent from the opening verses that the prayer was written when God’s people were “gathered” again from their exile in foreign lands (v. 3). This psalm, then, was likely a prayer written when God’s people returned to Jerusalem from the Babylonian exile.
We know from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah what a difficult time this was for the covenant nation. While they were thankful that God had restored their fortunes, the challenges they faced back home were very real. Restoration was not an easy path. Enemies threatened them before they had opportunity to rebuild and fortify and it seemed on more than one occasion that the return might end before it had begun.
The psalmist does not gloss over the challenges of exile. He writes powerfully of the extreme difficulties that God’s people experienced during the exile. But he writes also to encourage his readers that Yahweh had proven faithful during exile and had delivered his people from many a challenge. They should now believe that the God who had done so in exile would do so again post-exile.
The psalmist’s real burden is for his readers to recognise that Yahweh’s steadfast love is not an abstract notion that makes for great household decorations but has no effect in everyday life. They needed to see that Yahweh’s steadfast love had secured deliverance in the past and believe that it could do so again for them. Yahweh had previously raised the needy out of their affliction (vv. 41); he could do so again.
We often take great joy in singing about God’s love. Bible verses that speak of his love litter our social media feeds and decorate the walls of our homes. But do we believe that his love makes a difference? Is Yahweh’s steadfast love more than theory to us? Do we believe that, as his love secured deliverance for his people in the past, so his love is powerful to secure our deliverance?
Christian, as you move through another day, allow the words of Psalm 107 to encourage you that God’s love is powerful to save. Ponder his covenant love and allow it to make a difference in your love today.