Our reading today begins with Psalm 107, a Psalm of praise to God for His redemption of His people. It begins with the common refrain of praise (107:1 – see Ezra 3:11), which the Psalmist calls for all the redeemed of YHWH to say (v. 2). He speaks of the trouble God has redeemed them from and speaks of the gathered from the whole earth (v. 3). While this could be hyperbole praising God for bringing the physical remnant back to Jerusalem, it is ultimately praising God for redeeming all the elect of the earth.
The Psalmist then describes the troubles God has redeemed His people from. Verses 4-7 could describe the wilderness wanderings of Israel after the Exodus, the return from Babylonian exile, or the calling of the spiritual remnant from the nations now called to salvation by God.1 I would favor the latter, as God’s hesed love and wondrous works are for the children of man (adam) and His satisfaction is spiritual (vv. 8-9). Understanding this as speaking of true, spiritual salvation, verse 10 would speak of sin and death, verse 11 would refer to the Babel incident, and verse 12 would speak of the hopeless state of the scattered nations as we languished in ignorance of God under the oppression of other gods.
Verse 13 then speaks of crying to the Lord for spiritual salvation (see v. 6, 19, 28 and Joel 3:32), and verse 14 His providing salvation to them. Verses 17-22 echo verses 10-16. The world was under the power of sin and death (vv. 17-18), but those who call on the Lord (v. 19) are saved. In verse 20, the sending of His Word for healing is the mission of the church – it is the preaching of the Gospel to all nations that they may be saved. Then those saved (out of the world, of the children of man – v. 20) join th thankful chorus (v. 21) and become part of the mission by telling of God’s deeds (v. 22).
Verses 23-32 tell the same story again. Verses 23-27 speak of those in the dark seeing the creative power of God around them. The “depths” of verse 26 is the word used for the primordial state of the earth in creation (see the “deep” of Gen 1:2). This creation evidence for God renders every man with no excuse not to believe (see Rom 1:18-20). The picture of men literally just going about their business in this chaotic state is what it is to be without God. But when one cries out to God for salvation (v. 28), God stills the chaos (v. 29) and saves (v. 30). Then those saved join in the chorus of praise (vv. 31-32).
Then the Psalmist speaks of God’s sovereignty in judgment and salvation. He turns fruitful lands into wastelands (vv. 33-34) and deserts into lands of plenty (vv. 35-38). When God’s people are oppressed or persecuted (v. 39) God avenges them (v. 40). The afflicted are saved (v. 41) and all the world sees it (v. 42). The Psalmist ends by calling us to wisely live according to these truths (v. 43). Let us never cease to consider the hesed love of YHWH!
Psalm 116 is a Psalm of praise for God answering the call for salvation. God hears those who call on Him (116:1). In fact, He always hears the prayers of His people (v. 2). The Psalmist here recalls His cry for salvation when he realized he was under the domain of sin and death (vv. 3-4). Now, he praises God for His grace and mercy (v. 5). He praises God for his salvation (v. 8), which means that even in this world he walks in the presence of God (v. 9). Therefore, his faith is unshaken even in affliction (vv. 10-11).
In verses 12-14, the Psalmist determines to live his life as a living sacrifice unto God. He will call upon Him and be obedient (v. 13, 17-18). He knows that his days are numbered by God (v. 15); every one of his steps are guarded by God for all his days. So he will devote himself to serving God because of His great salvation (v. 16) among all of His people (vv. 18b-19). Praise the Lord!
Psalm 117, the shortest Psalm and shortest chapter in the Bible, speaks for itself. It summarizes the other two Psalms we have considered today.
1 Remember, the Exodus and the return from exile are both types of the salvation in Christ, anyway!