By Henry Mahan
The theme of this Psalm is thanksgiving and praise to the Lord for his goodness and his wonderful works of redemption and deliverance to the children of men (vv. 1, 8, 15, 21, 31).
Men in general do not see nor own the goodness of the Lord to sinful men, but the 'redeemed of the Lord' rejoice in his mercy and they say so! (vv. 1-2.) They have actually experienced, under Holy Spirit conviction, all that is written in this Psalm and rejoice in his special grace and mercy in delivering them (Psalm 103:1-5).
This Psalm is a vivid picture of the sinner's bondage, his troubles and sorrows in sin, his inability to find a wav out, his cry unto the Lord for mercy, and God's sovereign mercy to the sinner in Christ. Each section ends with, 'He saved them out of their distresses.'
The last verse reveals the importance of the Psalm, 'Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord' (v. 43; 1 John 5:20.)
v. 1. 'The Lord is good.' His goodness and mercy are especially magnified in the unworthiness of their objects. His mercy is both forever and endures forever. His mercy to us in Christ preceded our call and cry and will endure despite our failures. He is good when he takes away as well as when he gives, when he wounds and when he heals, when he frowns and when he smiles. 'The Lord is good,' for there is none good but the Lord.
v. 2. Particular redemption leads to special praise. Salvation is of the Lord from its origination to its consummation; and the redeemed of the Lord acknowledge that they are what they are by the grace of God!
v. 3. We were in bondage to the law, captives of sin, under the curse, condemnation, and sentence of divine justice; and he, by his obedience and death, redeemed us (1 Peter 1:18-21). A full atonement has been made, the price is paid, and there is no charge nor condemnation that can be laid to us (Rom. 8:31-34).
He has gathered in Christ all whom he purposed to save and all whom he purchased by his blood from every nation under heaven (Rev. 5:9; Eph. 1:10-12).
vv. 4-9. Here is our fall and the lost state of men by nature: our misery and inability to find any peace or rest. We are brought to a right sense of our condition and cry to the Lord Jesus for deliverance. He hears us and delivers us out of all our distresses.
We wander 'in the wilderness,' lost in sin; lonely, for like sheep, we have gone astray to our own way (Isa. 53:6). We 'find no place to dwell,' for there is none! God only is our dwellingplace. 'Hungry and thirsty;' this is Holy Spirit conviction, for God must make us willing in the day of his power (Psalm 110:3).
Holy Spirit conviction of sin leads to spiritual hunger and thirst, which can only find its satisfaction in Christ, 'Their soul fainted in them;' there is no one to help. Like the woman with the issue of blood, we can find no help on this earth.
'Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble.' Not until a man really becomes lost, not until he thirsts for forgiveness and realizes that no one but God can deliver him from this lost, helpless condition will he cry unto the Lord Jesus. Peter cried, 'Lord, save me or perish.' The helpless leper (Matt. 8:1-3) cried, 'Lord, if you will you can make me clean.' The THIEF ON THE CROSS acknowledged his sin, his just condemnation, and cried for mercy.
'He delivered them out of their distresses.' Do you see why they give thanks? Do you see why they praise him? Do you see why they cry, 'Unto him who hath loved us and washed us from sin, unto him be the glory forever, amen'?
He delivered us out of our trouble and distresses, and also 'He led them forth by the right way.' This is the way of righteousness in Christ Jesus (Psalm 23:3; 2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 10:1-4). He has made us righteous, holy, and unblamable that we might 'go to a city of habitation'--his presence, his glory, his heaven! Abraham looked for that city (Heb. 11:10).
'O that men would praise the Lord,' give him the glory, own and declare that the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord (2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:5-6).
'He satisfies the longing soul and fills the hungry soul with goodness.' Our Lord saves us out of our sin, and he gives us a righteousness which assures us of eternal glory: but he also, here and now, satisfies our souls with his presence, peace, rest, and joy. His daily grace is sufficient and his presence a delight.
Our ultimate satisfaction will be to awake in his likeness (Isa. 26:3-4; Phil. 4:6-7; Psalm 17:15).
vv. 10-16, 17-21, 23-31. All these illustrations and pictures tell the story of God's sovereign grace to sinners in Christ. Holy Spirit conviction of sin leads to a realization of our state of misery and condemnation. In the light of God's holiness and God's word, we see our inability and the impossibility of human help, which causes us to cry in our troubles unto him 'who is able to save to the uttermost' (Heb. 7:25). He is not only willing but ABLE to save, for he has somewhat to offer (Heb. 8:1-3).
v. 32. Those who know who he is, what he has done, and where our great Lord is now will certainly exalt him, magnify his name, and give him all glory in the congregation.
vv. 33-41. God is the first cause of all things (1 Sam. 2:3-10; Job 1:21). Especially in redemption will God glorify his grace by humbling the proud and exalting the humble (James 4:6). 'He turns the rivers of the proud into a wilderness and the wilderness of the humble into standing water.'
v. 42. The righteous know this and rejoice; all others shall stop their mouths.