By Henry Law
Exhortation to thanksgiving is the first note of this Psalm. Various motives follow. Man is exhibited in diverse straits and difficulties, and God appears in the plenitude of His grace.
1. "O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endures forever."
Calls to thanksgiving cannot be too frequently renewed. Overflowing streams of mercy follow the redeemed during all their days. Each instance has a voice loudly crying, Give thanks, give praise. Let our heartstrings be strained to the utmost to lift up adoration.
2-3. "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy; and gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south."
Surely this will be the constant note of all who realize redemption. They once were in bondage to the power of darkness, but are rescued by the mighty arm of Jesus. The Savior has shattered the scepter of their arch-enemy. He has opened their prison-doors, and has translated them into the kingdom of their God. Loud should be their present song. Soon shall they be gathered safely to their eternal home; and the great multitude, which no man can number, of all nations and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues shall upraise the universal Hallelujah!
4-9. "They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses. And He led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation. Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness."
This is a graphic description of wanderers and exiles. In it we see the children of Israel in their tedious journeyings; but it especially portrays the outcast condition in which the redeemed often mourn. Their souls are tossed on restless billows. They wander and stray. They long for repose, but they find it not. They are exposed to every peril. They require support, and know not how to obtain it. At last they turn to God, and direct their cries to Him. He speedily arises, and their difficulties vanish. Oh that the saints would feel that He is guiding them aright, and that soon their end will be welcome admission to the heaven of heavens! A new chorus follows; Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men. All desires are satisfied. Goodness meets all cravings. God's wonder-working hand has strewn blessings around.
10-16. "Such as sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the most High; Therefore He brought down their heart with labor; they fell down, and there were none to help. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and broke their bands in sunder. Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He has broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder."
Forgetful of all God's goodness, His people are prone to scorn His counsels, and to rebel against His gracious authority. The sure consequence is due chastisement. The rejection of His easy yoke leads to the darkness of the prison-house, and to the shackles of the iron chains. But still there is hope. God lives, mighty to deliver; to Him they cry, and deliverance comes on speedy wings. Let the chorus sound again; Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men. His people rejoice in liberty; the prison-gates are burst asunder; the bars of iron are shattered.
17-22. "Fools, because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted; their soul abhors all manner of food; and they draw near to the gates of death. Then they cry to the Lord in their trouble, and He saves them out of their distresses. He sent His word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing."
Senseless men will rush into transgression. Many afflictions follow. The wasted body rejects all nourishment. At last prayer revives, and prayer is a prevailing power. God's word, which commanded sickness, commands the return of health. Again the chorus sounds--again thanksgivings multiply; Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men. And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing. Let His altar be laden with utterances of adoring love. Thus let merited misery vanish in incense of pious joy.
23-27. "Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. For He commands, and raises the stormy wind, which lifts its waves. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths; their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end."
One of nature's most astounding scenes here meets us. The sea is lashed into terrific fury. The staggering mariners are bewildered. Where did this terror come from? What is the cause of this dismay? The Lord sent forth His voice. The obedient billows reflect His will. They raise gigantic heads; they threaten to invade the highest heights of heaven. Again they descend, as if to search the lowest depths, and to penetrate into its deepest caverns. The affrighted mariners no longer can retain firm step. They tremble with the trembling ship, and no resources give relief.
28-32. "Then they cry to the Lord in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. He makes the storm a calm, so that its waves are still. Then are they glad because they are quiet; so He brings them to their desired haven. Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! Let them exalt Him also in the congregation of the people, and praise Him in the assembly of the elders."
God sits above the tempest's rage. To Him in their terror the shipmen cry. He never turns from prayer. He hears, and lulls the storm. Behold His mighty power! His will softens the raging lion into the gentle lamb. We are reminded of our Jesus in the storm on the Sea of Galilee. He rebuked the winds and waves, and perfect calm ensued. The rejoicing mariners see God's wondrous hand, and reach in safety the haven which they sought. A sea of perils often threatens to engulf believers. But let them pray and trust. Their souls need fear no shipwreck. The glad chorus again sounds rapturously; Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! Let them exalt Him also in the congregation of the people, and praise Him in the assembly of elders. Let them praise Him in the secret of their chambers; let them praise Him when His assembled people celebrate holy worship.
33-41. "He turns rivers into a wilderness, and the water-springs into dry ground; a fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of those who dwell there. He turns the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into water-springs. And there He makes the hungry to dwell, that they may prepare a city for habitation; and sow the fields, and plant vineyards, which may yield fruits of increase. He blesses them also, so that they are multiplied greatly, and does not allow their cattle to decrease. Again, they are diminished, and brought low through oppression, affliction, and sorrow. He pours contempt upon princes, and causes them to wander in the wilderness, where there is no way. Yet sets He the poor on high from affliction, and makes his families like a flock."
The earth sees vicissitudes of fertility and famine. The waters of the rivers cease. The verdant fields become a barren waste. Again the wilderness is fertilized by springs. The fields receive the seed. The grapes hang in clusters. The mightiest princes are brought low. The poor and needy are crowned with plenty. These wonders are wrought by God's hand. All things obey His word. They are recorded for our admonition.
42-43. "The righteous shall see it, and rejoice; and all iniquity shall stop her mouth. Whoever is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord."
God's people ponder these wondrous works. With joy and gladness they recognize His hand; while the wicked must hang down their heads in silence. Let God's dealings be our constant study. They give marvelous instruction. The crowning lesson is, that God is loving, faithful, true.