Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Sermon on Psalm 107, for Thanksgiving Eve, "Let the Redeemed of the Lord say so"

Sermon Outline:
·         “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.”
·         Opening verses tell us that this chorus of thanksgiving: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!”, is the song of the redeemed. And Psalm 107 counts among the “redeemed” four groups—the wanderers in the desert, those in darkness and prison, the foolish, and those caught in storms at sea. Unfolds how each are redeemed from their various trouble, and why they should praise the Lord; also how the Lord rescues, showing His steadfast love.
·         So how does this Psalm teach us to give thanks to the Lord? How are we counted among the redeemed, even if our troubles do not directly parallel all those of the redeemed? “Redeemed” in original context: exiles from Israel returned from E, W, N, S. Scattered among the nations, and returned in answer to their prayers, that they might give thanks to God (Psalm 106:47). But still a Psalm for us today. We too are among the redeemed.
·         Our redemption: through the blood of Jesus—from the captivity of our sins. We are “the redeemed” in Christ Jesus. Ours is not an earthly homeland to return to—but a heavenly homeland. Which means that while we are redeemed out of our captivity to sin, by Jesus’ death on the cross—we are still “elect exiles” (1 Peter 1:1), traveling through a wilderness, sojourning in cities, and crossing seas (or skies) in a world that is not our home. We face similar distresses and troubles to the redeemed in the Psalm. But God has redeemed us for a purpose, and placed us here for a purpose—and part of that purpose is to proclaim His steadfast love! And further, we recognize that as “the redeemed”—we are part of a worshipping community—not lone wanderers, but those who have found company among the fellow redeemed. We lift up God among the redeemed, in the congregation of the people (v. 32). Our praises to God are meant for God’s glory, but also our mutual encouragement.
·         What can we learn from the four groups of the redeemed? Pattern for each of the four groups of “redeemed”: reason for their trouble; they are at a loss; cry out to God in their distress; He delivers them; and why we should give Him praise. Let’s look briefly at each of the reasons for giving God praise, and the window that gives into how God answers us in our distresses.
·         First, the constant refrain we’re called to echo is “Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of man!” And the first reason to do this, is given by the wanderers, led by the Lord to a safe dwelling. They thank God because He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things. “Hungry souls” are fed, Jesus tells us, “not… by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” God provides both for our physical hunger, and our spiritual hunger, and this latter is filled and satisfied by God’s own Word. His Word uplifts us, sustains us. We give thanks to God because He fills our spiritual hunger and longing. But also because He provides us with “food and drink, clothing and shelter, and all that we need to support this body and life.” All of this is our daily bread, for which we pray and receive with thanksgiving.
·         The second group of the redeemed are those delivered out of darkness and prison, and they give thanks because God “shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron.” The reason for their imprisonment was for rebellion against God’s Word and His counsels. Even if we’ve never seen the inside of a prison, we too know how imprisoning destructive choices in life can be. Whether in our own life, or that of loved ones, we know that certain sins can take us to “rock-bottom” where we lose all those things that are most valuable to us, whether that be friends and loved ones alienated from us, or losing our possessions through waste and irresponsibility, or losing our job from laziness or dishonesty. And yet in common with all the redeemed, those in prison and darkness reached the same point of falling down with no one to help, and turning to the Lord in distress, and seeking His help. And God set them free. There is no prison that can defy the power of God. There is no sin that can so hold us captive, that God cannot burst the bronze doors and cut through the iron bars. God’s Word of forgiveness and the power of new life is greater than any bars and chains of sin. There is no one for whom freedom and new life does not await them—if only they call on the Lord.
·         The third group of the redeemed are very similar to the second, in that they suffered from their sinful ways and their foolishness. They reaped the reward of their own guilt, until death was near. And they give praise to God for His deeds, in songs of joy. Great sadness comes from realizing our own folly, and the bed we have made for ourselves to lie in. Rarely do we see going into a sin, what the full consequences will be afterward. But it’s a miserable thing to suffer the effects of sin. But so great again, is God’s power to rescue from distress, that we are filled with even greater measure of joy when God does rescue us. The very definition of grace has to do with getting what we don’t deserve, rather than what we do deserve. God spares us from the futility of our sins and forgives us. Give thanks!
·         The final group of the redeemed, that gives thanks, is sailors who experienced the storm and tumult of the sea, and were terrified by the wind and the waves, but called upon God to rescue them, and were delivered. God calms the storm and brings them to safe haven. I don’t count any sailors among you, but many no doubt can tell of very real storms that have struck your life unexpectedly, and how apparent it was that you suddenly had no control of the situation, but were at the mercy of fearful forces around you. And if you called out to the Lord in your distress, you can also proclaim His steadfast love and tell how He carried you through the storms, and brought you to a safe haven.

·         God indeed is a rescuer, a deliver. Jesus demonstrated it time and time again in the storms on the sea of Galilee, in the tumults of the crowds, in the reordering of the chaos of people’s lives, from the demon-possessed to those grieving the death of a loved one. Jesus came preaching a message that set the captives free and proclaimed the day of the Lord’s favor. He is the Rescuer, the Deliverer, the Savior. The rest of the Psalm is a reflection on how God humbles the proud and the wicked, and brings the humble, the needy, and the weak into His blessing. It reminds us of how Jesus taught that God will humble the exalted, and exalt the humble. All the redeemed have come out of one kind of distress or another. All of you have been rescued by God’s Almighty hand in one fashion or another. Whether delivering us from our own sin and foolishness, and the error of our ways; or delivering us from the distress of enemies or the storms of impersonal forces and troubles—God is indeed in control, and He indeed is able to help. And the day of deliverance is filled with such joy, that praise rises up in our hearts. Let the redeemed say so! “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!” Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, because Jesus Christ has “rescued me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen!” (2 Tim. 4:18, NIV). 

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