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Psalm 107

Live gratefully, live wisely

When we feel overwhelmed, we easily blame God for not helping—for letting us flail. This psalm stresses how gracious God is to the weak and the undeserving. It calls us to live life gratefully and wisely.

Give thanks to Yahveh
for he’s so good
and his outrageous love endures forever!
2 Let those Yahveh has redeemed say that—
those he’s freed from their foes’ grasp
3 and brought back from foreign lands.
From east and west
from north and south.[1]

4 People wandered in trackless wastelands
finding no way to a city they could live in.
5 Hungry and thirsty
they’d given up all hope.
6 Then they cried out to Yahveh in desperation
and he rescued them from their distress.
7 He put them on a road
leading right to a city they could live in.
Let them thank Yahveh for the unfailing love
that moves him to save his beloved children.
9 For he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good food.

10 Some were confined in darkness and gloom
prisoners bound by miserable iron chains
11 for rebelling against God Most High
refusing to follow his word.
12 So he broke them with hard labor
and when they stumbled and fell
nobody helped them up.
13 Then they cried out to Yahveh in desperation
and God saved them from their distress.
14 Breaking their chains off them
he brought them out their dark despair.
15 Let them thank Yahveh for the unfailing love
that moves him to save his beloved children.
16 He bursts through doors of bronze
and breaks through bars of iron.

17 Some who foolishly rebelled against God
suffered for their waywardness.
18 They retched at the very taste of food
till they ended up at death’s door.
19 Then they cried to Yahveh in desperation
and he rescued them from their ordeal.
20 God gave the word and healed them
rescuing them from certain death.
21 Let them thank Yahveh for the unfailing love
that moves him to save his beloved children.
22 Let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices
recounting what he’s done with joyful shouts!

23 Some people set sail in seafaring ships
plying their trade on the high seas.
24 They, too, witnessed what Yahveh can do
his powerful acts on the briny deep.
25 His command whipped up gale-winds
that raised up mountainous waves
26 tossing their ships sky-high
only then to plunge them into the depths—
taking everyone’s courage down with them.
27 They staggered and reeled like drunkards—
all their sailors’ skill made useless by the gale.
28 Then they cried out to Yahveh in desperation
and he saved them from their peril.
29 He silenced the storm
and calmed the sea’s waves.
30 They were overjoyed
when he stilled the waves
and guided them safely
into the harbor they were heading for.
31 Let them thank Yahveh for the unfailing love
that moves him to save his beloved children.
32 Let them exalt him when the people assemble
praising him when the leaders meet.

33 He turns rivers into desert
babbling springs into parched land
34 and fertile fields into a salt waste
because the people living there are so evil.
35 He also turns desert into lake country
arid wasteland into gushing springs.
36 He settles the hungry there
where they build themselves a city.
37 They sow fields and plant vineyards there
harvesting the crops they produce.
38 They become numerous under his blessing
and their livestock never decreases.
40 He pours contempt on potentates
making them wander a trackless waste
39 where they’re impoverished, beaten down
crippled by oppression and sorrow.[2]
41 But he lifts the poor out of their misery
and makes their families flourish like flocks.
42 Seeing this, the upright rejoice
while the wicked are left speechless.

43 Let those who are wise
take all these things to heart
and ponder Yahveh’s acts of unfailing love.

Written after Cyrus’s release of the Jews from exile, this psalm begins the Psalms’ final book. Books III and IV respectively questioned and reaffirmed God’s faithfulness to Israel. Book V begins with a resounding call to give thanks to the God who has gathered Israel from the four corners of the world.  He rules the nations and faithfully hears the helpless who cry to him.

The psalm’s body presents four groups of people desperate for God’s help before he rescues them from their plight. The first and last groups—the homeless and those facing shipwreck—are engulfed by the world’s chaos. The suffering of the two central groups—those in bondage and deathly ill—is due to their sins. But God rescues all four groups when they simply cry to him in desperation. So the psalmist calls those God has rescued to thank him before the faith community and offer sacrifices.

Then the psalmist celebrates God’s magisterial power to reverse peoples’ condition, whether they’re oppressors or victims of oppression. Yahveh thus maintains creation’s moral order, leaving God-seekers ecstatic and self-seekers dumbfounded. The psalmist concludes with an admonition that all who are wise live in the light of God’s perfect justice, relentless love, and unlimited power to save all who cry to him.

You showed us God’s love, Jesus, by restoring lepers to community, setting captives free, healing the sick, stilling the storm. Thank you for lavishing your grace on me too, unworthy as I am, and for being a God of justice and power. Help me live gratefully in the light of all that you are. Amen.

During your free moments today, meditate on these words:

Let them thank Yahveh for the unfailing love
that moves him to save his beloved children.


[1] All Hebrew manuscripts say “sea,” which may refer to Israel’s first deliverance through the Sea of Reeds. But “south” appears in early translations, and a scribal error could easily have changed “south” (yamin) to “sea” (yam).

[2] A mark in the manuscript margin says vv. 39-40 should be read in reverse order.

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.