Seward United Methodist Church
Monday, December 17, 2018
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Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So

Psalm 107

 “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!  His faithful love endures forever.  Has the Lord redeemed you?  Then speak out!  Tell others how he has saved you from your enemies.”  

 If you have experienced God’s faithful love, his redemption, his salvation, then you should not be silent.  You should tell of these things.  If anything, it should be hard to be quiet about them, not hard to speak about them.  

 “For he has gathered exiles from many lands, east and west, north and south.”  God is always looking for exiles, and exiles are looking for God.  What is an exile?  An exile is an outsider, a foreigner, a stranger in a strange land.  Exiles are those who do not find this world or this life to be their home.  They are looking for something more.  They’re hungry for something the world can’t satisfy.  God is looking for those people, and those people are looking for God, even if sometimes they’re not aware of it.  

 From these introductory verses, the Psalmist moves on to describe four examples of those who have experienced God’s redemption.  They are broad and general examples.  They are “open paradigms,” as someone said, in which we can see our own experiences played out.  

 In the fashion typical of Hebrew poetry, they are in parallel.  There are four examples of those who have experienced God’s redemption.  The first and the last mirror each other.  And the middle two also mirror each other.  In the first and the last, the causes of suffering are the limitations of the human condition.  We suffer because sometimes we encounter circumstances beyond our control.  In the middle two, the causes of suffering are poor choices.  Sometimes we suffer because of our own choices.  And in one way or another, probably all of our human suffering fits into one of these two categories: Our human limitations and poor choices we or others make.

 Verses 4 to 9 tell of the desert wanderers.  They are looking for a home.  They are hungry and thirsty for food and drink that can satisfy.  Without a sense of purpose, life quickly loses meaning.  But God can satisfy our hunger and thirst.  He can give us food and drink that satisfy.  He can lead us to a home.  I’m reminded of Hebrews 11:  “They were foreigners and nomads here on earth.  People who talk like that are looking for a country they can call their own.  If they meant the country they came from, they could

have gone back.  But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland.  So God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a heavenly city for them.”  

 Verses 10 to 16 tell us of the prisoners.  They made poor choices and became trapped in them.  Not all prisons have bars.  Most don’t, in fact.  Despair, hopelessness, addictions, even relationships can be prisons.  If we make poor choices in life, God may leave us to the consequences of our choices, so that we will know what life is like outside of his love.  But that doesn’t mean God forgets us.  He can break any chains and lead us out of any prison.  

 Verses 17 to 22 tell us of the suffering fools.  They are suffering, sick, wounded, and dying.  Again, it’s by their own choices.  In the biblical sense of the word, a fool is a moral fool, a person who rebels against God and makes sinful choices.  They need healing.  They need to be able to experience joy in life again.  God can do those things.  

 Verses 23 to 32 tell us of the storm-tossed sailors.  Again, they are overwhelmed by circumstances beyond their control or ability.  The sea in the ancient Near East world was a symbol of the powers of death and chaos.  They are afraid and uncertain.  They cry out to God.  God can calm the storm.  And even if God doesn’t choose to calm the storm, he can calm the heart of the sailor in the storm.  Sometimes that’s what we need more: Not to be removed from our circumstances, but to know God is with us in the midst of them.  

 These four examples are paradigms of how we experience God’s redemption.  Even if none of them exactly tells our story, somehow our story probably fits in with one of them.  At some point in our life, we’ve probably felt like we were in prison, or lost in the wilderness, or suffering and dying, or tossed about on the waves of a storm.  Maybe we’ve felt all of those things at some point.  In some way, our experience of God’s redemption finds voice in one of them, or even all of them.  

 We can also see them all played out in the life of Jesus.  Jesus fed the multitude in the wilderness.  Jesus released people who were held prisoner by greed, by guilt, by loneliness.  Jesus healed the sick.  And Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee.  

 After these four examples, the Psalmist moves on to conclude with a hymn about how God works and how we should respond.  He tells us of a God who can turn the world upside down, either for good or for bad:  A God who can turn deserts into pools of

water or fruitful land into salty wastes; a God who rescues the poor and blesses them or brings powerful princes down to nothing.  

 In light of all this, our fundamental posture before God should be humility, dependence, and gratitude.  That’s not what our culture says, of course.  Our culture encourages us to be proud and self-sufficient, imagining we can do it all on our own.  

 But that is what Jesus taught us to do.  Jesus taught us to live dependently.  In Mark 8 that we looked at a couple weeks ago, Jesus said:  “Put aside your selfish ambition, take up your cross, and follow me.  If you try to keep your life, you’ll lose it.  But if you lay down your life, you will find true life.”  That’s an attitude of humility and dependence.  In the eyes of the world, it’s foolishness, but in the eyes of God, it is the power of God and the wisdom of God, for God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom and his weakness is greater than human strength (1 Corinthians 1:24-25).

 If we are wise, then we see God at work.  We see his faithful love in our history, and we are glad.  And then, we tell others.  

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