Book 5: Psalms 107-150
This is a catchall collection of several smaller collections of public worship songs, including the songs of Ascents and Hallelujah psalms. In other ways it seems to celebrate specifically covenant promises and how to claim them.
This is called “The Song of the Redeemed.” While the specific focus is how God has kept His covenant promises, we do well to remember there is more than one covenant with humanity. The promises under Moses are specific examples of how God acts in all times and places. If you cling to a heart-mind awareness of His divine moral character in Creation, then Creation will respond of itself, but He will amplify those natural blessings to those who love Him.
We are treated to five examples, but the last is more of a summary. All are in dire straights, as is the norm for fallen humanity. In some cases the trouble is because of a failure to keep faith with God, but some are simply the result of seemingly random circumstance. God does what He does, and humans often stumble into His works without full knowledge and run the risk of perishing. In call cases, calling on His name is the key to deliverance, while giving thanks and praise is the key to staying out of more trouble. Does anyone have to explain that the symbolic or parabolic meaning is more important than the specific imagery?
It’s not hard to pick out the pattern of musical stanzas in the first four examples. Someone comes into difficulty, cries out to God and He delivers. The psalmist encourages all to glorify God for His greatness, as demonstrated by the repeated phrase, “His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the sons of man!”
First are the travelers. For Israel, the standard symbol is wandering in the semi-desert wilderness. There is no particular sin at work; this is simply how the world is. By default, we are blind to God’s promises of provision. We cannot with our own human abilities find the basic needs of life and create a stable society. The symbol of shalom is summed up as stable and prosperous life in an Eastern feudal community. But if mankind calls on God, He will provide their needs, in this case by guiding them into His divine provision. He shows them the place He made for them and it provides all they need. When you respond to God’s call on your life, He provides all you need to glorify His name.
Second are the captives; there is little difference between slavery and prison in the ancient Hebrew world. In this case, it is the result of disobeying God, hinting at idolatry. This is a parable for those who reject whatever revelation God offers, and are forced to serve the Enemy of our souls. Calling on God is the only deliverance.
The third group is portrayed as ill, but the primary cause is moral illness — insensitive to the moral fabric of Creation. There is no pleasure in this dissolute life, and they approach death rapidly. But calling on God brings healing and restoration.
Fourth are sailors, a job that is high risk with a high payoff if you succeed. Ancient mariners were uniformly religious and quite superstitious because they were so powerless. They were fully aware of the power of God’s mighty works in Creation, because they saw it up close. When by His inscrutable will He sends storms into their lives, they experience the radical ups and downs of high waves, hardly able to keep their feet under them. But if they cry out to God, He can deliver them and guide them to their destination.
Finally, the psalmist summarizes God’s faithful to Israel. Had he called her to occupy the most desolate land of all, it would not have mattered. Were she faithful to the covenant mission, God could have easily made the desert like a garden, with streams and pools aplenty. It would become fertile and produce abundant food. Life would explode, including their own population. And if they stray from that mission, it could all be reversed and they would be oppressed and humiliated by their enemies. Don’t get too fat and sassy, because God favors the humble who depend entirely on Him.
The psalm closes with a final warning to heed the moral character of God as indicated by these examples.