This is one of the few psalms that feels like a song to the western ear. It even has a refrain: “Let them praise the Lord for His wonderful works to the children of men.”
The psalm depicts a common occurrence in the life of many of God’s people. People get in trouble because they ignore God, then they call to God and He delivers them.
Although there have been times when believers say that God led them into trouble in order to bring them back to Him, this is not what this psalm says. In the instances recorded here, the flaws and sins of human beings is what leads them into trouble. The fact that God helps them out of the troubles they themselves have caused does not mean He is the one who always created the conflict in the first place.
The psalmist depicts a variety of troubles, some self-caused, some caused by God. All of these troubles are pushed away by God, who has redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. Therefore the psalm’s refrain and exhortation is to praise God for His goodness to humans.
There are two chief exhortations. The first is that men should praise the Lord for His goodness and mercy toward them. The second is that the redeemed of the Lord should declare that He has redeemed them.
God’s people are aware of how he has delivered them. In fact, the covenant we have with God is based on his having redeemed us from slavery — enslavement to ourselves, sickness, human pride, the world, and to the enemy’s schemes. This bond with our Deliverer is one of the most important bonds whether one is Jewish or Christian or both. At Mount Sinai, God reminded the Israelites that they were His special people whom He had cared for and delivered. Therefore they were to have no other God but Him. In the same way, Christians are bound to Christ because of the blood Christ shed to redeem them.
Yet, God’s people often forget His faithfulness and His covenant with Him. Most Christians would say that they have not forgotten that Jesus redeemed them or that God’s word is truth. But the psalmist tells us in verse 11 that God’s people rebelled against His word and condemned the counsel of the Most High.
The word of God spoken to our hearts by the Holy Spirit often speaks of our redemption from sickness, sin, demons, and hell. This word in our spirit agrees with what is spoken in Scripture. Yet, many Christians often reject the guidance spoken to their hearts and receive the guidance spoken by human counselors. Even if they do not forget that the Lord has redeemed them from the hand of the enemy, they complain. They glorify the illness and sorrows that oppress them and murmur at troubles instead of acknowledging God’s redemption. Instead of resting in God’s truth, they murmur and complain against him. Because of this, they continue bound in their sickness and trapped by oppression until they call out to God.
In addition, sometimes they have trials because of their own foolishness and sins. They forget that God has broken the power of sin over their lives. They forget that they have been redeemed. Again, God tells them His Word.
The verse “He sent His Word and healed them” could mean several things. First and foremost, it means God sent Jesus Christ, God’s living word — every word God ever said from the beginning of time made into a human form. The Bible tells us in Isaiah 53 that all are healed by the wounds Jesus received. So, God sent Jesus to heal us.
Secondly, God’s word in Scripture has God’s living power in it and also heals us.
Thirdly, the verse could mean God sent a command to heal us. This is when God sovereignly heals His people. But the most typical meaning is that God’s Holy Spirit highlights a Scriptural truth in our mind. This truth is like a seed sown into the grown. If believed and trusted upon and nursed in the symbolic soil of our hearts, this truth is able to grow and blossom. When we know the truth, we are set us free if we do not rebel against this truth. One of the key things, however, is that we should not allow any human or demonic thought to uproot this truth God has sent into our heart.
The psalm is full of imagery that is found throughout Scripture. Whenever one encounters imagery in Scripture, one has to decide if it speaks of something literal, something symbolic, something spiritual, something prophetic, or a combination of some or all these things. No doubt, those who work on the sea are aware of God’s glory and power. Because they live and work in an environment that is somewhat foreign and uncontrollable, they have had to learn how to trust God. Other applications of the imagery can simply mean the “storms of life” that so overwhelm us that we stagger and are at our wit’s end. There is also the spiritual layer in that we often are spiritually thirsty or we find our lives barren. In those cases, God is able to make our lives thirsty that we might seek Him. And He is able to send words as seeds to bless us.
The psalm ends with praise for those who “see” and “observe” God’s work. Jesus Himself has said, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” The ability to see the kingdom of God — or to see how God is working— will call us to praise God and to see that He has always been our faithful redeemer.
1O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
2Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;
3And gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south.
4They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in.
5Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them.
6Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.
7And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation.
8Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
9For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.
10Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron;
11Because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the most High:
12Therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help.
13Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses.
14He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder.
15Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
16For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder.
17Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted.
18Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death.
19Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses.
20He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.
21Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
22And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.
23They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
24These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep.
25For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.
26They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.
27They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end.
28Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.
29He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
30Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.
31Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
32Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
33He turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground;
34A fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.
35He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings.
36And there he maketh the hungry to dwell, that they may prepare a city for habitation;
37And sow the fields, and plant vineyards, which may yield fruits of increase.
38He blesseth them also, so that they are multiplied greatly; and suffereth not their cattle to decrease.
39Again, they are minished and brought low through oppression, affliction, and sorrow.
40He poureth contempt upon princes, and causeth them to wander in the wilderness, where there is no way.
41Yet setteth he the poor on high from affliction, and maketh him families like a flock.
42The righteous shall see it, and rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth.
43Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD.