The Book of Psalms

Monday: The Pilgrims’ Psalm: Part 1

Theme

Theme: Peril, Deliverance, and Praise
In this week’s lessons, we are reminded of the need to trust the Lord for his deliverance from our struggles, and to praise him for his goodness and mercy.
Scripture: Psalm 107:1-32
It may seem strange to anyone who knows anything about the English Puritans to speak of Psalm 107 as “The Pilgrims’ Psalm,” not because they did not know, frequently read and greatly cherish it, but because, being people of the Book, they loved and cherished the other psalms, too. In fact, they cherished the entire Bible.
But that is not the whole story. As anyone who knows anything about the Pilgrims is aware, Psalm 107, more than any other portion of the Bible, aptly describes the many dangers, toils and snares they experienced prior to, during and after their courageous crossing of the Atlantic Ocean to found America’s Plymouth Colony. Did they recognize this themselves? There is reason to think they did, since Governor William Bradford in his account of the founding of the Plymouth Plantation explicitly referred to Psalm 107 in his well-known summation of their achievement:
May not and ought not the children of these fathers rightly say: “Our fathers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this wilderness; but they cried unto the Lord, and he heard their voice and looked on their adversity,”…“Let them therefore praise the Lord, because he is good: and his mercies endure forever.” “Yes, let them which have been redeemed of the Lord, shew how he hath delivered them from the hand of the oppressor. When they wandered in the desert wilderness out of the way, and found no city to dwell in, both hungry and thirsty, their soul was overwhelmed in them. Let them confess before the Lord his loving kindness and his wonderful works before the sons of men.”1
Those words are based on Psalm 107, which suggests that the psalm was often in the Pilgrims’ minds. Since the Pilgrims came ashore on Monday, December 11, 1620, after having spent the prior day worshiping God, it is even likely that Psalm 107 was the basis for that Sabbath’s meditation.
In its own setting Psalm 107 is a praise song of the regathered people of Israel after their Babylonian bondage. Thus, Psalms 105, 106 and 107 form a trilogy. Psalm 105 recounts Israel’s experience from the time of God’s covenant with Abraham to their entrance into the Promised Land. Psalm 106 tracks their unfaithfulness during that same time period and reflects the years of their exile to Babylon. Psalm 107 thanks God for their deliverance from that exile. Still, the psalm was aptly used by the Pilgrims and may be loved by us as well, since the examples it gives of the perils from which the people of God are delivered are at once common, varied and suggestive. We can see ourselves in each of the situations.
The psalm has three parts: an opening (vv. 1-3), the main body of the psalm (vv. 4-32), and a closing grateful reflection on God’s sovereignty in human affairs (vv. 33-43). The second, main part is made up of four parallel sections in which: 1) a peril is described; 2) God’s deliverance is recorded; and 3) the redeemed are encouraged to praise God for that deliverance.
1William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647 (New York: The Modern Library, 1952), p. 63.
Study Questions:

What is the historical setting of Psalm 107? How does it relate to Psalms 105 and 106? What is the progression?
Why is Psalm 107 sometimes called the Pilgrims’ Psalm?
What are the three parts of the psalm?

Reflection: How can Psalm 107 be as encouraging to us as it was to the Pilgrims? How do you see your experience reflected in this psalm?
For Further Study: Seeing God’s faithfulness in the Psalms can also remind us of the many ways God shows his faithfulness to us. Perhaps you know someone who could be greatly helped by James Boice’s teaching from this much-loved portion of God’s Word. Order the three-volume paperback set for 25% off the regular price.

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