The Book of Psalms

Thursday: The Pilgrims’ Psalm: Part 1

Theme

Theme: Deliverance from Physical and Spiritual Sickness
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
As we read in yesterday’s study, we have been slaves to sin, but by his atoning death we have been forever liberated. Can we not each say that we have “rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High,” as the psalmist does in verse 11, and that God “brought [us] out of the darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away [our] chains,” as he does in verse 14? Shouldn’t we thank God for that deliverance? The refrain says (with appropriate variation from verses 8, 9), “Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.”
John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress who was himself a Puritan, saw verse 16 as a description of what Christ did when he broke through the bronze gates and iron bars of his tightly closed-up heart to save him. He resisted Christ, but Jesus proved all-powerful.1 Has Jesus shown himself to be all-powerful for you? Shouldn’t you be thankful for it?
The third image (vv. 17-22) pictures people who “suffered affliction because of their iniquities” (v. 17). It describes illness so severe that it brought those afflicted “near the gates of death” (v. 18). This describes the Pilgrim experience, too. Four of the original small band of 102 passengers died before they even reached America, one just before the ship landed. Most terrible of all, half of the remainder died in that first cruel winter, which Bradford called “the starving time.” Only twelve of the original twenty-six heads of families and four of the original twelve unattached men or boys survived, and all but a few of the women perished.2 As for the rest, there was much sickness.
You may have experienced God’s deliverance from a serious illness, just as the psalmist describes and the Pilgrims experienced. But we should note that the psalmist is also thinking of deliverance from spiritual sickness, since it refers to “affliction” caused by “their iniquities” and God’s “word” as the agent of our healing (v. 20).
God’s Word is the only thing that heals our spiritual sicknesses, for it is the only thing that has life. As the Bible pictures it, our condition apart from Christ is far worse than merely being sick. We are actually dead so far as any ability to respond or come to God is concerned: “dead in [our] transgressions and sins” (Eph. 2:1). But when God speaks the Word from the mouth of the preacher to our hearts, we experience a spiritual resurrection, just as Lazarus did when Jesus called him from the tomb (John 11:43, 44). Using another image, Peter spoke of our being born again, “not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23).
If you are a Christian, God has saved you “from the grave” (v. 20) by that life-giving Word. Can you not be thankful for that? The psalm says you should: “Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy.”
1Rowland E. Prothero, The Psalms in Human Life (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1904), p. 246.
2William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647 (New York: The Modern Library, 1952), p. 77; see note 5.
Study Questions:

List and describe the third image of peril in this psalm?
Describe the natural state we are in. How can one so afflicted be healed?
What does it mean to be born again?

Reflection: Has God delivered you from great sickness? Thank him for healing.
Key Point: God’s Word is the only thing that heals our spiritual sicknesses, for it is the only thing that has life.
For Further Study: Ever since the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the garden, God has nevertheless acted in grace and mercy toward sinners. Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message from Genesis 3, “The Covenant of Redemption.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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