The Book of Psalms

Wednesday: The Pilgrims’ Psalm: Part 1


Theme: Imprisonment
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
Yesterday we looked at the example of homelessness as the first peril described in this psalm. In our congregation at Tenth Presbyterian Church we have many people who have been homeless but who have cried out to the Lord and been given homes to live in. They are thankful for their homes. But how about yourself? Even if you have never been homeless and have always had a home, should you not be even more grateful than those who have only been given homes recently? One of the greatest blessings of my life was the Christian home in which I was raised, where I was taught that Jesus is my Savior from sin, learned my first Bible verses and was trained in such sound habits of Christian piety as prayer, regular church attendance and joyful fellowship with God’s people. Have you had a good home? Do you have one now? Then do what the psalm says: “…give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”
Yet there is more to this image even than what I have just said. I have looked at it as part of the Pilgrim’s experience and as our having literal homes today. But how about looking at this spiritually? Isn’t it true that we are all homeless without God, who is our only true home? Apart from God we are like the prodigal son, who had left the father’s home to squander his substance in a far country. Salvation began when he came to his senses, confessed his sin and returned to the father. Have you done that? Have you returned to God, crying, “Father, I have sinned against you”?
The second image of this central section of the psalm (vv. 10-16) describes the distress of prisoners. The Pilgrims also suffered in this way. Their leaders were often put in prison for dissenting from the established religion of the time, and when small groups tried to escape the persecution by sailing across the English Channel to Holland or elsewhere, they were frequently arrested on that account, too.
Bradford tells of several such incidents, in one of which the men were separated from their wives and children: “Pitiful it was to see the heavy case of these poor women in this distress; what weeping and crying on every side, some for their husbands that were carried away, … others not knowing what should become of them and their little ones; others again melting in tears, seeing their poor little ones hanging about them, crying for fear and quaking with cold. Being thus apprehended, they were hurried from one place to another and from one justice to another, till in the end they knew not what to do with them.”1 Bradford recounts how eventually they all nevertheless did manage to get to Holland where they thanked God.
There are not many among us who can speak of being delivered from prison in this way, literally, though there are some. But all who are Christians can speak of being delivered from the prison house of sin. This is what Jesus seems to have had in mind in the synagogue at Nazareth when he spoke of having come “to proclaim freedom for the prisoners” (Luke 4:18; cf. Isa. 61:1, 2). Jesus did not free anyone from a literal prison, as far as we know. But he has freed everyone who has ever believed on him from sin’s shackles. We have been slaves to sin, but by his atoning death we have been forever liberated.
1William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647 (New York: The Modern Library, 1952), p. 14.
Study Questions:

What is the second image of thankfulness in this psalm?
From what are Christians spiritually delivered? How does it act like a prison?

Prayer: Though this can be easily taken for granted, give thanks to the Lord for your deliverance from the bondage of sin and the true spiritual home with God.

Study Questions
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