Psalm 107 encourages God’s people to give him thanks for his steadfast love and wonderful works. Though we get ourselves into an array of difficult circumstances, some caused by our sin and others brought on by the trials of life, God is faithful to come to our help.
The psalm centers on four vignettes of groups in exile facing a struggle.
- Weak and Weary Travelers Lost in the Desert (4-9)
- Prisoners in Darkness and Bondage (10-16)
- Sick Sufferers on the Brink of Death (17-22)
- Overwhelmed, Storm-Tossed Sailors (23-32)
Within each of these mini-stories, we a couple of verses repeat and bring out key themes. The hardship leads each group to desperate prayers for rescue. “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress” (107:6, 13, 19, 28). Then, after God delivers them each time, there’s a call to thanksgiving: “Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man” (107:8, 15, 21, 31)!
There’s a lot to see and notice in Psalm 107. But one thing I found interesting as I read Charles Spurgeon’s Treasury of David, is how he highlights how these trials and hardships prompt genuine prayer. Our prayers in the midst of pain, suffering, weariness, and fear look very different from our prayers (or lack of praying) when things are easier. And so God often drives us to prayer through suffering.
Here’s what Spurgeon says about Psalm 107:6 in the Spurgeon Study Bible notes.
“They are hard pressed. ‘Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble.’ Why did they not do so before? Because people do not begin to pray to God as long as they have any hope. But when all hope is gone, then comes the first real living, agonizing cry to heaven; and no sooner is that heard than God answers it.”
I want to quote Spurgeon’s Treasury of David on each of the verses about crying to the Lord in trouble (107:6, 13, 19, 28).
Travelers Lost in the Desert (4-9)
“Not till they were in extremities did they pray, but the mercy is that they prayed then, and prayed in the right manner, with a cry, and to the right person, even to the Lord. Nothing else remained for them to do; they could not help themselves, or find help in others, and therefore they cried to God. Supplications which are forced out of us by stern necessity are none the less acceptable with God; but, indeed, they have all the more prevalence, since they are evidently sincere, and make a powerful appeal to the divine pity. Some men will never pray till they are half starved, and for their best interests it is far better for them to be empty and faint than to be full and stouthearted. If hunger brings us to our knees it is more useful to us than feasting; if thirst drives us to the fountain it is better than the deepest draughts of worldly joys; and if fainting leads to crying it is better than the strength of the mighty, And he delivered them out of their distresses. Deliverance follows prayer most surely. The cry must have been very feeble, for they were faint, and their faith was as weak as their cry; but yet they were heard, and heard at once. A little delay would have been their death: but there was none, for the Lord was ready to save them. The Lord delights to come in when no one else can be of the slightest avail.” (Spurgeon on Psalm 107:6)
Prisoners in Darkness & Bondage (10-16)
“While there was any to help below they would not look above. No cries till their hearts were brought down and their hopes were all dead–then they cried, but not before. So many a man offers what he calls prayer when he is in good case and thinks well of himself, but in very deed the only real cry to God is that which is forced out of him by a sense of utter helplessness and misery. We pray best when we are fallen on our faces in painful helplessness. And he saved them out of their distresses. Speedily and willingly he sent relief. They were long before they cried, but he was not long before he saved. They had applied everywhere else before they came to him, but when they did address themselves to him, they were welcome at once. He who saved men in the open wilderness can also save in the close prison: bolts and bars cannot shut him out, nor long shut in his redeemed ones.” (Spurgeon on 107:13)
Sick Sufferers (17-22)
“Prayer is as effectual on a sick bed as in the wilderness or in prison; it may be tried in all places and circumstances with certain result. We may pray about our bodily pains and weaknesses, and we may look for answers too. When we have no appetite for meat we may have an appetite for prayer. He who cannot feed on the word of God may yet turn to God himself and find mercy.” (Spurgeon on 107:19)
Storm-Tossed Sailors (23-32)
“Though at their wit’s end, they had wit enough to pray; their heart was melted, and it ran out in cries for help. This was well and ended well, for it is written, And he brought them out of their distresses. Prayer is good in a storm. We may pray staggering and reeling, and pray when we are at our wit’s end. God will hear us amid the thunder and answer us out of the storm. He brought their distresses upon the mariners, and therefore they did well to turn to him for the removal of them; nor did they look in vain.” (Spurgeon on 107:28)