The book of Psalms is filled with poetry that gives voice to emotions and experiences felt and lived out by the people of Israel. Psalm 107:1-9, 43 is no exception. The Psalmist reminds the people of Israel of God’s faithfulness and love. The people of Israel are also reminded of how God is deliverer and provider. In verse 2 we read, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those he redeemed from trouble…” God’s very nature is love and He cares for all of humanity and creation. His greatest desire is for all of the earth to be reconciled to him: to be gathered and redeemed.
The Psalmist reminds the people of Israel that there was a time of wandering in their history. This time of wandering in the wilderness defined them. Some say that in verse 7 the words, “inhabited town” refers to the land of Canaan and how God delivered the people of Israel out of the wilderness into the promised land of Canaan. (1)
The Psalmist is reminding and bringing before the people the goodness of God and all he has done for them.
In the 21st century we also need reminded of what God has done for us. He is still good, loving, redeemer, deliverer, and the list goes on. We still fall into the same cycle the people of Israel found themselves in: they forgot what God had done for them.
We too forget what God has done for us. A professor at Stanford, Clifford Ness, wrote, “Some people do have a more positive outlook, but almost everyone remembers negative things more strongly and in more detail.” (2)
Why is it that when we remember we focus on the negative? When my family gathers around the diner table we find ourselves sharing stories from our past. We grew up overseas as missionaries in Moscow, Russia right after the fall of Communism. It was an interesting time in that part of the world and it was extremely corrupt. When we share stories about how we had to pay fines to police officers, jumping through all sorts of legal hoops, being detained and asked about what we were doing in Russia, and having the police called to our home by our neighbors.
Don’t hear me wrong, we have AMAZING and WONDERFUL stories, full of God’s goodness and grace, in our memories from Russia, but around the dinner table we tend to remember the negative: in a joking and jovial manner. So much that one day my husband, who has never been to Russia, said, “from all the stories you all tell, I’m not sure I want to go and visit Russia.”
I think the blame for my husband’s statement falls solely on our family. We don’t always do a good job remembering and telling the stories of God’s goodness and faithfulness.
The people of Israel were so quick to forget the goodness and faithfulness of God after they were delivered from Egypt. Soon after they left Egypt they were back to their old ways of worshipping other gods and even thanking THOSE gods for delivering them from Egypt! Yikes! Lord, have mercy on us when we are so forgetful.
There were times in the history of the church when people would stand and testify to the grace of God working in their lives. I fear we are losing those precious moments. It is important to remember the times when God’s goodness and faithfulness are seen in each other’s lives. It is a reminder to focus on the positive and the moving of God in the world.
The people of Israel were being selective in their remembering. They were focusing on the negative. Instead of remembering that they were no longer slaves in Egypt they were focusing on the fact that they were wandering in the desert.
Are we no different today? Do we forget that Christ lived, died and rose again so that we might be in relationship with him… forever? Do we forget that we do not DESERVE grace. That without the life, death, and resurrection of Christ we are separated from God? The Psalmist is reminding the people that God is good, God is deliverer, and God is provider. It may not always be what we expect or how we would plan our lives, but when we are faithful God can and will use us. Are you being faithful? Are you remembering the good that God has done for you that you do not deserve?
I confess that I struggle with being selective in my remembering and focus on the negative.
My husband and I have been married for 5 years now. I distinctly remember one of our first arguments. I had traveled to my sister’s wedding and he joined later; leaving him time to get some tasks done around the house. He did a great amount of work around the house! He even painted one of the bathrooms. But when I got home I couldn’t see the good that he had done. I only noticed that the bed wasn’t made. I know… it sounds quite picky, but it was a conversation we had had many times. I couldn’t see past the unmade bed to all the wonderful things he had done in the house. I missed an opportunity to thank and praise him because I placed my focus in the wrong area.
Do we forget to trust in the Lord, do we forget to follow him faithfully, no matter what? Christ did not promise this life would be easy, but he did promise to be with us always. That’s a pretty amazing promise.
May we live out what the Psalmist is reminding us to do in Psalm 107:1-9, 43. May we “give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever.” (3)
Charles Wesley wrote in the hymn, “And Can it Be” the following:
Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night.
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
May we remember that when we respond to Christ our chains are gone and we have the beautiful opportunity to follow him forever! May we not forget. May we “consider the steadfast love of the Lord.” (4)
Thanks be to God!
(1) Bratcher, Robert G., and William David. Reyburn. A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Psalms. New York: United Bible Societies, 1991.
(2) Tugend, Alina. “Praise Is Fleeting, but Brickbats We Recall.” The New York Times. 2012. Accessed July 21, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/24/your-money/why-people-remember-negative-events-more-than-positive-ones.html?_r=0.
(3) Psalm 107:1 (NRSV)
(4) Psalm 107:43 (NRSV)