God has given us Psalm 107 so that we might understand His mercy. The first verse calls us to give thanks to God for His goodness, out of which flows His mercy that endures forever.
O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. (Psalm 107:1)
The last verse calls us to observe the things written in this Psalm in order to better understand the mercy of God.
Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD. (Psalm 107:43)
lovingkindness > Hebrew – hesed > mercy
There are four specific sections which show us that God is willing to show mercy to:
1. Those who, through unfaithfulness, have become homeless.
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy; And gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south. They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses. And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation. Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness. (Psalm 107:2-9)
longing > Hebrew – shaqaq > run to and fro, ranging, rushing, roving
2. Those who, through disobedience, have become imprisoned.
Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; Because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the most High: Therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help. Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder. Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder. (Psalm 107:10-16)
3. Those who, through folly, have been brought to death’s door.
Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted. Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing. (Psalm 107:17-22)
4. Those who, in the course of life, have fallen into the most dire trouble.
They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders. (Psalm 107:23-32)
In conclusion, we are reminded that God is the master at reversing people’s lives.
He turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground; A fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein. He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings. And there he maketh the hungry to dwell, that they may prepare a city for habitation; And sow the fields, and plant vineyards, which may yield fruits of increase. He blesseth them also, so that they are multiplied greatly; and suffereth not their cattle to decrease. Again, they are minished and brought low through oppression, affliction, and sorrow. He poureth contempt upon princes, and causeth them to wander in the wilderness, where there is no way. Yet setteth he the poor on high from affliction, and maketh him families like a flock. The righteous shall see it, and rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth. (Psalm 107:33-42)
What do we learn here and elsewhere in scripture?
God’s mercy triumphs over God’s judgment.
… Mercy rejoiceth against judgment. (James 2:13)
Judgment gives us what we deserve. But God would rather show us great mercy than give us what we deserve.
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. (Psalm 103:8-11)
No one can demand or expect God to be merciful to him according to his own terms and without repentance.
… (I) will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy. (Exodus 33:19)
God has great mercy toward those who cry out to Him in trouble.
For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee. (Psalm 86:5)
God’s granting of mercy flows out of His goodness and is conditioned on the confession and forsaking of sins.
He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)
God’s mercy toward His people was always dependent upon their willingness to return to covenant relationship.
Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease. Wilt thou be angry with us for ever? wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations? Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee? Shew us thy mercy, O LORD, and grant us thy salvation. I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly. (Psalm 85:4-8)
The more merciful we are to others, the more merciful the Lord will be toward us.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. (Matthew 5:7)