“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
“Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble,
and He rescued them from their distress.
Let them praise the Lord for His great love
and for the wonderful things He has done for them.
Those who are wise will take all this to heart;
they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.”
Psalms 107:1, 6, 31, 43 NLT
This is a wonderful Psalm full of testimonies about the goodness of God, about His saving grace and response to His people’s distress. The sixth verse is repeated a further three times, on each occasion defining a pivotal moment, when God answered His people’s cries for help in their times of trouble. Two rescue themes in this Psalm emerge – one of them when God responds to His people’s predicament caused by their own bad choices, and the other when they were caught up in a natural calamity. The Psalm concludes with a section outlining the consequences of “wickedness” being applied to the environment in which the people live, and then how the hungry and poor are blessed, while the leaders, the “princes” are let loose into “wastelands”. This Psalm could almost be the plot of a movie, setting out as it does a storyboard of how the oppressed and the distressed come through in the end, with God’s help, into a place of rescue.
What about distress today? There is certainly enough of it around us, even in the supposedly affluent Western societies in which some of us live. In particular in the UK the Food Banks are in great demand, as people in need are provided with sufficient provisions to keep them going in their time of distress. Charity shops abound in shopping centres once thrumming with commerce but now full of empty shops. There is almost a society within society, defining a distressed underclass, surely defining a modern equivalent of the Biblical times that we read about in this Psalm. And a thought of compassion enters my mind, perhaps a God-thought, of how people, rich and poor, stagger through life without God in their lives. Everyone, at one time or another, will endure a crisis where they need Someone to call out to, Someone who will “rescue them in their distress”. As verses 10 and 11 say, they sit in darkness and deepest gloom, imprisoned in iron chains of misery, their rebellion against God compounding their distress.
Are any of us in difficulties this morning? The loving Heavenly Father that I know is there for us and with us. And as we cry out in our troubles, The Psalmist says that He will save us from our distress. As I look back over my life, to the times when I offered up to God my prayerful cries for help, to each I received one of three possible outcomes. The first was an instant Divine rescue – an immediate answer to my prayer. The second was also a positive God-response, but one that took place over a period of time, in one case nearly a year. And the third was no response at all, leaving me in a hard and difficult place. But through it all, whatever the response, I know that God was there for me. So today, I not only believe that He answers prayer. I know that He does. And a negative or lacking response does not mean that God doesn’t care for me. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans – “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord“. So in the times of silence, while I walk in my life-pilgrimage through difficult times of trouble, I know that God is there with me. I only have to reach out and feel His touch. Somehow the troubles don’t seem nearly as bad then.