By Jaime Sherman
In the Old Testament, God moved in extraordinary ways to grant His people deliverance from bondage and the troubles of a sin-scarred world. Physically, He freed them from a myriad of oppressive circumstances, including out of Egyptian slavery and Babylonian captivity. Spiritually, He established a pattern of animal sacrifices to temporarily make mankind right with Him. All redemption included a payment, or an exchange, and hinted at a future, once-for-all restoration between God and His people.
Redemption was always a gift of love from God for His people, those who would call upon His name for rescue. Echoing throughout Psalm 107 are the words, “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress” (v. 6, 13, 19, 28). God guided those wandering by land and sea and calmed the storms (v. 7, 24, 29), freed those in physical captivity and spiritual bondage (v. 14, 20), and refreshed those languishing in famine (v. 33-38). And in response, the psalmist’s refrain was, “Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man” (v. 8, 15, 21, 31).
This call to God for rescue — and the chorus of gratitude at His response — are for us today. We must declare it with even greater determination because we are living in the shadow of the greatest redemption story of all time. Old Testament deliverance was just a foretaste of the incredible rescue we would be offered as God sent His Son to free us from the clutches of sin. Jesus, the only perfect man to live on this earth, died upon a cross meant for us (Romans 5:8). He gave His life as a ransom for us. We simply need to accept this gift of being made right with God for eternity to receive eternal redemption (John 3:16). As the psalmist says in 107:43, “Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD.”
This phrase “steadfast love” is best understood within the context of the original language of the text, which describes God’s steadfast love as checed (kheh’-sed), which is the everlasting, covenant kindness of God. This kindness is not the nicety of a smile but the feet-on-the-ground action to make someone’s life better, to spread one’s favor upon the life of another. This is the kindness that comes from the Spirit’s work in and through a child of God (Galatians 5:22-23). The Greek word for this kindness is chréstotés, which is a “serviceable” goodness that meets the needs of another person in God’s way.
I have been on the receiving end of this kind of “serviceable” goodness in the past few weeks as a virus attacked my body and kept our family under quarantine. Friends left meals at our doorstep, ran errands for me, and sent text messages to encourage me. I didn’t feel alone. Instead, I felt the kindness that overflows from the Spirit at work within others as they became the hands and feet of Jesus.
This kind of “serviceable” kindness that flows from Jesus’ example to us is pretty easy for me to imitate, but as I sit longer with Psalm 107, I am challenged by the steadfast, enduring nature of God’s mercy — the kind He has shown throughout human history. This is the kindness of God that I struggle to live out consistently in my life as I am wounded by other people and their sinful choices. My heart wrestles ugly. My words sting. I want revenge. But then I see Jesus upon the cross, and I am humbled.
Before my life began, God sent His Son to die a criminal’s death in my place. He poured out mercy, favor, goodness upon me knowing full well all the ugly things I would do before the eyes of man and harbor in my heart. And He loved me anyway. His plan was always to deliver me from distress, to guide my wanderings, to walk with me through the storms of life, to free me from spiritual bondage to the enemy, and to refresh my languishing. With the psalmist, I declare, “Thank you, Lord, for your steadfast love, for your wondrous works to me.”
Questions to ponder from Psalm 107:
What has God redeemed you from? Have you praised Him for rescuing your life?
How has God shown you His checed (lovingkindness) in this season of your life? Have you thanked Him for His work on your behalf?
How can you spread favor upon the life of another person today?