Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story—
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
those he gathered from the lands,
from east and west, from north and south.
Some wandered in desert wastelands,
finding no way to a city where they could settle.
They were hungry and thirsty,
and their lives ebbed away.
Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
Today’s psalm text is by an anonymous poet-musician probably writing after Israel has been delivered from its bondage in Babylon (see later verses in this psalm). After 70 hard years of captivity the return of God’s people to their homeland is something almost unique in history. How many times has a nation been savagely defeated, force-marched hundreds of miles into captivity, endured re-education camps, and then miraculously returned to their homeland and reconstituted a nation! It is little wonder that the psalmist calls for the “redeemed of the LORD” to “tell their story...”
Yet ‘stories’ of redemption are not limited to the return from Babylon, but encompass all stories of those whom God delivers out of trouble. The problems of God’s people in captivity are typical of problems that God’s people experience at any time. They call for a story.
In beautiful poetry the 43 verses of this psalm speak of homelessness, imprisonment, sickness, and danger at sea as examples of trouble from which God delivers His people. Four times the psalmist tells of:
- a hopeless situation;
- a cry to God for help;
- a specific deliverance from trouble by God;
- an exhortation to “give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love” (vv. 8,15, 21, 31).
Sacrifice of praise is due God who redeems His people, not only from exile but from all kinds of catastrophe. For God’s people to experience His saving power is no private matter but something that must be told.
We might not find ourselves staggering through “desert wastelands” (v. 4), dwelling in “utter darkness” (v. 10), suffering for our “iniquities” (v. 17), or overwhelmed by a “tempest” at sea, but we each have faced desperate situations in which we need God.
This psalm tells how to handle these difficult times: we acknowledge the trouble we are in; cry out to God for help; accept God’s deliverance and His timing; and give thanks by telling others our “story”.
To think of our lives in terms of “story” implies an “author”; therefore nothing has happened by accident. The Bible is not a list of propositions or rules, but stories “We love to tell stories, and we love to listen to them. We tend to understand our own individual lives in terms of story.” (Michael Lodahl, The Story of God: Wesleyan Theology and Biblical Narrative) What is your story that you want to give to others? What does your story tell about God? About you? “Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story.”
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