We have a cat and sometimes he gets a little wild and starts running around the house, tearing around corners and jumping up on furniture. The stairway to our basement is between our living room and our kitchen. It is open to the ceiling, but has a railing around it. The other day, our cat was in one of his wild moods and he went tearing up the stairs, around the corner, around the coffee table in the living room, up the couch which has its back up against the stair railing, and was unable to stop and just about fell into the stair well. His back paws were still on the railing, but his front paws were trying to find a hold on the railing. He was in imminent danger of falling into the stair well and was meowing and scrambling to get up. I quickly got up and grabbed him before he fell.
Do you ever feel like that cat - desperate for help and not sure where it is going to come from? One of the phrases which we find in the Bible is the phrase, “I cried unto the Lord.” Isn’t that a wonderful phrase? Isn’t it great that we have a God who is watching and listening and who responds when we cry to Him?
This morning, I would like to look at Psalm 107 with you and encourage you to “cry to the Lord” in whatever situation of need you may find yourself. Psalm 107 begins, (read Psalm 107:1-3). It goes on in the following verses to present four situations in which people cried out to the Lord when they were desperately in need.
The first situation is presented in Psalm 107:4-9. There we read, (read vs. 4,5.) The trouble comes from historical forces.
When I read this, the first thing I think of is the children of Israel when they wandered in the desert. Although they had experienced a marvellous deliverance by God, they found themselves in the wasteland. There was little pasture for their flocks, there was little water, since it was desert, and they did not know where they were going to settle. One specific instance having to do with thirst, is the story which occurred soon after they left Egypt. In Exodus 17:1-6 we are told that they were traveling in the “Desert of Sin” and as the camped at “Rephidim” there was no water to drink. The people were desperate. You can’t go very long without water, they knew this and they were beginning to feel the effects of thirst. They complained to Moses and let him know that they were not happy.
Have you ever experienced a time when you didn’t have what you needed? When I think of this, I often think of my own family. During the second world war, my grandmothers and their children found themselves as refugees in the midst of a battle zone. The instability resulted in their losing all their belongings and the food they had gathered. They were without help in the middle of the steppes of Russia. I also think of the times when I was newly married and a student in seminary. After a summer of ministry in Northern Canada, we came back intending to go back to school and not having the means to pay for our tuition or our living expenses.
Psalm 107 says in verse 6a, “they cried out to the Lord in their trouble.” Where else can you go when you don’t have what you need? God is the one who has created all things and He knows how to supply the need of those who are desperate and who cry out to Him and so they cried out to Him.
This is what the children of Israel did. When they had no water, they complained to Moses, but we read in Exodus 17:4, “Moses cried out to the Lord.”
This is what my grandmother did, she cried out to the Lord. She told me what it was like to have nothing and to simply cry out to God to supply her needs, reminding him that if he did not, they would die.
Is that what you do? Do you cry out to the Lord when you are at the end of your resources?
The wonderful thing which happened in all of these cases was that God provided. As we read on in this passage, it says in 6,7 that “he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way to a city they could settle.”
For Israel, they experienced this, in the story in Exodus 17, when God told Moses to strike the rock and He would supply them with water. That is exactly what happened.
My grandmother experienced it when God continued to lead them and eventually they came to Canada and God has provided for them for the last 60 years.
I also experienced it when God provided money for tuition, a place to live and all we needed for the school year.
What do we do when God provides for our needs in such a wonderful way?
We learn from the response of the writer of the Psalm. He teaches in verse 8, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men…”
What a marvellous thing to do. When God provides we must not forget to praise Him in our prayers and by telling others what He has done for us. Sometimes we are afraid that if we tell others, it looks like we are good, but the whole point of telling others is in order to say that God is good because of what he has done in providing all we needed in our time of desperation.
A second section occurs in Psalm 107:10-16. Although we may come into a situation of desperation quite innocently and feel that we have a right to help because the trouble we are experiencing has been imposed on us, there are times when we come into a situation of desperation because of our own sin or stupidity. Can we cry out to God at such a time? It seems that this is the situation described here by the Psalmist. The trouble comes from internal difficulties.
The passage that came to mind for me here was the story of Israel when she was sent into exile in Babylon because of all her sin. The people who found themselves in Babylon were desperate and we read about their desperation in Psalm 137. In the first four verses we read, “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?” It was their sins which had gotten them in this trouble. Now the people of the land wanted them to settle in, enjoy life, dance and sing, but their hearts were desperate. They realized their sinfulness and knew that they were in Babylon because of it.
Sometimes we get ourselves in trouble and we have an idea that since I got myself in trouble, I should get myself out of trouble.
Yet the psalmist did not see it that way. He was so convinced about the grace and generosity of God that he was sure that God would help even those who were in a trouble of their own making. So once again, we read in Psalm 107:13a, “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble…”
Israel certainly prayed to the Lord out of their trouble. After 70 years of captivity, we read about Daniel who learned that God would restore his people and even though their sin was so great and even though they were in Babylon because of their sin, he prayed for them that God would forgive their sins and deliver them from captivity.
The Psalmist once again assures us that God responded to the prayer of those who prayed while they were experiencing the consequences of their sin. We read in Psalm 107: 13b-14, “…he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains.”
After 70 years of in captivity Israel, God once again allowed the people to go back to the promised land. He answered the prayer of Daniel.
All of us have experienced the same truth. We are all sinners and through the grace of God and through the death of Christ on the cross, we have all experienced what the writer speaks about here. We have been freed from the prison of our sin and from the bondage to death and have been set free to the newness and eternal life which are in Christ.
Once again, it is fitting that when people experience the deliverance of God, that they would give thanks to him. If it is our sin that has gotten us into bondage, then we know better than anyone how sweet the deliverance is and we respond as the Psalmist says, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men.”
The trouble in the third section is similar. Once again, it is rebellious ways which result in affliction and trouble, even nearness to death.
The Old Testament story that I think of is a day when because of sin, God had sent the Arameans against Samaria. The people had been wicked and God allowed this army from another nation to come and besiege the city. The situation was desperate. Because they had sinned they were now starving. The story reveals that the siege lasted so long and food became so scarce that a donkey’s head sold for 8 shekels - apparently a lot of money.
What does the Psalmist suggest? Once again we find the same phrase as we have been looking at. In Psalm 107:19a it says, “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble.”
The pattern we have noticed before repeats itself once again. In verse 19, 20 we discover that God delivers the people.
The deliverance of the people from the famine in Samaria happened in a most unusual way. There were three lepers who lived at the city gate. They were not allowed full access to the city, since they were outcasts. When the famine was really at its worst, they became desperate and they went to the enemy camp. They reasoned that if they were going to die anyway, they might as well do it at the hands of the enemy or they might find mercy. What they found was that God had brought panic on the enemy soldiers and they had fled, leaving all their belongings behind including food and clothing.
God is like that. Even though we sin, God is ready to provide all we need in surprising ways.
God is gracious and supplies the needs of all those who cry out to Him.
In response, we once again have the words, “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love.”
That is what God has for us, an unfailing love. To love those who have rebelled against Him and to provide for them in spite of their sin is a sign of God’s love, his unfailing love and as we experience it, we must make our praise known.
The last section we will look at is from 23-32. It describes the desperation of men caught in a powerful storm at sea. The storm is vividly described. Waves “mounted to the heavens.” “they were at their wits end.” The trouble comes from natural forces.
The story that I think of is the story of Jonah. He was running away from God and found himself on a ship headed for Tarshish - as far as he could get from Nineveh. While on the boat, a great storm came up - a punishment for his sin which God had brought on the boat. The innocent sailors on the boat were terrified. They had no way out. They were in desperate straights because they saw a display of the power of God in nature.
Have you ever experienced trouble from natural forces - a storm, a flood…?
Just as Psalm 107:28a says people who were in trouble because of the sea do when they have no where else to turn, so these sailors on Jonah’s ship cried to the Lord. That is what it says in Jonah 1:14, “Then they cried to the LORD...”
What does it mean to cry out to the Lord? Four times, in four desperate situations, we have read about how people who needed help cried out to the Lord. Does it not mean that we are yelling “Help!!!?” Does it not mean that we have no where else to turn and need God to provide for us? What a wonderful word. We can do this. God is always there, God is always listening and God will answer as he always does. He is our helper, our shelter, our rock, our strength. When we have a situation that we have no answer to, it is always a good time to cry out to the Lord.”
Once again the Psalmist indicates that God answered. In Psalm 107:28 we read that “he brought them out of their distress. That is what happened when the sailors on Jonah’s boat obeyed God and threw Jonah overboard. They cried out to the Lord, obeyed God’s command and the passage says that the sea became calm.
That is what God is like. He does not play games, he does not hurt us deliberately, he does not ignore us. God is a God who answers prayer.
When we experience the deliverance and mercy of God, our response, as that of the psalmist must be to “give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men.”
My most recent experience with this idea occurred this past week. With all the funerals and other responsibilities I was a little concerned that I would not get all the things done that needed to be done. I had an extra message to write, I thought I might even have another extra one. I was wondering how I would minister to all the hurting people. In that time, I just prayed to God and asked for His help. I recognize that He has helped and I want to give thanks to Him for all his blessing.
I don’t know what your trouble is. We often look to professionals or to friends when we experience difficulty and that is OK, but let us not forget to look to God and cry out to Him for help. I encourage you to cry out to the Lord. He hears us.