Psalm 107 (31-43)

31Let them thank the Lord for his | steadfast love,*

for his wondrous works to the chil- | dren of men!

This psalm appears to be about daily bread, but since man shall not live by bread alone but by the words that proceed from the mouth of God, it must also be about that Bread that comes down from heaven.

32Let them extol him in the congregation of the | people,*

and praise him in the assembly of the | elders.

Here is the call to worship. It is a call to gather. The children of men are to congregate in order to praise the Lord for all His steadfast love. They are to come together with the people and the elders, those who teach. This is the assembly of the godly.

33He turns rivers into a | desert,*

springs of water into | thirsty ground,

34a fruitful land into a | salty waste,*

because of the evil of its in- | habitants.

But here is a warning. It is not chiefly concerned with geography and landscaping but with the word of God since all things are sustained by the word of God. Therefore, the rivers are the places of abundance and good fruit and so forth. This is where the word of God is preached and hearts hear and are glad. But these places are allowed to dry up and become wastelands because of the evil of those who live there. In other words, the Lord allows His gospel to be preached but there comes a time when the wickedness of men causes Him to remove from them His pulpit and church. Then, even if the land seems to be prosperous and full of plenty, it is really a dry riverbed and a salty flat upon which nothing grows. This, again, is speaking of the spiritual estate of men. Their evil prevents and inhibits the preaching of the word of God and His gospel so that they become as those who are left to their own devises and turned over to their own evil.

35He turns a desert into pools of | water,*

a parched land into springs of | water.

On the other hand, where there was no pulpit, no watchtower, the Lord establishes one. Just like when He sent forth His Son, Jesus, to be the preacher and teacher of the people of Israel and then the whole world even though the world did not know Him and did not receive Him. He was sent to a desert and to a parched land and it became a place of pools of water, oasis where the thirsty could drink and be refreshed and rejuvenated.

36And there he lets the | hungry dwell,*

and they establish a city to | live in;

37they sow fields and plant | vineyards*

and get a | fruitful yield.

It is here, then, that the hungry dwell. They establish a city here, that is a congregation and assembly of hearers because that is the way of things. When travelers and sojourners come across an inhabitable land they do not continue on in search of what is right before them but they stop and settle and build a city. This then is a picture of those who hear the word of God and are uplifted by it and rejoice in it.

They were starving and here they have found the land flowing with milk and honey. They were thirsty and here they have found springs of water that don’t stop flowing and do not dry up. So they settle. Again, this has nothing to do with agriculture or the ways of nations, but rather is using this imagery to reveal truths of God and His word and congregation. His people hear His voice and settle in where He preaches. And in hearing and believing, they get a fruitful crop of faith and eternal life. This is the Master calling workers to His vineyard that He may pay them out the generosity of His heart.

38By his blessing they multiply | greatly,*

and he does not let their livestock di- | minish.

His people multiply by His blessing. But His blessing is not like blessings the world gives. His blessing is the death and resurrection of Jesus. His blessing is the sacraments that flow from this and that are established by it in His blood and by His testament. For where the true word of God is not preached, where the cross is emptied of its power and the sacraments stand neglected, there nothing will grow and no blessing remains and the land will go back to being a parched and dry waste land.

That is why it is incumbent that the assembly gather around the elders, that is the preachers and apostles. That way they will receive and continue to receive the truth and will be well nourished by it. But if they gather around false preachers or if they ignore the true preaching as Israel did so often, then there stands again the warning from above. Let the hearer rejoice in what he hears and all the more let the preacher preach what he has received and nothing more.

39When they are diminished and | brought low*

through oppression, evil, and | sorrow,

40he pours contempt on | princes*

and makes them wander in | trackless wastes;

But trouble always comes no matter how pious and holy and good a congregation and its preacher are. Trouble is stirred up in the midst of it and from outside of it. As a result many true believers and Christians are brought low. Their reputations are tarnished and they are the butt of jokes and the refuse of the land, even as the Lord said, “If they hate you, they hated me first.” And, “My friend lifted his heal against me.”

The Christian church, and so all of her congregations who are truly congregations of the same, will always suffer persecution from without and betrayal from within. She will always be scorned and hated and abused by outsiders and robbed and lied about by those among her ranks. This is the pattern we have seen since Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery and suffered abuses in Egypt. The same pattern established by the Lord Jesus Himself who was mocked and jeered by outsiders and was betrayed by a close friend, even abandoned by all the men He called “friend”.

But the Lord does not leave alone those who abuse and try to destroy His church and scatter His flock. Not at all. Instead He pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes. It is a small thing if His Christians die by persecution, for they shall receive the crown of life. We often think that it is the greatest evil when Christians die and are martyred, but in truth is a great blessing. For precious in the sight of the Lord are the death of His saints. Those who kill them think they are ridding the world of wicked and perverse men when really they are allowing these faithful men and women to do what is blessed: remain faithful unto the end.

But those murderers are then bereft of that which would have saved them from the fate they wish to give the Christian. Once the Christian is dead or driven out of the land, who is there to preach the word of God for salvation? Who is there to pray to the Almighty for the good of the land? Therefore, the rulers are drenched in the contempt of God who removes from them His Church and pulpit. They are left to wander around without knowing what direction they are headed.

We have seen this time and again in history, especially the history of the Church which has been driven out of land after land only to have that land fall to chaos, death, and the tyranny of evil. But we Christians should not be alarmed or troubled. Not at all! We should rejoice that we are allowed to live in peaceful times, knowing that it is peaceful times that are the exception rather than the rule. We should always, as our Lord bids us, expect persecutions and hatred from the world that eventually leads to our death or exile.

41but he raises up the needy out of af- | fliction*

and makes their families | like flocks.

42The upright see it | and are glad,*

and all wickedness | shuts its mouth.

The needy are not those who need daily bread, though they certainly need this also. The needy are those who are in need of salvation and the comfort of the Spirit of God who is the chief preacher in the Church of God. For the preaching office is truly the Office of the Holy Spirit who opens men’s mouths to both confess and proclaim the truth about God in Christ. Therefore the Holy Spirit is the rescuer and comforter of the needy.

This is true chiefly, as was said, in preaching the gospel of Jesus and making sinners into saints by the forgiveness of sins bestowed through and by the word of God and the blessed sacraments. This is the real soup kitchen and bread line, the real homeless shelter where the poor in spirit go to be fed and relieved of their hunger, thirst, and exposure.

By His word then, and always by His word, the Lord raises the needy out of there affliction, which, again, is not merely the affliction of the body, which is fleeting anyway, but the affliction of the soul. He sets the solitary in families and makes their families like flocks. Once again, this is not speaking of earthly families but of the heavenly families called congregations or of the heavenly family called the Church of God. Here are truly the mother and brothers and sisters of Jesus, gathered to the Father in heaven and loved and protected by Him. Earthly families fight and bicker and are torn apart, but the heavenly family is never torn apart, even if the visible congregation is torn apart by dissention and lies and greed.

Once we are baptized we are born again into a heavenly family; adopted children of God by the blood and will of Christ. When the world sees this – and it has seen it in every age, the building up and strengthening and fortifying of the Church, just as in every age it has witnessed the destruction and scattering of the same – it must shut its mouth in wonder and astonishment that this little band of helpless people have yet risen again despite all the hatred and abuse they and their forefathers have endured. This is no nation of men or country of men, for no nation or country is God’s nation or God’s country, but this is the Church of God, the nation of priests who has as its border no border and has as its land every land. For the meek shall inherit the earth.

And that remnant that is there when the Church rises again and is established, that remnant that remained faithful and which the Lord blessed with perseverance so that from them would flower again the Church before all the world – this, too, we have seen time and time again – they rejoice and are glad as they begin to see small sprouts become strong stalks. They rejoice in the Lord and give thanks with a glad heart.

43Whoever is wise, let him attend | to these things;*

let them consider the steadfast love | of the Lord.

This is what we are to consider then, that as surely as the sun and moon and stars set seasons and months, and the changing of seasons, so there is always a changing of seasons with the Church and the world. Sometimes it flourishes in this or that part of the world and in another part at another time. But always it has the promise of its Lord and Master that He will never leave nor forsake her, that He will be with her until the end of the ages. Let the wise, those who have placed their trust in the Lord Jesus for resurrection and eternal life, think on these things for they are from above. Let us gather to the elders in the great assembly and hear and be glad. Let us thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works among the children of men.