Psalm 107 - Some were sick

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To the leader: to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.
1) O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever.
2) Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
those he redeemed from trouble
3) and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.
4) Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to an inhabited town;
5) hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
6) Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress;
7) he led them by a straight way,
until they reached an inhabited town.
8) Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
9) For he satisfies the thirsty,
and the hungry he fills with good things.

10) Some sat in darkness and in gloom,
prisoners in misery and in irons,
11)for they had rebelled against the words of God,
and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
12) Their hearts were bowed down with hard labor;
they fell down, with no one to help.
13) Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress;
14) he brought them out of darkness and gloom,
and broke their bonds asunder.
15) Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
16) For he shatters the doors of bronze,
and cuts in two the bars of iron.

17) Some were sick through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities endured affliction;
18) they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
19) Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress;
20) he sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from destruction.
21) Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
22) And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices,
and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.

23) Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the mighty waters;
24) they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep.
25) For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26) They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their calamity;
27) they reeled and staggered like drunkards,
and were at their wits’ end.
28) Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out from their distress;
29) he made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30) Then they were glad because they had quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
31) Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
32) Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

33) He turns rivers into a desert,
springs of water into thirsty ground,
34) a fruitful land into a salty waste,
because of the wickedness of its inhabitants.
35) He turns a desert into pools of water,
a parched land into springs of water.
36) And there he lets the hungry live,
and they establish a town to live in;
37) they sow fields, and plant vineyards,
and get a fruitful yield.
38) By his blessing they multiply greatly,
and he does not let their cattle decrease.

39) When they are diminished and brought low
through oppression, trouble, and sorrow,
40) he pours contempt on princes
and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
41) but he raises up the needy out of distress,
and makes their families like flocks.
42) The upright see it and are glad;
and all wickedness stops its mouth.
43) Let those who are wise give heed to these things,
and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

Psalm 107 (NRSV*)
4th Sunday of Lent, Year B, verses 1-3, 17-22
Proper 7, Sunday between June 19 and June 25, Year B, verses 1-3, 23-32
Proper 13, Sunday between July 31 and August 6, Year C, verses 1-9, 43
Proper 26, Sunday between October 30 and November 5, Year A, verses 1-7, 33-37

This psalm highlights God's power to bless, to rescue and aid, to act for good in the world. But the center highlights the distress in our lives into which God intervenes.

"Some sat in darkness and in gloom, prisoners in misery and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High (v10-11).... Some were sick through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities endured affliction" (v17).

This can be a "blame the victim" problem, to link every ill to personal sin, and that things going badly are because of a righteousness deficit. Yet it is certainly true that sinful ways do produce affliction. Long-term, sin does not do the sinner any good.

There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul." So goes the 19th-century evangelical hymn.

This psalm references the way sin diminishes and harms the one caught-up in wrong-doing and wrong-thinking. The suffering is always real. Most of the times this psalm appears in church readings, these verses are left out. But they are the reason why the Lord's action is proclaimed: "God saved them from their distress."

There is a balm for what ails us. Our trouble may be at the center, but God's desire for our wholeness is at the beginning and at the end.

     The Lord turns a desert into pools of water,
     a parched land into springs of water.
     And there he lets the hungry live...

God wants us in a better place, where we can heal and grow and prosper.

O give thanks to the Lord, for God is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
those she redeemed from trouble.

Credits:
Mcbayer, Mecca Ointment 2012 Yellow Red box Orange tin white background. Used under (CC BY-SA 3.0).
* New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV), copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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