O How I Love the City: A Meditation in Psalm 107
Reading: Psalm 107
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (2) Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble (3) and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. (Psalm 107:1-3 ESV)
Early in my Christian walk fellow believers would frequently reference these verses saying, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,” followed by, “So!”. We all knew that the verse was not actually teaching us to say, “So!” but telling us to acknowledge the redeeming work of the Lord. It was a semi-comical way of doing so amongst friends. Then there was the 1980’s Don Moen song, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so (3x),” followed by, “I’m redeemed, I’m redeemed, Praise the Lord.” I want to suggest that there may be a missing refrain.
Not only do vs 2, 3 address those “whom he has redeemed,” it also addresses, “whom he has…gathered.” Maybe this song should match the “I’m redeemed” refrain with “I’m gathered, I’m gathered, Praise the Lord.” But then who would get excited as they sing it? Maybe we all would if we understood the true glory of God having gathered us and what it means to our redemption. Not only is deliverance from the hand of our enemies a vital part of the redemption described, but so is our being gathered from our scattered existences in the ends of the earth.
Not only is deliverance from the hand of our enemies a vital part of the redemption described,
but so is our being gathered from our scattered existences in the ends of the earth.
References to this aspect of our redemption occur a few more times in the psalm.
(4) Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in…(6)Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. (7) He led them…till they reached a city to dwell in. (8) Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! (Psalm 107:4-8 ESV)
The redeemed are those who wandered through life finding no way to a city. What is a city? It is a place where people dwell together. It is the opposite of lonely and isolated. (Of course, we know people can be in cities and feel isolated, but the city is used here as an image of coming together in contrast to the isolation of desert wastelands.) When God delivered them, he delivered them into a city; His salvation worked to bring them into a city in which to dwell. This is the steadfast love and wondrous work of the Lord for which they are giving thanks.
(35) He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water. (36) And there he lets the hungry dwell, and they establish a city to live in… (Psalm 107:35-36 ESV)
When God redeems us in the desert He does so by providing springs of water there. Water gives life, but water also gathers others for that same life. If you happen to be in a desert and you want to find animals, go to the water sources. They all gather in order to survive. And then, the redeemed establish a city. There it is again. A place where people dwell together for the common benefit of each other. Paul writes that we, the redeemed, “also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Eph 2:22 ESV) The city God gathers us to is a city not only for our dwelling, but for God’s dwelling too.
A vital aspect of our redemption, and therefore a vital aspect of what we are to give thanks for to the Lord, is how he has brought us from our isolation into a city, a community, an assembly. That assembly is called the church of our Lord Jesus, the bride of Christ, the New Jerusalem. And it is the very place where this speaking thanks for our redemption is to take place.
What city? The city of God, the church of the Lord Jesus
that gathers around all the springs he has caused to spring up in this world of wilderness called local churches.
Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders. (Psalm 107:32 ESV)
It is no accident that in the Greek Old Testament in circulation during the New Testament times, the word for congregation in vs 32 verse is the same word the New Testament authors used for the church. We are to give thanks as we gather together, and an oft neglected reason for our thanksgiving is that God has brought us out of isolation and caused us to dwell together in a city. What city? The city of God, the church of the Lord Jesus that gathers around all the springs he has caused to spring up in this world of wilderness called local churches. “I’m gathered, I’m gathered, Praise the Lord!”
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,