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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Title:For how he delivers from dangerous storms, thank God for his steadfast love
Text:Psalms 107:23-32 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Comfort in a World of Pain

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 3:1-3

Hymn 82:3 (after the law of God)

Psalm 42:1-4

Psalm 107:9-11

Psalm 107:12,17

Scripture readings: Mark 4:35-41, Psalm 107:1-32

Text: Psalm 107:23-32

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved church of our Saviour,

Have you ever been out on the open ocean?   If you have, it’s probably not too hard to relate to the imagery used in our passage this morning.  Personally, I haven’t had too many experiences with rough weather out on the ocean, but I’ve read about others’ experiences, heard about them, watched them.  For example, a few years ago there was this documentary about life on board an American aircraft carrier.  There was one episode with what they call a pitching deck.  The swells were several meters high and the flight deck of the carrier was pitching wildly up and down.  Then they tried to land jets in those conditions – at night.  The stress that a pilot feels under those conditions is way worse than what he’d feel in combat.

But what this Psalm describes here in our passage isn’t limited to physical experiences of stormy weather out on the ocean.  As we’ll see, it’s representative of all kinds of human experiences involving life-threatening danger and terrifying moments.  Even if you’ve never been out there on the open water in swells several meters high, you may be able to relate to other stormy life-experiences.  This Psalm teaches us how to think about those and how to respond to those.  It helps us put those experiences in the right perspective, one that includes God and his providence in our lives.

I’ve summarized the message of God’s Word for us like this:  For how he delivers from dangerous storms, thank God for his steadfast love.

We’ll consider:

  1. The need for deliverance
  2. The means of deliverance
  3. The response to deliverance

If you look at a map, you’ll find that in ancient Israel you were never far from the ocean.  Most places in ancient Israel were within 100 km of the Mediterranean or the Red Sea.  Despite that, the people of Israel were not really a seafaring nation.  Israel’s history doesn’t feature all that much to do with building and sailing ships. 

There’s one notable exception.  In 1 Kings 9, we read of how Solomon built a fleet of ships at a port on the Red Sea.  These ships were used for trade with a place named Ophir.  However, it was Hiram, the king of Tyre who supplied the experienced sailors.  Some of Solomon’s servants worked on these ships too, but it was known as “the fleet of Hiram.” 

It could be that the author of Psalm 107 is remembering the experiences of some of these Israelite sailors from the time of Solomon.  But there appear to have been so few of them and for such a short period of time that it’s more likely the author is using storm imagery in a metaphorical way.  It’s not just describing the literal experience of being terrified out in a ferocious storm on the ocean.  It’s broadly intended to portray all types of frightening experiences that God’s people might encounter. 

The storm imagery we have in verses 23 to 27 is powerful.  Let’s just spend a moment appreciating the poetic descriptions here.  We’ve got sailors heading out on the ocean to engage in trade with far-off lands.  They saw what God does with nature.  God simply spoke, he gave the order, and the winds picked up.  The winds became violent and stirred up the ocean swells. 

Verses 26 and 27 really are quite striking.  Please look at those verses with me.  “They mounted up to heaven…”  This pictures the ship and the sailors being raised up on a giant ocean wave.  They’re going up, up, up.  But what goes up must come down.  So, “they went down to the depths.”  They’ve gone from the ridge down into the trough.  Now all the waves are surrounding them like mountains of water.  That’s a terrifying picture.  When you’re in the trough, the next swell could be the one to capsize your ship.  That would be the end of you.  Ships in those days didn’t have lifeboats.  No wonder that it says, “their courage melted away.”  Now in our ESV it says, “in their evil plight.”  While it’s possible to translate the relevant Hebrew word that way, it does make it sound as if there’s a moral dimension to what’s being experienced.  But there isn’t.  The NIV has a better translation for that.  It says, “in their peril their courage melted away.”  Peril or danger is what’s in view here, not moral evil.  This is a dangerous, life-threatening situation.

Then look at verse 27.  Here we have a picture of sailors trying to move about on a wild pitching deck.  They look like they’re drunk.  They can’t walk straight.  And then it says they “were at their wits’ end.”  That means they were out of options.  All their sailing skills had become useless.  Things were out of their hands, out of control.

There’s an important detail to notice in verse 25.  It’s this:  “God commanded and raised the stormy wind.”  That reminds us that the world is in God’s control.  There’s something called God’s providence.  He ordains everything that happens.  The Bible tells us that not only the things we experience as good have been arranged by God, but also the things we experience as not so good.  Things like storms.  The Bible says this in numerous places.  Just to take one, in Isaiah 45:7 God says, “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.”  And Psalm 107 tells us storms are God’s work too. 

And we have to remember what God is like.  If you were in a storm like the one poetically described in Psalm 107, you might very well think to yourself, “If I were God, I wouldn’t have commanded and raised the stormy wind.  If I were God, I’d make sure the oceans were always flat and calm.”  But you need to remember this:  if you were God, you would also have the wisdom of God.  God’s infinite wisdom means that he always ordains what’s best.  God always chooses the right course of action, the right state of affairs.  So if there’s a storm raging on the ocean and you’re in the middle of it, God in his wisdom has commanded this state of affairs.  He has a wise purpose in it, a purpose that includes your best interests, even if you can’t see it right now.  That storm is going to last until he has achieved his purposes.

That’s true for literal, physical storms out on the ocean.  Those storms are dangerous and they’re out of our control, but they’re never out of God’s control.  This is true for other “stormy” events in life too.  Whether it’s natural disasters, or pandemics, or wars or anything else.  These things are never out of God’s control.  He has a purpose in them and the storms will last until his purpose is fulfilled, whatever that may be.  We have to trust in God and believe his Word when it tells us he is infinitely wise and good.  Should we ever doubt it, we need to look again to the fierce storm of God’s wrath that descended upon our innocent Saviour on the cross.  God was in control of that storm too and in his wisdom he brought the greatest good from it.  He calls us to trust his wisdom and goodness.   

That becomes even more challenging with other types of storms.  You can have storms raging outside of yourself, but some of the worst storms are the ones inside.  As I was working on this sermon, I read Charles Spurgeon’s commentary on Psalm 107.  For those who don’t recognize the name, Spurgeon was one of the most famous preachers of all time.  His sermons and meditations continue to be read and appreciated by many today.  Spurgeon was an incredibly unhealthy man.  When he was 35, he was afflicted with gout, which causes excruciating inflammation in the joints.  But what caused him even more trouble was his mental health.  In 1856 he was preaching in London to an audience of thousands when someone raised a false fire alarm.  That caused a stampede which killed seven people.  Afterwards Spurgeon collapsed from shock and then plunged into a deep depression which prevented him from preaching for some time afterwards.  While he eventually recovered from this episode of depression, he later experienced more episodes.  There were times when he couldn’t even get out of bed, he was so despondent and troubled.  Maybe you can relate. 

That background helps you appreciate what Spurgeon wrote in his commentary on Psalm 107.  He’s speaking here about verse 26, going up, up, up and then down, down, down:

Those who have been on the spiritual deep in one of the great storms which occasionally agitate the soul know what this verse means.  In these spiritual cyclones presumption alternates with despair, indifference with agony!  No heart is left for anything, courage is gone, hope is almost dead.  Such an experience is as real as the tossing of a literal tempest and far more painful.  Some of us have weathered many such an internal hurricane, and have indeed seen the Lord’s wondrous works. 

That’s coming straight from the heart of a believer who knows stormy weather.

A believer who’s in the storm, whether it’s literal or not, knows the need for deliverance.  He or she knows that since only God is in control, only God can save.  The storm brings you to the only thing you can still do, fall to your knees.  Someone once said, “I have learned to bless the wave that slams me into the Rock of Ages.”  The people in our Psalm were slammed into the same rock by the storm they were experiencing.  It brought them to prayer.  “They cried to the LORD in their trouble,” says verse 28.  The storm had a purpose.  It brought them to their knees in dependent prayer to God.  They were helpless to do anything else and finally recognized it. 

His purpose was achieved and then he “delivered them from their distress.”  What was the way he delivered them?  What was the means?  With the same powerful word that raised up the wind, God spoke and stilled the storm, he hushed the waves.  And at his command it all became quiet again.  God’s Word has that power over creation.  Psalm 107 says that this is one of God’s wondrous works – something he does that’s going to leave us in awe of his majesty and might.

But hushing the storm isn’t all God does.  He also brings his people to where they want to go.  They have a “desired haven” and he brings them there.  They arrive safely on the shore because of his guiding hand, because of his providence.      

In the New Testament, our Lord Jesus reveals who God is in the same powerful way.  We read from Mark 4 where Jesus and his disciples were out on the Sea of Galilee.  It’s called a “Sea” but it’s really just a big lake.  Yet the waves can get ferocious.  And they did that night with Jesus and his disciples.  But notice how Jesus sternly rebukes the wind – and it listens to him.  He speaks to the sea.  In our Bible translation it says, “Peace! Be still!”  But you could more literally translate that as “Be silent!  Shut up!”  He spoke harshly, directly.  So the wind stopped and there was a great calm.  Just like in Psalm 107.  It was a revelation of who Jesus is.  He is the same God who stilled the storm and hushed the waves in Psalm 107.  He’s the same God you can trust in whatever storms you’re facing.  He has power over them all.  Our Lord only has to speak and peace will come straightaway.     

This is the same God who will finally bring us all to our “desired haven.”  Everyone who trusts in Jesus can be sure they’re going to reach the heavenly shores, the most desirable haven of all.  We may have to travel through storms, both inside ourselves and outside, but God promises to bring us safely to our eternal haven.  What a wonderful promise that is!  It’s one we ought to reflect on regularly, but especially when we’re in the thick of it.  Remember always that through Christ God has promised you a place of calm, a place of quiet and peace.  Because God is good, because he is faithful and loyal to his promises, you can trust him.            

And as this Psalm has reminded us repeatedly, we ought also to worship him with thankful praise.  When we experience God’s deliverance in our lives, he wants us to give credit where credit is due.  Let me again quote something from Spurgeon’s commentary:  “Often when men hear of a narrow escape from shipwreck they pass over the matter with a careless remark about good luck, but it should never be thus jested with.”  Spurgeon is right.  When you narrowly escape disaster, that has absolutely nothing to do with luck.  Maybe you can think of a time in your life when you could easily have died.  You’re here now, but that has nothing to do with luck.  That’s God.  It’s his providence.  It’s his deliverance.  Give him the credit.  Give him the credit when he delivers you from whatever storms you experience.  This is where he wants to bring you:  “Give thanks to God for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!”

Now there are different ways to thank God for his covenant loyalty in delivering from storms.  You could thank him privately.  You could be praying to him by yourself in your bedroom.  You could thank him with your family gathered around the dinner table, praying together in that setting.  But verse 32 says that thanks should also be given publicly.  If you’ve experienced deliverance, give thanks “in the congregation of the people, praise him in the assembly of the elders.”  This is speaking about giving thanks in public worship with our prayers and songs.  It’s an important reason why we gather together each Sunday – to give our thanks publicly.  We join with other believers in acknowledging God’s steadfast love, his loyalty to his people.  We want to make much of him for the way he’s carried us through life’s challenges, the way he’s calmed our storms, the way he promises to bring us to our desired haven.  Public worship is important for this purpose – it reinforces our understanding that God doesn’t only deal with me personally, but he’s also dealing with others amongst his people.  It’s a corporate experience, way bigger than me.  The covenant loyalty and deliverance that he’s shown to me, he’s also shown to others.  Seeing that results in yet more praise for God.  I mean, how can you not be happy for others who’ve also been shown steadfast love?  If you’re happy for them, you bring praise to the one who’s done it all.  More praise for God.  

As we end this sermon, look with me at verse 43, “Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD.”  Who wouldn’t want to be wise?  You wouldn’t want to be a fool.  So attend to these things.  Reflect on them.  Remember what we’ve heard from this Psalm. If you’re going to be wise, remember that God delivers hungry and thirsty wanderers (vv.4-9).  If you’re going to be wise, remember that God delivers us from troubles we create for ourselves (vv.10-16).  If you’re going to be wise, remember that God delivers us from our sinful foolishness (vv.17-22).  And remember that he delivers from dangerous storms too.  Consider the steadfast love of God, his covenant loyalty to his people.  This God deserves our thanks and our worship today and every day.  AMEN.


O Almighty God,

You hold almighty power in your hands.  You have infinite power over your creation.  You have sovereign might over our lives too.  We confess that both prosperity and adversity come from your hand.  But Father we also know your love for us in Christ.  We thank you for your steadfast love in him, for your covenant loyalty to us.  When we go through challenges, through stormy times, help us to trust your wisdom and goodness.  With your Holy Spirit help us to remember your promises and especially what you’ve done for us in Christ.  You brought about amazing good for us through the terrible storm he experienced on the cross.  Thank you for that.  We pray for those among us who feel like they’re in the middle of a storm right now.  Father, please have mercy upon them and deliver them.  We pray that you would bring peace and quiet, whether it’s stuff on the outside or stuff happening on the inside.  Please bring deliverance so they can thank and praise you, and we can thank and praise you with them.  Father, please help all of us who are suffering to remember how you promise to bring us to our desired haven.  Help us all to hold onto the hope of heaven, a home with you forever.  Lord God, we do believe, but we pray that you would help our unbelief.                                                            

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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