Many expositors are of opinion that this Psalm was written to celebrate the return of the Jews from the Babylonian exile. But the Psalm is more universal in scope as it describes various incidents of human life. It tells of the perils which befall men, and the goodness of God in delivering them, and calls upon all who have experienced His care and protection gratefully to acknowledge them; and it is perfectly general in its character. The four or five groups, or pictures, are so many samples taken from the broad and varied record of human experience. But, whatever may have been the circumstances under which the Psalm was written, or the particular occasion for which it was intended, there can be no doubt as to the great lesson which it inculcates. It teaches us not only that God's Providence watches over men, but that His ear is open to their prayer. It teaches us that prayer may be put up for temporal deliverance, and that such prayer is answered. It teaches us that it is right to acknowledge with thanksgiving such answers to our petitions.
With regards to sickness (VV.17-22), It is here set forth—
1. In its cause. "Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities are afflicted" (V.17, KJV). John Perowne's translation is better: "Foolish men, because of the way of their transgression and because of their iniquities, bring affliction upon themselves." The chief ideas here are two:
(1) Wickedness is folly. The transgressor is a "fool." The foolishness is not intellectual, but moral. The wicked are "fools" because of the moral infatuation of their conduct; they despise counsel; they are heedless of warning; they betray their own interests; they will only be brought to reason by chastisement.
(2) Wickedness leads to sickness. The Psalmist expressively indicates that the suffering was self-produced; the sufferers had brought it upon themselves. Many physical afflictions are the direct result of sin. Gluttony and drunkenness lead to untold sickness and suffering. All suffering results from sin. Abolish moral evil, and physical evil would soon be utterly unknown.
2. In its effect. "Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat, and they draw near unto the gates of death" (V.18, KJV). The Psalmist describes the sufferer as loathing food, turning from it in disgust, and drawing near to death. Sheol, the realm of death, he represents as a city which is entered through gates. And the sufferer is solemnly near to those gates; in a little while, unless relief be imparted to him, he will have passed through them for ever.
As for divine healing, the Poet exhibits as—
1. Effected in answer to prayer. "Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble" (V.19, KJV)…
2. Effected with supreme ease. "He sent His word and healed them" (V.20, KJV). Perowne detects here "the first glimmering of St. John's doctrine of the agency of the personal Word. The Word by which the heavens were made is seen to be not merely the expression of God's will, but His messenger mediating between Himself and His creatures." At the command of the Lord diseases flee. He has but to utter His word, and the result is achieved. Doubtless many have been "lifted up from the gates of death" by God in answer to prayer. And in all cases of restoration from sickness to health, "whatever means may be used, the healing power comes from God, and is under His control."
3. Demanding grateful acknowledgment. "Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness” (V.21, KJV).
CONCLUSION.—This sketch of human disease and Divine healing may fairly be regarded as a parable of sin and salvation.
1. Sin produces an awful deterioration in human nature, and, "when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (James 1:15, KJV).
2. The Lord is the almighty and all-merciful Saviour from sin.
3. Prayer is the condition of deliverance from sin: "Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10:13, KJV); "Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near" (Is. 55:6, KJV).
(Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary)
We may never find ourselves literally wandering in a desert wasteland (Psalm 107:4-9), forced to dwell in a place of deep darkness (Psalm 107:10-16), sick to the point of death (Psalm 107:17-22), caught in a tumultuous storm at sea (Psalm 107:23-32), or confronted by poisonous creatures who threaten our lives (Numbers 21:6), but each of us have faced or will face those times when we need desperately the redeeming hand of God. Psalm 107 gives us insight into how to handle thos times:
- Recognize the situation you are in;
- Cry out to God and tell God what you need;
- Accept the deliverance that God brings;
- Then give thanks to God;
- And in the end, remember that God, not any earthly strength or power, can provide a "habitable" place for us and allow us to live the good life that God has given to us.
But what about others? What about those who wander in the wilderness and are sick to the point of death through no fault of their own? What about those who are battered by the storms of life? Yes, we can cry out to God; yes, we can hope in God's good provisions. But we must never forget that those of us who have ample resources and strength are called to be the arms and legs, the hands and feet, the voice of God in this world. God will redeem from the east and the west, from the north and from the south; but the redemption of God often takes human form.
(Nancy deClaissé-Walford, Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages; McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University; Atlanta, GA)