Fools Returning to God
(17) Fools, because of sinful ways and because of iniquities, are afflicted. (18) Their soul abhors any kind of food, and they draw near to the gates of death. (19) Then they cry out to Yahweh in their trouble, and he delivers them from their distress. (20) He sends forth his Word and heals them and delivers them from their destruction. (21) Let them give thanks to Yahweh for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men, (22) and let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and let them tell of his deeds with songs of joy.
The only repetitions in this portion of the psalm are the two refrains (vss. 19 & 21) which are almost identical in their wording when compared with the previous two segments (vss. 6 & 13 and vss. 8 & 15). The two occurrences of “delivers” (vss. 19 & 20) are translations of two different Hebrew verbs that convey virtually the same meaning. Four parallelisms point to the message of the segment: “sinful ways” paired with “iniquities” (vs. 17), “trouble” with “distress” (vs. 19), the two synonyms for “deliver” (vss. 19 & 20), and “sacrifices of thanksgiving” along with “songs of joy” (vs. 22).
I. The difficulties which cause sinners to cry out to Yahweh (17-19)
II. Yahweh’s deliverance motivating thanksgiving and praise (20-22)
Yahweh’s deliverance of sinners from the consequences of their foolish ways should motivate them to offer him thanksgiving and praise.
Jesus’ memorable parable, “The Prodigal Son,” fleshes out the message of this segment of Psalm 107. Found in Luke 15:11-32, the story recounts how the younger of two sons demands that his father give him his portion of the inheritance and foolishly leaves the comforts and security of home to make his own way in the world. He soon spends everything he had received and is reduced to poverty and hunger. The only job he can find is feeding slops to pigs which, for a young man raised in a Jewish home, is unimaginably humiliating. In his desperation, he decides to return home and cast himself on the mercy of the father whom he had previously treated with contempt. He hopes that his father will receive him back as a servant. Unexpectedly, he is welcomed home with open arms by his loving father who forgives him and restores him to the family.
The second part of the parable focuses on the refusal of the self-righteous older brother to share in the father’s joy over the younger brother’s return. We never learn the “rest of the story” and are left with several unresolved questions. Will the elder brother ever accept the younger brother’s return? Will the younger brother learn from his harrowing experience and become a grateful son to a loving father? Will peace ever be restored to this family?
Jesus gave this parable, the third of three in Luke 15 which describe the joy of finding that which was lost, to help us realize that all of us are prodigals. We all need the father’s forgiveness whether we overtly rebel against him like the younger son or quietly resist him with pride and self-righteousness like the elder brother. We all need to learn the difficult spiritual lesson that only by humbly accepting the Father’s love and turning from our selfish ways do we receive his grace and enter into full fellowship with him.