The tenth commandment warns against the danger of coveting the possessions or positions of other men. Obedience to this important command calls for us to abstain from coveting. However, this is only the bare minimum required by the commandment. On the positive side, we are to learn contentment with the various items that God has provided to us.
Yet, even beyond contentment, there is one more level of maturity, which is thankfulness. As we learn how God fully provides for our needs and how He wisely orders our steps, we can rise from the level of contentment to the ultimate level of sincere, thankful praise.
Psalm 107 is a descriptive psalm of thanksgiving. It contains the oft-repeated refrain: “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” This exultant refrain is found four times throughout the psalm—in verses 8, 15, 21, and 31. The psalm imparts all that we as redeemed people should give God thanks for, as summed up in the repeating refrain: “for his goodness” (His ways and Who He is), and “for his wonderful works” (what He does).
The repeated refrain divides Psalm 107 naturally into five sections: wanderers in the wilderness, prisoners in chains, sufferers in sickness, sailors in the storm, and a concluding summary. Many efforts to divide the Scriptures, however helpful they might prove, are often arbitrary and man-made. But in this psalm with each of these practical illustrations of redemption, the sections readily fall into place. The Lord manifests His ways and His works so that the redeemed saint joyfully and willingly renders thankful praise for both the affliction and the deliverance. Let’s look a little more closely at each section as we remember to “not covet” but give thanks and praise to our faithful God.
- Wanderers in the Wilderness
“They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in” (v. 4). In the history of Israel, “homelessness” was literally true in the sojourn of God’s people from Egypt. It is also figuratively the experience of every redeemed soul. As John Bunyan rendered so aptly in The Pilgrim’s Progress, every believer journeys through the wilderness of this world, finding no rest. Eventually, like the children of Israel, we cry “unto the Lord in . . . trouble” (v. 6) and find that He does indeed deliver us out of our distresses and brings us into a “city of habitation” (v. 7). “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” (v. 8).
- Prisoners in Chains
“Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron” (v. 10). The chains of slavery were literally upon the Israelites. Joseph actually experienced the misery of dungeons and darkness. But all who have felt the shackles of sin, the fetters of addiction, and the bars of corruption can shout in triumph at the glorious words of deliverance in verse 14: “He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder.” Again, the refrain is repeated: “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” (v. 15).
- Sufferers in Sickness
“Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted. Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death” (vv. 17–18). Not all sickness comes because of sin. Jesus assured His disciples that some sickness is for the glory of God (see John 9:1–3). Yet, the Apostle Paul wrote in the New Testament that some sickness does come upon God’s people due to their sins (see I Corinthians 11:28–30). Sickness, like any affliction, brings us low and humbles us so that we are able to “cry out to the LORD in our trouble” (v. 19). If you have ever been delivered from a dangerous illness, you can appreciate the profound but simple words that follow in this psalm: “He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions” (v. 20). “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” (v. 21).
- Sailors in the Storm
“They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof” (vv. 23–25). Those who are familiar with American history may already have noticed the striking parallels in this psalm with the account of the Pilgrims on the Mayflower. Like the afflicted saints of Psalm 107, the Pilgrim fathers knew wandering, imprisonment, sickness, and being tossed by a storm at sea. Psalm 107 was very dear to the Pilgrims; perhaps they sang this very psalm as the Mayflower was buffeted by the storms of the North Atlantic! The psalmist graphically illustrates a storm at sea in these words: “They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end” (v. 27). But when they cry to the Lord, He “maketh the sea a calm” and “bringeth them into their desired haven” (vv. 28–30). “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” (v. 31).
After recounting the wonders of the Lord to His redeemed people, such as how He “turneth rivers into a wilderness” and “the wilderness into a standing water,” as well as “dry ground into watersprings” (vv. 33, 35), the psalmist says, “Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD” (v. 43). Do you understand the mercies and miracles of God? Not in a theoretical way, but in a personal way? For example, have you ever wandered, lacking direction, and God brought you guidance? Have you ever been bound by sin, and Jesus set you free? Have you suffered severe illness, and the Great Physician healed you, or have you ever felt storm-tossed, and the Holy Spirit gave you “a calm” within? If so, then you have abundant reason to “praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!”