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The purpose of this blog is for Quakers and interested fellow travelers to explore the Bible together as it speaks to our condition as individuals.

This discussion is open to Christians, non-Christians, atheists and Pagans; to those who are often confused or angered by the Bible and to those who see scripture as inerrant; to good Quakers and to not-so-good Quakers--to name just a few points of view.

All comments should be given in humility and tenderness, especially where the original poster's perspective is different from your own.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Consider the Great Love of the LORD -- Psalm 107

As I mentioned in my first post, I grew up in a Friends church that placed a great deal of emphasis on Bible memorization (and gave prizes for it!). So I read the Bible a lot as kid and teenager. I mostly looked for short verses to memorize – they counted as much as long ones. “Jesus wept” (John 11:35) was every memorizer’s favorite.

During that time, my favorite book of the Bible (and home of very few short verses, I might say!), though, was Psalms. It still is. I love the aspirations, the honest language, the advice, the humanness of those songs. They help me as I try to live my faith.

The 107th psalm is one that helps me the most. Part of that has to do with my encounter with it when I was entering into one of the darkest times in my life. At a time when I felt that my life as I had known it was collapsing around me (largely as a result of my own actions and mis-actions),

I'll admit that the opening words (Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever) were a little hard to choke out during that time when I was feeling completely bereft. But as I read on, I found a litany of people whom God had helped. God helped those who were lost, in prison, on ships at sea ... most anyone, most anywhere. And it didn’t matter whether they were victims of misfortune or whether they had brought the misfortune on themselves. When they cried out to God, God responded. He heard their cry and rescued them.

And so I came to this psalm and read it with new eyes and an eager heart especially after encountering these words:

Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities. They loathed all food and drew near the gates of death. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy. (17-22)

That was me. My life. While I could relate to some of those in the psalm who found themselves in bad places only because they'd gotten lost or gone down to the sea in ships, I was a rebellious sort. Inwardly, at least. And my iniquities took away my appetite, my ability to sleep, my sense of worth to myself and anybody else. Death seemed like a pretty good option. But, if my life was a mirror of those in this psalm, then perhaps my salvation could be, too. After all, it says that when they cried to God in their trouble and were saved. God sent forth His Word and healed them and rescued them.

That was pretty good news. Especially since it doesn't say that God did all this only after they sufficiently cleaned up their sinfulness and got everything in order. No. They called in the midst of their distress. And God heard them. It was a word from God that I needed to hear. And so, night after night, day after day, I would reread that psalm – a way to sense to God’s presence when I felt at my most low.

The words of that psalm feel like good news to me today, too. I don’t know as much as I wish I did about living in the way of Jesus, but I do know this – that the psalmist is right when he says, “Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the LORD.” (43)

That’s the sort of wisdom I aspire to – to be wise in the great love of the Lord.

-- Brent

Brent Bill is a Quaker minister, writer, and photographer. Learn more about him at www.brentbill.com or holyordinary.blogspot.com


  1. That's the radical message, isn't it? The righteous don't need God's forgiveness and love. We do. We do.

  2. I cherish many of the Psalms, but I'll mention this one ( Psalm 130):

    If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,
    O Lord, who could stand?

    Which is a verse I remember when I'm tempted to condemn someone else...

  3. Psalm 130 above is such a strong beacon to me of God's mercy and grace on those times when I'm tempted to condemn myself.
    If God's not racking up my mistakes against me for later, I might as well follow suit!

  4. Ah yes...God, a.k.a, the great Accountant in the sky :-) (Keeping track of "who's naughty and nice" :-))

  5. "That’s the sort of wisdom I aspire to – to be wise in the great love of the Lord."

    Thanks, Brent.

  6. yes - thank you.

    Liberata, we used to sing a hymn based on psalm 130 in Catholic school, but I don't remember if it had a name - it was beautiful, though. "If You marked down iniquity, Lord who could stand? But Forgiveness is with you and withholds your hand...out of the depths I cry to You, oh, Lord...."

  7. Amen, Brent. I’ll happily even be a fool in the great love of the Lord!

  8. Hey Lone Star...I go back pretty far ...farther than I like to remember :-)

    The opening words of the psalm in Latin are De profondis clamavi, ad te, Domine...
    The psalm was sung for centuries as a prayer asking the Lord's mercy. (Although I don't know why, Catholic bibles used to have a different numbering of the Psalms, and this one was #129 "in the old days").

    I seem to remember that at the end of the musical Man of La Mancha, when Don Quixote dies, the padre begins to sing the De Profundis...

    And that's our trivia feature for today, folks :-)

  9. i'm reading two books that have a remarkable connection to this post. one is fingerprints of god: the search for the science of spirituality by barbara bradley hagerty.

    one group of people she explores are those who come to a mystical experience of the divine through some sort of tribulation, like those in psalm 107. they all hit some kind of bottom. they all experience some form of letting go. they all speak of a feeling of connection to the vastness of life. they all speak of a sense of well being, a sense of being loved completely.

    the other book seems to be the answer to what to do with yourself after having such an experience. it seems like it might be what happens when you become wise in love.

    the book is the practice of the presence of god: conversations, letters, ways and spiritual principles of brother lawrence. "he said that he was always ruled by love, with no other interest, without concerning himself about whether he would be lost or saved. but having taken as the end of all his actions, to do them for the love of god.

    god loves you completely. you love god completely.

    that's a nice circle.

  10. Thanks, everybody, for your comments and additions.

    Have a great week -- I'm looking forward to the next posts on the Bad Quaker Bible Blog! Thanks to Cat for coming up with this!

  11. I LOVE the psalms....
    all misery and self-loathing until the
    "BUT YOU OH L-RD"....