This is loving kindness which is grace.
The sinner's chains like Peter's fell off at the word of the Redeemer and he's brought into the light, not because of anything he's done, but in spite of everything he's done. The only proper response to grace, to grace redemption is thanks. Welcome to Grace To You with John MacArthur.
I'm your host, Phil Johnson. As you celebrate Thanksgiving this week, let me suggest that at some point, you write down the many blessings you have to be thankful for. Good health, the job God has provided for you, the church you're part of, all of these reasons for thanks. And of course, if you're a Christian, one blessing ought to motivate your thankfulness more than anything else. John MacArthur is going to look at that miracle today on Grace To You as he continues a week of messages to help you be thankful, not just at Thanksgiving, but all the time. His message is titled, Four Portraits of the Thankful Redeemed.
So take your Bible and follow along with John. Well, let's open our Bibles back to Psalm 107. Now this psalm has a very special place in my heart for a very interesting reason. I didn't realize how the reading of that psalm would impact a young man who was sitting to my left and toward the back.
I later came to understand that this psalm just being read without comment was the turning point in his life. This was a young man, a very tall and handsome young man named Robert. He had been for many years a part of the gay activist group in Los Angeles. He was a homosexual. He had lived that lifestyle for many years.
He was even involved with people planning the gay pride parade, so he was very aggressive in his advocacy. He had become HIV positive and was told that he had AIDS and had a very, very brief time to live. Interestingly enough, and he reiterated this entire testimony not only to me but to our congregation when he was baptized a few weeks after the Sunday I read that psalm, but he said that interestingly enough he asked a friend, Do you know anywhere I can go and get help? I am going to die and I'm afraid to die. I don't want to die not having a relationship with God and I'm afraid. And one of his homosexual friends told him, You need to go to a place called Grace Community Church.
Now that's the kind of reputation we want. And so he came because of the advice of this friend never having known about our church or been here and he sat back there. And I started reading Psalm 107 and I read verse 6, They cried out to the Lord in their trouble. He delivered them out of their distress as he led them also by a straight way.
And straight, of course, is a very strong connotation in homosexual terminology. And then I continued to read and I got down to verse 13, They cried out to the Lord in their trouble. He saved them out of their distress, has brought them out of darkness.
The shadow of death broke their bands apart. And then verse 16, Shattered gates of bronze and cut bars of iron asunder. And he said to me, When you read that, I knew I was in the right place. And he said, I burst into tears and I wanted to cry out to God and I wanted God to lead me in a straight way and break the bars that held me. But he said, Then you sang songs, then the choir sang, then you kept preaching and preaching.
And all I kept thinking was, Why doesn't the guy shut up so I can get up there and find out how to do this? He said, I don't remember anything you said except that it just irritated me because I was a wreck and I was weeping and I just wanted somebody to tell me how to cry out to God. And so he came and that Sunday morning he cried out to God and God heard him and he was delivered from his distress. He was wonderfully saved. He became a shining witness in that community at every opportunity possible proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people who were a part of his former life.
He became a part of our church fellowship, gave a wonderful testimony in the waters of baptism and within a matter of months was in heaven. This psalm has a very special place in my heart because of Robert Lagerstrom, a quite remarkable testimony of the power of the Word of God just read in the hearing of someone desperately needy. This is a psalm of desperation. It's a psalm of thanksgiving from people who have experienced that desperation.
I don't think Robert would have any problem responding, he certainly didn't immediately after his conversion, with the summons in verse 1, O give thanks to the Lord. Or the repeat of that summon in verse 8, let them give thanks to the Lord. Or the repeat of it in verse 15, let them give thanks to the Lord. Or the repeat of it in verse 21, let them give thanks to the Lord.
Or verse 31, let them give thanks to the Lord. Lord, this is a summons to give thanks. From whom is this thanks to come?
Verse 2, let the redeemed of the Lord say it. Here is a call to us who have experienced redemption, who have experienced deliverance, rescue, renewal, restoration, to give thanks. Over the last few days we have all heard many people expressing thanks.
Usually in the public realm that thanks is somewhat vague because it is not directed at anyone in particular. People say, well, I'm really very thankful for my family, I'm thankful for my home, I'm thankful for my job, I'm thankful for family, friends, love, the provisions, joys, good circumstances. But what is glaringly absent is to whom are you thankful?
Grand chance, luck, random circumstances, or maybe somebody who came along and sort of manipulated the coincidental forces of life to bring about your good circumstance. The obvious missing element is to whom all of this thanks is directed. And the psalm is very clear in verse 1, O give thanks to the Lord. And each time that's repeated all the way through the psalm, it is give thanks to the Lord. It is characteristic of the unregenerate that they are not thankful. They do not give God thanks. Romans 1 21 makes that very clear.
But as Christians, we don't render such oblique and ambiguous thanks. For all we are and all we have and all we ever hope to be, we give direct thanks to God. He is the source of absolutely everything good. As James 1 says, He's the Father of lights in whom there's no variableness or shadow of turning and every good and perfect gift comes down from Him.
We understand that. And so we will understand the summons of Psalm 107 verses 1 to 32. O give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His loving kindness, which is an Old Testament word that sort of combines grace and mercy, is everlasting. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary and gathered from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.
There is that opening direct call to give thanks to God. Now this wonderful psalm, this summons to thanksgiving was sung by the Jews, especially sung to thank God for redeeming His people, for redeeming the nation from disaster and captivity and death. And the psalm provides a rich picture of the nature of God's divine work of redemption in redeeming and restoring Israel because of His mercy and His goodness. The psalm was most likely sung by the congregation of Israel to celebrate all these historic deliverances and to remind them of God's ability to deliver them individually from sin. It was most likely written after the Babylonian captivity had ended and so they could recite all the past history of these wonderful deliverances. The deliverance from Babylon was really the last of those ancient deliverances and this psalm I think specifically looked at the Babylonian deliverance, not exclusively but certainly it's obvious, as we shall see when we go through it, that it could have been applied to their seventy years in Babylon. But again, I remind you, it provides general pictures of God's deliverance applicable to all of us who have been delivered from sin. It's likely that the psalm was used in worship, sort of liturgically, when the Jews got together after having returned from Babylon and held their first Feast of Tabernacles, recorded in Ezra chapter 3, it's very likely that they sung this great hymn.
Why? Because they had just experienced rescue, restoration and deliverance. It is key again to note verse 2 that it is the redeemed of the Lord who are saying thanks for the goodness of God expressed in verse 1 in everlasting grace. And everlasting grace is the grace of salvation.
So even though it deals on a historical level, it is that everlasting grace that is the issue here. So we who are also redeemed by everlasting grace can join ancient Israel and genuinely sing this song, not just Israel, but any sinner delivered from death and hell. In fact, Jesus said we too would come from the east and the west, Matthew 8.11, and recline at the table with Abraham, with Isaac, with Jacob in the Kingdom. So He will have redeemed us, the church, from east and west and north and south. And then if you read Revelation 7, 9 and 10, out of the time of Tribulation to come before the Lord sets up His Kingdom, He will redeem a people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And that too would be north and south and east and west and they also will be gathered to that throng that forever will sing salvation unto our God. All believers then redeemed by God at all times, whether Israel of old, whether the present day church, whether the future gathered out of the Tribulation, all of us are to sing the songs of redemption and to express our gratitude to God.
So we who have received God's redeeming mercy and grace join with Israel to sing this psalm of thanks for our redemption. After then that opening call of those three verses, the psalm gets very interesting. There are four illustrations of God's redemption...four illustrations of God's redemption. First, God's redemption is like a lost caravan being led to a safe city. God's redemption is like a captive prisoner in a dungeon waiting execution, being set free. God's redemption is like a sick person with no appetite on the brink of death recovering full health. And God's redemption is like a doomed sailor being rescued from a life-threatening storm. Those are the four magnificent pictures that are given here to illustrate God's redemption.
Each of them is poignant, each of them is graphic, each of them is an analogy illustrating the blessedness of God's redemption, how He rescues sinners out of dire circumstances. And one can only envision that when the temple was filled in its courtyard with worshipers and they were crowded from wall to wall in that temple built by Zerubbabel in the restored land after the city was rebuilt when they came back from Babylon, as they filled up that temple for worship, one can only imagine that in preparation for the singing of Psalm 107 verses 1 to 32 that some priests stood up and perhaps pointed to some people in that great throng who had been lost in the desert in some wilderness caravan and who had run out of water and run out of food and were on the brink of death and were lost in the trackless desert with no ability to find the safety of a city and the water and the food that would be there. There were some who knew that experience and knew it well. And no doubt he could look out over that great throng and he could identify some who had been prisoners, who in their captivity somewhere had been in a dungeon in the black of that hole and the filth and misery of that kind of incarceration in chains waiting execution but had been set free. There were others in that great throng who knew what it was to be on the deathbed languishing on the brink of death with life ebbing away, having lost their appetite with no hope at all and had been wonderfully and miraculously healed.
And surely there were those who had sailed the seas and been on a ship in the midst of a life-threatening storm and the storm had broken and the clouds had parted and the blue sky had been seen and the sea had been stilled and they were able to find their way to a port alive. All of them would be living the illustration that the psalm makes about God's redeeming grace. It's a beautiful, beautiful picture as the priest would stand before this great throng and recite to them this psalm for their singing and they could sing it with joy because they understood these illustrations so well.
Now each of the four illustrations has four parts and we're going to take the same little four-part outline to unfold each. First of all is the predicament and that describes the situation they were in. Secondly, the petition, that's the cry for deliverance that came from them. Thirdly, the pardon, the merciful redemption that God granted. And fourthly, the praise, predicament, petition, pardon, praise, just those four will unfold each illustration. Our redemption from sin then is imaged in these analogies. Our redemption is like lost people being found, locked people in a prison being set free, languishing people with a deadly sickness being healed and life-threatening people at sea being led to a safe harbor.
Each of these provides a look at God's goodness and mercy in very simple and yet very beautiful terms. Here's someone lost in a wilderness...lost in a wilderness. And here we meet the restless soul. Here we meet the aimless people wandering all over the place with no particular direction in mind, having lost their bearings, not knowing where they're going, restless, aimless, lost sinners running out of food, starved and thirsty, wandering hopelessly in a trackless desert trying to find a city. They cannot find a city that would provide food and water and rest and joy and fellowship and safety. Let's look at their predicament in verses 4 and 5. They wandered in the wilderness in a desert region.
They didn't find a way to an inhabited city. They were hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. This could well depict Israel in the wilderness for 40 years after the exodus from Egypt as they wander around in the desert in circles, aimlessly, restlessly. You can read about that from Numbers 14 through Joshua chapter 2. And the Jews roamed the wasted and howling desert between Egypt and Canaan as a result of divine judgment. And, of course, most of them died in that wilderness, never having been led to an inhabited city. It is also true, however, that the imagery could describe Israel in Babylon because Babylon, of course, is a desert place. It is a desert as a nation, it was a cultural desert, it was a social desert, it was a religious desert of paganism and they were as a nation at the very point of perishing.
Israel in Babylon was on the brink of going out of existence. But beyond that, this imagery can also describe any troubled, destitute, forlorn, lost sinner, any wandering, aimless sinner, struggling to find his way in the trackless barrenness of sin with no soul supplying spiritual bread and no soul supplying spiritual water and no hope but to perish in the wilderness. So sinners wander. They wander looking for a place of safety. They wander looking for a place of refuge, a place of security, a place of fellowship, a place of joy, a place of provision.
They find it not and so the wandering sinner is in a predicament. In verse 6 we find that this sinner comes to a petition, then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble. Israel cried to the Lord in Egypt and He heard them and delivered them. Israel cried to the Lord in Babylon and He heard them and delivered them.
Cyrus made a decree and sent them back to the land to rebuild their city. They told God of their famished condition. They told God of their oppression.
They told God they were lost in a wilderness, in a desert and God responded. They illustrate then sinners, sinners of every age, of any time, even today who recognize their aimlessness, who come to the end of their restlessness, who realize their hunger and their thirst, who know their deprivation, who have a grip on the danger of their condition. They're wandering in the wilderness of sin from place to place, from thrill to thrill, from job to job, from marriage to marriage, relationship to relationship, from experience to experience without ever finding any soul food, without ever finding any lasting satisfaction. They're trying to find the way to an inhabited city that will satisfy them and give them security and safety, but they can't.
They're looking like Abraham did in Hebrews 11, verse 10, for a city whose builder and maker is God. And in the midst of their desperation, they finally recognize that's who they need, that only God can provide that refuge. And so they cry out to Him as all of us did in our lostness.
The whole world is a vast and barren desert, a place that is a wasteland, empty, stark and threatening and deadly. Those who are desperate enough and hungry enough and thirsty enough and lost enough finally come to the place where they cry out to God. They call to Him as the King of an eternal city in which there are limitless resources, provisions, rest, security and satisfactions.
And how does God respond? The third point is the pardon, from the predicament to the petition. And then the pardon, this is so wonderful, verse 6, He delivered them out of their distresses.
And He led them also by a straight way to go to an inhabited city. When the sinner cries to God, he answers. When Israel called to God, he answered. He heard Israel. He brought Israel out of Egypt. He heard Israel. He brought Israel out of Babylon. And though all hope seemed gone, they were redeemed. And God led them out of Babylon by a straight way. Cyrus made that decree. He made the way open. He provided all that they needed, sent them on their way, gave them Nehemiah to be their leader, gave them someone to make sure they were safe.
The journey was a straight journey, right into an inhabited city, the city of Jerusalem which they rebuilt and restored. So it is with God. When the sinner comes to Him and cries, that's all it takes.
There's not any works here. This is all about loving kindness, which is the Old Testament word chesed, meaning grace or mercy. This is all about grace. It doesn't say they did a few things, they straightened up their life. It says they cried out to the Lord in their trouble.
And that's where the sinner has to come. He offers nothing. He brings nothing.
He has nothing to offer, no works, no achievements, no accomplishments. He just says, I am dying. And he cries to God. And God responded with a pardon.
He delivered them out of his distresses, led them by a straight way to go to an inhabited city. That is grace, my friend. That is grace.
In a straight way, all that means is it's direct and it's not circuitous and it's not up and down and it's not hard to travel. It's reminiscent of what Jesus said when He said, "'Come unto Me, all you that labor and heavy laden, and I will give you...what?...rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for My yoke is easy and My burden is light." The way is the way of grace, not the way of works. And when the sinner comes and cries to God, God pardons the sinner. And that leads to the fourth point. That kind of goodness, that kind of grace, that kind of mercy carries an obligation.
And what is the obligation? Verses 8 and 9, "'Let them give thanks to the Lord for His loving kindness and for His wonders to the sons of men, for He has satisfied the thirsty soul and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.'" You who are thirsty and hungry, out on that wandering, barren desert with no way to go and no map, no direction, no path to an inhabited city, no hope for resources, cried out to God, He gave you everything you needed, certainly you are obligated to give Him thanks for that grace. What could deserve more the thanks of God's people than that we are safely led to that inhabited city? What is that inhabited city? It's heaven, the heavenly city.
And we have a straight path and we're on it, headed to that city. Revelation 7 verse 15 puts it this way, "'When we get there before the throne of God, we will serve Him day and night in His temple. He who sits on the throne shall spread his tabernacle over them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun beat down on them, nor any heat. We're out of that desert, we're in the inhabited and wonderful city of heaven.
The lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd and guide them to the springs of the water of life and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes.'" That's heaven. It's not a desert. It's not barren. It's a rich and wonderful place. In Revelation chapter 22, it has a river of the water of life.
It has trees on either side of the river yielding fruit. There's no curse there and we'll see His face and His name will be on our foreheads. And in chapter 21, He'll wipe away every tear. There'll be no more death, no more mourning, crying, pain. It's all gone.
That's the inhabited city we're headed for. And the redeemed of the Lord are called to say thanks. That's John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, describing the eternal redemption you can thank God for if you're a believer. The title of today's lesson on Grace to You, Four Portraits of the Thankful Redeemed. Well, with the theme of thankfulness still in mind, we can't help but thank the Lord for the work we so vividly see Him doing through the support of friends like you.
John, you have a few real life examples of that in front of you. So take a minute, read us those letters. It's always a joy to do that, Phil. This is a letter from Mrs. L. We'll leave her anonymous.
Mrs. L., thank you anyway for writing. And she writes, My husband and I listen to your sermons every morning on the Reformation Network app. We have become more confident in our salvation and in the hope that we have in Christ. It has also become so much easier to speak to people about our faith because your messages have equipped us so well. I teach at a Christian school, and we have a Bible lesson every morning. Because of your teaching, I can better teach my students from the Bible. God bless you and everyone at Grace to You.
You know, Phil, that's something we always hope happens, that we teach the Bible well enough for whoever received it to pass it on to the next person. Thank you, Mrs. L., whoever you are. Then from Pastor Mark in Birmingham, Alabama, here's a letter. I want to sincerely thank you for the Know Your Bible booklet library that you sent to our church. What a wonderful gift and a valuable resource.
The booklets and display case are top quality, as is the MacArthur teaching material. So I'm thrilled to be able to share this with my congregation. Thank you for all of the effort that went into that project. It's good to hear that that's really having a good impact on churches and pastors. And then a third letter, I'm a busy high school student here in Washington, but every morning while I get ready for the day, I listen to the Grace to You radio broadcast. It enriches my whole day. Your broadcasts make me think deeper about Christ and help me get in the right mindset for the day.
I go to public school where I'm bombarded with a lot of junk. Your teaching has helped me see that I have an important job, to proclaim Christ with my actions and also with my words. Thanks for all your hard work from a high school student who says, with love, Anna. Thank you, Anna. Well, you all are aware of the fact that this is the feedback from teaching the Word of God, and it is the joy of our hearts to be able to share some of these letters with you.
We get thousands of them, and that's why we keep doing what we're doing, because we know the response is there. The folks are taking the Word of God as we deliver it one verse at a time, and it's doing its transforming work as God promised it always would. Thank you for being a part of this ministry, standing with us in your prayers and in your gifts, and in spreading the word about grace to you, to those who may not even know we're on the air. Do that for us, and we'll see the Lord work in even more lives. Thank you.
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For more information on legacy-giving, visit gty.org or call us at 800-55-GRACE. And now, if you'd like a copy of the lesson you heard today to review on your own or to study with a small group, you can download this sermon free of charge in MP3 and transcript format at gty.org. In fact, you can download all of John's sermons for free. That's more than 3,600 messages. To take advantage of the sermon archive or thousands of other free study tools, visit our website, gty.org. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson. Be back tomorrow as John continues showing you just how much you have to be thankful for, even if you're facing difficult days. It's another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
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