Some verses from the Bible are so embedded in our collective conscience that they take on a meaning of their own — often quite different from the meaning the original author intended. And sometimes the solution to properly understanding a text is as simple as looking closely at the context.
Such is the case with Psalm 107:2 –
“Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary”
This is a favorite verse of preachers who are looking to garner feedback from the congregation. The assumption is that this verse is a complete thought that serves as a directive to the redeemed to say that they are indeed redeemed. Are you redeemed? Yes? Well then, say so!
But the simple fact is that even the most basic exegesis and contextual interpretation leads to a completely different — and more important — conclusion. Here’s what the text actually says —
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good,
For His lovingkindness 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.
They wandered in the wilderness in a desert region;
They did not find a way to an inhabited city.
They were hungry and thirsty;
Their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble;
He delivered them out of their distresses.
He led them also by a straight way,
To go to an inhabited city.
Let them give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness,
And for His wonders to the sons of men! (Psalm 107:1-8)
So, based on the context, what exactly are the redeemed instructed to say? That the Lord is good and that His lovingkindness is everlasting.
And what’s the evidence that this is true? He gathered His own — His redeemed — from from all corners of the world, delivering them from the hand of their enemy.
In the historic context, this has to do with God delivering Israel out of Egypt. For 40 years they wandered in the wilderness, hungry and thirsty. They cried to the Lord and He delivered them. He led them to the Promised Land and ultimately to Jerusalem, the place where He placed His name.
So what is the proper reaction? They should thank the Lord for His lovingkindness and for His wonders to the sons of men. (That phrase is repeated in verses 15, 21, and 31.)
The Psalm concludes with these words —
Who is wise? Let him give heed to these things,
And consider the lovingkindnesses of the LORD. (Psalm 107:43)
From start to finish, the theme of this Psalm is God’s goodness and lovingkindness. That’s what the redeemed of the Lord are supposed to announce. This Psalm is not advancing a form of self-assurance or confident boasting in our redemption. It is meant to be a reminder of the various ways that God delivered Israel. He is to be glorified for His goodness and His merciful work. The emphasis is on Him, not on the redeemed. The redeemed’s only participation in this whole historical account of God’s redemptive work is to admit to His goodness.
And THAT’s what the redeemed are to “say so.”