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Psalm 107:1-3 And Counseling Those incarcerated

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In the coming months, I am going to begin a series on what Psalm 107 has to say about prison ministry.  In this first post, I will focus on the first two verses: 1Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!  2Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble.”

Whenever I would attend chapel services in prison,I can remember countless volunteers trying to comfort us by saying that prison wasn't God's will for our lives.  Well-intentioned though they may have been, that wasn't true then and it's not true now.  Romans 13 makes it clear that the civil authority exists to be  a terror to those who do wrong, and that they are ordained of God.    In Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, he wrote that God uses circumstances that some might call bad or even evil to draw men to Himself.  Calvin cited Psalm 107 as his proof text.  I was in prison when I read that, and I was weeping by the time I reached verse sixteen.  Like no other passage in Scripture, Psalm 107:10-16 makes it clear that God uses prison to draw men to Himself, and that was certainly true for me.

The refrain that occurs over and over again throughout the Psalm is that men should thank the Lord for His goodness and mercy in saving them (vv. 1-3, 8, 15, 21, 31).  But it must be noted that He does so in the midst of seemingly horrible circumstances; He saves them in hunger and thirst, in prison, in poverty, in storms, in despair and in other trials.  People in prison need to know that prison is God's will for their life.  It is the way He has chosen to reveal His mercy to them.  It is the way He has chosen to save them.

You need only ask a prisoner where they would be if God had not intervened.  The majority will tell you they could have killed someone else or been killed doing what they were doing.  Ask them whether they would have stopped drinking or stopped using drugs had God not intervened.  Remind them how many times they planned to quit before they were incarcerated.  Their incarceration was, in fact, the act of a merciful God as He stopped them from destroying their lives and the lives of others.  The prisoner, then, must be encouraged to thank God for His mercy and grace in their incarceration!

Thoughts for Application

  • Since prison is God's will for the offender's life, they may rest assured He has a plan for their life after they are released, and it is a good plan to give them a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • Since prison is God's will for the offender's life, they may not be bitter toward anyone who played a part in their incarceration (friends, family, law enforcement, judicial, the administration of the prison or correctional officers).


Posted on August 16, 2014