Psalm 124 (NIV)
1 If the Lord had not been on our side—
let Israel say—
2 if the Lord had not been on our side
when people attacked us,
3 they would have swallowed us alive
when their anger flared against us;
4 the flood would have engulfed us,
the torrent would have swept over us,
5 the raging waters
would have swept us away.
6 Praise be to the Lord,
who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
7 We have escaped like a bird
from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
and we have escaped.
8 Our help is in the name of the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
Sing this psalm with the Seedbed Psalter today! Visit the resource here.
Part of what happens on communal journeys is the sharing of memories, the recounting of stories, and the remembrance of shared experiences. This psalm looks back and articulates one of the central steadfast realities of God’s people—that God is a God of deliverance who is on our side. Two images are employed in picturing that deliverance. First, the flood—the torrent, the raging waters, which would have engulfed us, swept us away, and swallowed us alive. It is a very vivid and turbulent image. The second picture is that of being trapped and escaping the snare like a bird when the snare was broken.
The communal nature of singing this psalm comes in the call for the pilgrims to engage, both vocally and corporately, in rehearsing these deliverances: “If the Lord had not been on our side—let Israel say—if the Lord had not been on our side” (vv. 1–2, italics added). It is important in the journey of life to remind each other that the Lord is on our side. It is important to voice the realities of our deliverance to one another. When we look back at the Lord’s work on our behalf, we are able to persevere with renewed confident faith in the midst of waters that still arise and threaten to overwhelm us. By hearing others proclaim the unshakable truth of deliverance, we are reminded of the reality of our own rescue.
Paul reminds us in Colossians 1:13–14: “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” We need to say it again and again. We need to remind each other of this incredible deliverance. “If the Lord had not been on our side—let [Christians] say—if the Lord had not been on our side.” Then, as the psalm says in verses 6–8, “Praise be to the Lord, who has not let us be torn by their teeth. We have escaped . . . Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (italics added). Because the Lord is the Maker of heaven and earth, he can rescue us not just from the raging floods that beset us, but even from the dominion of darkness. We need to tell the story often, we need to rehearse it for each other, and we need to sing it with the psalmist—the Lord is on our side! More floods may come, more torrents may rage, more snares may pull us down, but the Lord is the God of deliverance, and our lives are in his hand, the Maker of heaven and earth!