Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Oct 27 2019 - Psalm 124 – If the Lord not on our side

Israel's history recorded in the Scriptures is full of instances where God had come to the aid of his people when they were facing serious threats and had rescued them.

In Egypt, Pharaoh had been intent on genocide as a solution to the growing numbers of the children of Israel. He saw them as a threat. He commanded that all the baby boys should be thrown into the Nile at birth and left to drown. He subjected all the men to cruel slave labour to break their spirits and send them to an early grave. Had he succeeded in his plans, the entire nation of Israel would have died out in a generation. But he did not succeed. God heard the cry of his people and waded into their conflict on their side. He broke the power of Pharaoh using a baby who had been deposited in the river and who had grown to manhood in Pharaoh's own household. He rescued his people from slavery in Egypt so that they "escaped like a bird from the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped" (v. 7).

When the Israelites got to the shores of the Red Sea, there was a vast body of water before them and the pursuing army of Pharaoh behind them. They feared that they would be driven into the sea and be drowned – that the flood would have engulfed them (v. 4). But the Lord had intervened on their side and had dried up the waters of the sea so that the Israelites could walk across on dry ground. It was the pursuing Egyptians who were engulfed by the flood and swept away by the torrent of raging waters.

Later, when they arrived at the land the Lord had promised to give them they found great walled cities like Jericho shut up against them. But the Lord had fought with them and for them; he had shown himself to be on their side and the walls had come crashing down before them.

In the days of Gideon, when the Midianites threatened to steal the harvest of the land and destroy the young nation, the Lord had fought on their side and defeated the great Midianite army with just 300 men.

This story could be repeated again and again as we review the pages of the Old Testament. If the Lord had not been on the side of his people – his all too often rebellious and disobedient people – they would have been destroyed. So this "Song of Ascents", calls pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem to begin their celebration as they journey and as they remember all that the Lord has done for them. The psalm ends with an echo of Psalm 121: "Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 124:8).

We can echo the theme of this psalm, but perhaps with an added note of surprise. We are, by nature, rebels against God and deserving of his judgment. But in Christ, the living God has shown himself to be on our side. So much so that in Jesus, God became incarnate – identified himself fully with us. He came to be with us that he might save us – that he might rescue us from all those forces that threatened to destroy us. In his death he endures all that those forces could do to destroy him. By his resurrection he has defeated them and has broken their power over us: "the snare has been broken, and we have escaped."

The apostle Paul speaks with wonder of these things when he asks, "If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:31-32). Jesus is the proof that God is on our side and will not allow us to be swept away in our own weakness and folly but has come to rescue us. We also have much cause to praise him as we make our pilgrim way to glory.

Father God, thank you that in the Lord Jesus you have shown yourself to be on our side. Help us to come alongside those who fear that they will be overwhelmed by all that they feel is opposed to them and set to destroy them. Help us to tell them the good news that there is one who can rescue them and give them the sure hope of victory now and for eternity.

Peter Misselbrook