Psalm 124 A song of ascents. Of David. (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. NIV
Psalm 124 is titled The LORD the Defense of His People A Song of Ascents. Of David (NKJV); A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem. A psalm of David (NLT); Our Help Is in the Name of the LORD A Song of Ascents. Of David (ESV); Praise for Rescue from Enemies. A Song of Ascents, of David (NASB); and simply, The Lord Saves His People (ICB); among others.
Psalm 124 is number five of fifteen psalms known as the Song of Ascents (or Song of Degrees, Song of Steps, Pilgrim Songs). The Song of Ascents were sung as pilgrims made their way into Jerusalem to celebrate the three annual festivals as required by God in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 16:16-17). Four of these psalms are attributed to David, including this one. And in this short little song, David is encouraging the Lord’s people to sing in thanksgiving for His saving grace in the past and acknowledging that same faithfulness will carry them into the future.
A good reminder for us all. When we find ourselves worrying about the future, remember the times that God was faithful in past. If God was faithful, why would He not continue to be faithful?
Matthew Henry reminds New Testament believers of Someone else to be thankful for upon reading this psalm. David did not know Him, but he often sang of our Savior.
In singing this psalm, besides the application of it to any particular deliverance wrought for us and our people, in our days and the days of our fathers, we may have in our thoughts the great work of our redemption by Jesus Christ, by which we were rescued from the power of darkness.Matthew Henry, English minister, 1662-1714
"If it had not been the LORD who was on our side," let Israel now say- "If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive, when their wrath was kindled against us, the stream would have gone over our soul; then the swollen waters would have gone over our soul." Psalm 124:1-5 NKJV What if the LORD had not been on our side? Let all Israel repeat: What if the LORD had not been on our side when people attacked us? They would have swallowed us alive in their burning anger. The waters would have engulfed us; a torrent would have overwhelmed us. Yes, the raging waters of their fury would have overwhelmed our very lives. Psalm 124:1-5 NLT
These verses are powerful.
First of all, If the LORD had not been on our side is repeated twice. What if God was not on our side? What a terrible, frightening thought that is. But here, in Psalm 124, David calls the people to remember that it was God. God did it. God saved them. God was on their side. It was all because of God.
Secondly, David calls for “all Israel” to repeat the words: What if the LORD had not been on our side? Everyone must remember. Everyone must understand that their victory- their salvation- came from the Lord, and from nowhere else.
And finally, let all Israel say it, repeat it! Other translations say, Answer, O Israel! (GNBDC), Let Israel repeat this (ICB), All together now, Israel, sing out! (MSG). In this song- and as pilgrims made their way into the city of Jerusalem- David reminded the people to not just remember, but sing it, to say it, to repeat it.
Tell everyone everywhere that if God had not been on our side, we would have been overwhelmed. We would have been washed away, swallowed alive. But God was on our side, and we are saved all because of Him.
One commentator mentioned the “messy” grammar of this first verse. Translators have tried patching it up to make it cleaner and easier to read in English. But if we read it today in all the messiness, we can sense urgency, excitement, and a feeling of overwhelming appreciation. Like this:
Had it not been Jehovah! He was for us! Oh let all of Israel repeat! If it had not been Jehovah!
The thought of God not being there, of God turning His back on His children. The thought is frightening. But He has always been there for us. He has and He will continue to watch over and protect His children.
And here, after the scary thought of what if, we now turn to praise and worship of our faithful Father.
Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth. Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 124:6-8 NKJV Praise the LORD, who did not let their teeth tear us apart! We escaped like a bird from a hunter's trap. The trap is broken, and we are free! Our help is from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 124:6-8 NLT
When we look back and see where we were, compared to where we are, we can see God’s hand upon us. His direction and protection. We marvel at how we had the strength to get through that, and then we remember that we were not alone. We don’t usually say, “what if God wasn’t with me? What would’ve happened?” But it’s true. Many people walk this earth without Him. Praise the Lord that we are not them.
Praise the Lord that we have been saved! We did escape the trap that was set for us, the trap was broken. God broke Satan’s trap the moment that Jesus died on the cross for you and for me.
It [verse 6] implies that none can harm us till the Lord permits: we cannot be their prey unless the Lord gives us up to them, and that our loving Lord will never do . . . He has given us to his Son Jesus, and he will never give us to our enemies.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Praise the Lord that we never have to ask what if? God is with us. Always.
When the angel of the Lord spoke with Joseph the man pledged to Mary, he said this:
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us." Matthew 1:22-12 NKJV Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 NKJV
God is with us. Take heart today as you face whatever trials or worries cross your path or fill your mind because God is with you. He walks beside you; He clears the way ahead for you. He does so much more than we are even aware.
Why? Because He loves you.
Father in heaven, thank you for never leaving us. Thank you for being faithful always. Give us strength to face the day and whatever comes our way. Thank you for your promises, for your word, and for your son. We love you and we give you today. Amen.