“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 sideWhen men rose up against us, Then they would have [quickly] swallowed us alive,When their wrath was kindled against us; Then the waters would have engulfed us,The torrent would have swept over our soul; Then the raging waters would have swept over our soul.” Blessed be the Lord,Who has not given us as prey to be torn by their teeth. We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers;The trap is broken and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord,Who made heaven and earth.
As a ten year old, I dreamed the Lord had come and I was left behind. The experience frightened me into asking Jesus into my life.
However, for years after, I lived with a distorted view of His return. The Bible teaches that His coming is our hope. Instead, it was my fear. I knew that salvation was by grace, but I thought Rapture was by works- and I didn’t measure up.
Four decades later I dreamed again that the Lord returned. Only this time I began to lift off. A mistake has been made, I thought. I’m not good enough. The drop to the ground will hurt when the error is discovered. But, I kept rising- above the tree line and into the deep blue sky. Oh, I despaired, I’m so high now that when they find the mistake, the fall will kill me.
But, I continued to ascend until the houses below were little dots. There had been no mistake. I woke myself up shouting at the top of my lungs, “I made it! I made it!”
The psalmist in Psalm 124 anticipates declaring that same testimony as he pens this fifth psalm of ascent.
The parable of Luke 10 describes the journey from Jericho to Jerusalem and its great dangers. As in the story, robbers lurked ready to beat , strip the clothes off and leave for dead the weary traveler. Psalm 124 and the accompanying Psalms can be seen as encouragement for everyone who is on the spiritual journey from Jericho to Jerusalem. We will never make it to the top without the Lord being on our side. In this psalm, the writer testifies to surviving four stark terrors:
First we face the terror of being swallowed alive. In 1 Peter 5:8, Peter describes our real enemy as the devil who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Our enemy consistently seeks the opportunity to overwhelm us and his goal is to get us to stop trusting and to stop believing. Although we rarely see him as a roaring lion for he comes most often as an angel of light, with a smile rather than a roar. We must never forget the true nature of the devil. The Bible teaches that just as the devil comes to “kill, steal, and destroy,” Christ has come to give us abundant life. We need to know that the devil does not care for us, but God does.
Second we face the terror of being swept away by the flood waters of adversity. Psalm 124 paints the picture of the psalmist looking down into the ravine where a flash flood almost swept him away. We, too, have no doubt experienced and unexpected torrent that almost overwhelmed us and in that moment we couldn’t run fast enough to escape. We had no chance to prepare and no defense against it. We made it to safety- like Peter in the storm- because the Lord reached into the flood waters and grabbed us. He may have not lifted us up from the waters all at once but He is stronger than the flood and He can stand in it and hold you. He may have forced you to learn to swim, to use spiritual muscles you didn’t know you had. He pushed us to develop coping mechanisms for surviving the towering waves, powerful currents, and violent undertows.
The third terror we face is that of being chewed on. The psalmist portrays us like a little child in the grip of a mad dog. It would be an incredible miracle it that child were to escape without its skin broken by the vicious teeth. This describes the terror of such a moment experienced by the writer in a vulnerable place in his life. We rest in the knowledge that God controls the jaws gripping us and he won’t let them tear you to pieces.
The final terror the psalmist describes is the terror of being trapped. There is a story of famed escape artist Harry Houdini who used to boast he could break out of any locked jail in the country. One day he found himself in a cell he couldn’t open. After working two intense hours of effort to pick the lock, he slumped against the door in defeat and it swung open. The door had only been locked in his mind.
Could that describe you? Are you thinking that you are trapped by circumstances with no way of escape? Perhaps you should take another look. We have the strongest help possible and He is making a way of escape for you. In 1 Corinthians, Paul says it this way:
“No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance]; but God is faithful [to His word—He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].”
1 Corinthians 10:13
God never leaves us in the place of terror. Like the parent who holds us in our terror of bad dreams and fears, God comes to us and holds us until we feel safe again.
Dr. John Thompson