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Psalm 124 - If The LORD Is On Our Side

October 11, 2020 Speaker: Reid Strahan Series: Summer Psalms

Topic: Worship Passage: Psalm 124:1–124:8

Psalm 124 is like a very dear friend to me.  It has encouraged me, and reassured me through some of the lowest moments in my life. I am glad to introduce you to this Psalm and I trust that it will become a dear friend to you, too. 

This psalm describes “The Great Blessing of Having the Lord on Your Side”.  You could have many people on your side and still be ruined. You could have a mother and father for you, yet still live in defeat and disaster. You could be very well liked and have many friends who want you to do well, and still end up in hell – both figuratively and literally.  

The ONE we must have on our side is the LORD. ONLY the LORD is capable of defending us against the forces that come against us in this world. But if the Lord IS on our side then we will never be given up to our enemies. God will vindicate us! We WILL enjoy glory and victory and safety.  Psalm 124:

1 “Had it not been the Lord who was on our side,” Let Israel now say,

2 “Had it not been the Lord who was on our side when men rose up against us,

3 Then they would have swallowed us alive, when their anger was kindled against us;

4 Then the waters would have engulfed us, the stream would have swept over our soul;

5 Then the raging waters would have swept over our soul.”...

Blessed be the Lord, who HAS NOT given us, to be torn by their teeth.

7 Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper; The snare is broken and we have escaped.

8 Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

This psalm says, if the Lord had given us up, here is how bad it would be, but PRAISE THE LORD!  He has NOT given us up!! He has not given you up to your circumstances, He has not given you up to people who are against you, or don’t care if you get hurt.  He has not left us in the hands of wicked people who hate God.  We are not left to the mercy of wicked governments, or to powerful people and institutions in our culture that hate Christians.  He has not given us up to be torn by their teeth!  He is on our side! 

As soon as we become a Christian, we automatically become a target of Satan.  He works through unseen forces, and people, to dishearten, to divide, and to destroy us.

While we presently enjoy a status of love and favor and peace with God, we face great opposition, or even hatred and rejection, from the world. 

Jesus was hated and put to death.  The apostles were constantly in danger. Paul said “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm”. He said, “We are hunted down but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.” 2 Cor. 4:8 NLT 

Luther’s hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God, means so much to us, precisely because this “world with devils filled”, does “threaten to undo us”. 

John Wesley, seeing the great opposition to William Wilberforce in his efforts to end slavery, wrote him a letter and said, “unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? ...O do not be weary of well doing.”  

In discussing the opposition to his faith that he has experienced in Hollywood, Jim Caviezal said, “But I know our Lord deserves to be loved and come hell or high water I’m going to do it.”  Hell and high water will come!  It’s just part of following Jesus.

Satan works disguised or unseen most of the time.  He sometimes works against us through the guise of circumstances, Paul said “For we wanted to come to you--, more than once-- and yet Satan hindered us.”  Sometimes there is this invisible roadblock in our way and we can’t seem to get things done that we want to do and need to do.   

Satan works against us directly through unseen spiritual forces. Paul said we wrestle “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” 

Satan also works against us through people.  In Psalm 124 it is men (people) “who rose up against us.”  It is people whose “anger burned against us”.  Satan sometimes even works through good people, who temporarily fall into his way of thinking, rather than God’s way of thinking.  Jesus said, to Peter, “Get behind me Satan, for your thoughts are NOT on the things of God”.  One of the most difficult things all believers face is being hurt, or given bad advice by God’s people. 

But primarily we are opposed by people of the world who do not love righteousness, or God. Jesus said, “If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as one of it’s own.” The world hates you because you are not of the world”. Even those in the church who express the same beliefs of the world, and live like the world, do not experience the opposition of the world.  But Paul said, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer...”. 

In this great spiritual conflict, it often seems like we are losing. Psalm 12:8 says, “The wicked strut about on every side” and “vileness is exalted among the sons of men.” NASB Or “evil is praised throughout the land”.  NLT  What a description of our world, our nation, our culture today.

Psalm 124 says the battle against us is so great that “If the Lord had not been on our side all our enemies would have swallowed us alive.  The waters would have completely swept over our soul. We would have been drowned by the flood of opposition. They would have torn us by their teeth. They would have trapped our soul like a bird.”  These expressions graphically express the real danger we face of being overwhelmed, overpowered, or ripped apart by forces or people who oppose us.   

Psalm 124 begins by exhorting us to realize the danger that we would be in if the Lord were not on are side. So it begins, “If the Lord had not been on our side” or “What if the Lord had not been on our side”. It repeats it twice, emphasizing the importance of this thought. Luther said “When we are in danger, our fear is without measure; but when it is past, we imagine (the danger) to have been less than it was indeed.”  IE Sometimes we forget how bad things would be IF God were NOT on our side!  What if God had not saved us? What if Christ had not died for us? What if we were still slaves to sin?  What if God hadn’t helped us when our enemies turned against us and sought to ruin us?  If we consider the frightfulness of these situations, it builds deep gratitude, deep joy and praise, to know God has not given us up!  So... For a moment consider how bad things would be if the Lord had not been on our side!

Despite considering the frightful reality of being swallowed alive, drowned by a flood of opposition, torn by our enemies teeth, this psalm is not a song of discouragement.  It is a song of exultation!  It is a song of boastful confidence in the Lord! First it ponders what IF the Lord had not been on our side, then moves toward a great crescendo of praise because the Lord IS on our side.  **If the Lord HAD given us up, we would be destroyed. But (verse 6) he has NOT given us up, to our enemies, to be torn by their teeth!  And he never will!  So praise the Lord, bless the Lord! Exalt the Lord!   

No matter how much you feel trapped in a bad situation, or torn up by sharp and painful attacks, the Lord has not given you up!  This can become YOUR personal song of praise!  Blessed be the Lord who has not given us up!!  What an encouraging thing to just say that!  

The church used to sing these psalms in past centuries!  There is a story about a man in Scotland who was persecuted and put in prison for his faith. When he was eventually released from prison, the Christians gathered to celebrate his release.  About 200 gathered, then more and more came till over 2000 had gathered.  And they sang in four part harmony Psalm 124.

“Blessed be the Lord who has not given us up”.

Verse 7 “Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper; The snare is broken and we have escaped.”  There is no joy like the joy of escaping something terrifying.  We have escaped from men(and the fear of men!) – If the Lord is our helper, what can mere human beings do to us?  We have escaped from the guilt and shame and bondage of sin! We have escaped from the wages of sin, eternal death. There’s a hymn that says, “We sing the song of the soul set free! It’s melody is ringing, joy and peace to me its bringing, my heart is ever singing the song of the soul set free.”

Who is this, who is on our side? Verse 8 “Our help is in the name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.”  Our help is from the Supreme Being, the Supreme Power, the Supreme Judge. Our help is from the Maker of heaven and earth! When you trust God, you are trusting the Almighty Creator, who is fully able to help you! Following the Reformation, the protestant churches all over France began every church service by quoting this verse!  What a great thought to start your day!!  “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”

Now, I want to use Psalm 124 to speak to the broader theme throughout Psalms and the whole Bible of the vindication of God’s people.  No matter what happens, God will make things right for those who love him and trust him.  Isaiah 54 “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn.  This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication is from me, declares the Lord.”  God will rescue his people from wicked people who seek to harm us. We are promised that over and over from cover to cover! Psalm 3:1-3 says, 

Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”

But you, Lord, are a shield around me,

my glory, the One who lifts my head. 

God not only delivers us, he bestows glory on us. 

Isaiah 35:4 “Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”

Psalm 58:11 “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth.” 

Psalm 34:21-22 “...those who hate the righteous will be condemned. (But) The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned. 

Implications of these truths:

*First: We need to be less upset, and less fearful about people being against us!   We need to actually think that our status with God is what really matters!  Psalm 118:6 “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Romans 8:31 What shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?”  “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?”  God won’t! He is the one who justifies you. Christ won’t! He is the one who died for you and intercedes for you. Others can bring charges, but since God is on our side, what does that matter!!  This isn’t saying we shouldn’t accept loving correction. It is talking about those who condemn!  We focus on our status with God, NOT what others say or think about us!

*Second: We can be happy warriors. We are in a war but we can still be happy, and live with confidence, unafraid of what people can do to us, BECAUSE God will judge!  Psalm 67:3,4 “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity...” 
Psalm 75 “But as for me, I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.  All the horns of the wicked He will cut off, But the horns of the righteous will be lifted up.”  

We can relax, we can stop wringing our hands, we can be happy. There will be a day when God steps in and deals with those those who mock him, despise his word, and flaunt their sin and mistreat his people.  “Then rang the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead, nor does he sleep.  The wrong shall fail, the right prevail!” 

Jesus said, “shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him.”  The end of the wicked is defeat and destruction. The end for the righteous person is victory, safety and joy forever in the presence of God.  God will rescue his own, so hold on! Keep faith, keep hope!

*It is not wrong to want vindication, but we never need to, or should, take our own revenge, or return evil for evil or insult for insult!  We can love and forgive and look to God to take care of us. Vindication, judgment and vengeance belong to God and not to us.  This takes a huge burden off of us and allows us to leave things in God’s hands. We do not have to get back or get even! 

Some in the church think that we are solving a big PR problem for God by removing his role as Judge.  But that denies the truth about God revealed in his word.  And if God is not capable or willing to judge evil and evil men, there is no vindication, no justice, no salvation for God’s people. There would never be an end to evil and rebellion and trouble for the saints.

A pastor, Rory Mosely said a casualty of stripping God of his role as judge “is that Christians no longer understand that their God will vindicate them when they suffer righteously.” “This is one of the reasons meekness is so hard for the present day believer. They are afraid that if they are meek then no one will make things right. This is why forgiveness is so hard for the present day believer. They are afraid that if they forgive, no one will vindicate them. They are afraid that if they don’t take their own revenge, then justice will never have its day.”

Scripture promises that we can be meek and forgiving and submissive because God DOES vindicate His people.

Fourth: All people should quickly turn to God because he is the judge of all the earth!  In Acts 17 Paul said God “commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed”.  We live in a time where God offers forgiveness and salvation and freedom from all condemnation.  But not everyone will love and accept this truth!  Jesus Christ will come back and judge the world.  He will rule over the new heavens and a new earth.  And Revelation 21:27 says, “no one who practices evil will be allowed to enter, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” 

It is so important that you have your name written in Christ’s book of life.  Don’t assume your name is written down, because your parents are, or some of your friends are!  Come to Christ to forgive you and save you. Do not risk facing judgment day without Christ as your Savior!  If you come to Christ, God will say to you, “I am on your side and I will never give you up!”   It is in Christ, and in Christ alone that we can say, God is for us!  God is on our side!  

I want to close this morning by reading the words of a hymn written by Martin Luther based on this Psalm:

1. If God had not been on our side
And had not come to aid us,
The foes with all their power and pride
Would surely have dismayed us;
For we, His flock, would have to fear
The threat of men both far and near
Who rise in might against us.

If God had not been on our side.

2. Their furious wrath, did God permit,
Would surely have consumed us
And as a deep and yawning pit
With life and limb entombed us.
Like men o'er whom dark waters roll
Their wrath would have engulfed our soul
And, like a flood, o'erwhelmed us.

If God had not been on our side.

3. Blest be the Lord, who foiled their threat
That they could not devour us;
Our souls, like birds, escaped their net,
They could not overpower us.
The snare is broken-we are free!
Our help is ever, Lord, in Thee,
Who madest earth and heaven. 

Is this not reason to bless the Lord!!

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