STUDY IN THE ASCENT PSALMS
Semi-Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford
Today is our fifth study of the “Ascent Psalms” – Psalms 120-134. [You can check out the first 4 studies under “BLOGS/JEREMY STOPFORD” on Mr. Becker’s auspicious web site!]. How are you doing in your “long obedience in the same direction”, as Brother Eugene Peterson ((author of “The Message” Bible) called these psalms?
OUR THEME VERSE
“Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage.” (Psalm 84:5 NKJV). Have you set YOUR heart on “pilgrimage”?
Today we are in Psalm 124. This is a most fascinating psalm! We are going to see phrases repeated twice (why?). We are going to see illustrations of what happens if God WEREN’T on our side. We are going to see a most familiar phrase, which might cause us to say, “I didn’t know THAT came from the Bible!”. And we are going to see the unashamed Origin of the psalmist’s hope! Let’s go! OH! we have to pray first!
Father – you are inviting us today to examine where our hope is. That shouldn’t be an hard hope to find, but without You and with NO hope, that certainly would be. We are glad that You have put into print David’s experiences in HIS “long obedience in the same direction.” Guide our study today, we pray. And then guide our life’s obedience, we pray as well. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.
OUTLINE OF PSALM 124 (Dr. W. Graham Scroggie). Title: “Mercy Remembered
1. A Description of Peril (vs. 1-5,7)
A. The peril of “voracious beasts” (vs. 3,7)
B. The peril of “swollen torrents” (vs. 4,5)
C. The peril of “fowler’s trap” (v. 7)
2. An Ascription of Praise (vs. 6-8)
SOME INTERESTING INSIGHTS
David uses a grammatical style often used by both Hebrew writers and even by the Lord Jesus Himself! Remember throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus would say (in our beloved old KJV), “verily, verily”? Check out John 1:51 (KJV), “And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” 25 times in the Gospel of John alone, this phrase “verily, verily” is used by our Savior. Why?
Or how about in Isaiah’s vision of the Lord Jesus, when confronted with the words of the angelic visionaries of True God Himself, Isaiah wrote in triplicate: “holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of Hosts” (Isaiah 6:3). Why 3 times did the angel say the word “holy”?
And now here in Psalm 124, verses 1 and 2, the psalmist enters a statement starting with the word “if” in both verses. Why?
Why? Why? WHY? Emphasis! “Verily, verily” means what I am about to say is so truthful you had better pay attention. “Holy, holy, holy” is SO descriptive of our God and so revelatory of the fact that He is the TRIUNE God (One in Three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!). That phrase HAD to be repeated 3 times!
And now “IF”. It is a phrase of immense contrast. IF Jehovah were not on our side, and that is an impossibility – IF it WERE possible, but I just told you that it is an impossibility – all sorts of things would happen! When men rose up against us, we would have been swallowed alive, we would have been overwhelmed just like being drowned in waters, we would have even a stream, much less swollen waters “gone”, literally “swept over” our very souls!
David’s use of the phrase “our soul” is showing an HUGE OT insight of NT truth. The “soul” is that which is either alive or dead to God. We are born “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). But our souls are “made ALIVE” when we come to the truth of the cross and trust Jesus as our Savior. Note Ephesians 2:4-5, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…”. Can I hear an AMEN!!!
OK, are there really phrases in our Bibles that everyone – even non-believers – use in our regular daily living? How about:
“your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23)
“I have escaped by the skin of my teeth.” (Job 19:20)
Or even in the Garden of Gethsemane just before the cross, the words of our Savior to His sleeping, non-watchful praying disciples: “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41; Mark 14:38).
So it shouldn’t surprise us that in Psalm 124 we might see an old familiar phrase, and immediately comment, “WOW! I didn’t know THAT is in the Bible!”. Look at verse 3, “they would have swallowed us alive”. The description of what would happen to a nation which did not have the Lord on their side is pretty challenging, almost foreboding, isn’t it? Would you like to live in a nation which has rejected the Lord and no longer is seeking God to be “on our side”? And in consequence, are you willing to be part of a nation which would then be “swallowed alive”, “overwhelmed by waters, even our souls being drowned by the simple streams thrown at us? Would you? What a sad situation!
The Psalmist David ends this wonderful psalm in HOPE! “Blessed be the Lord”, “our soul has escaped”, “our help is in the name of the Lord.” These are words of triumphant HOPE!
But PLEASE do not let a little phrase pass you by. David recognized that his HELP wasn’t just in ANYONE. He recognized that his HELP wasn’t just in any “god” (LITTLE “g”). No, NO! His hope is in the name of Jehovah WHO MADE HEAVEN AND EARTH” (v. 8). Can I hear another “AMEN”???!!!
David is begging of each of us his present day readers to answer the question, “have you found the Lord to be YOUR help, YOUR hope?”.
My hope is in the Lord Who gave Himself for me,
And paid the price of all my sin at Calvary.
Chorus: For me He died,
For me He lives,
And everlasting life and light He freely gives.
Written by Norman J. Clayton, a songwriter for Evangelist Jack Wyrtzen
Father, once again the old Psalmist reminds us of truth for today!
He causes us to ask ourselves, “IS the Lord on our side” – both as individuals and as a nation?
HAVE we escaped those who would want to make us their prey?
And IS our help in Your Name, the Maker of Heaven and Earth?
There is none like YOU!
Quiet our souls, we pray, before You with the words of this heart-provoking psalm.
And we’ll give You all the praise,
In Jesus Name, Amen!