Psalm 124:1-8 1 If the LORD had not been on our side– let Israel say– 2 if the LORD had not been on our side when men attacked us, 3 when their anger flared against us, they would have swallowed us alive; 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 out of 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.
1 If the LORD had not been on our side– let Israel say– 2 if the LORD had not been on our side when men attacked us, 3 when their anger flared against us, they would have swallowed us alive.
How many of you who have served in the military saw active combat? Thank you for your sacrifice for our freedom. Of those of you who saw active combat, on how many occasions did your enemy send you their plans step by step ahead of time? How often did they warn you of their impending attack? How much lead time did they give you to get prepared before they executed their plan? Obviously, the questions are asked in jest. The point of an attack is to catch you off guard, to come out of nowhere, to attack you when you least suspect it.
That is the sense in this opening couple of verses here in Psalm 124. Everybody say, “Sudden Attack.” The Jewish people had seen God deliver them time after time after time after time, and the times they were taken into captivity, it wasn’t because their enemy was greater than God, but it was because God was disciplining them and was teaching them a lesson. Hear me this morning, God has never been defeated. He never will be defeated. That is why we want Him on our side. We may be surprised by the attack, but nothing takes Him by surprise. He is never caught off guard, and He will always be greater than the opponent. God can never be ganged up on or overcome. King David knew that the skill and experience and resources of their enemies often superseded Israel’s own, so he knew that Israel needed to have the Lord on their side.
1. You need to have the Lord on your side during a sudden attack.
When something bad happens and you refer to it as “coming out of the blue” you are saying you couldn’t see it coming. It took you by surprise. It overcame you in an instant. We have all had moments like that. We aren’t prepared for or often equipped for those surprise attacks.
Maybe it isn’t necessarily a major circumstance, but maybe it is a feeling that overcomes you suddenly because you are anticipating what is yet to come. You dread giving that oral report in class and the thought of it makes you sick to your stomach. You have to do a medical test that causes you instant anxiety the minute you hear the doctor say it will be scheduled, and even though it is weeks away, you are already losing sleep over it. When you think about getting on a plane, there is panic and a feeling of losing control that overwhelms you.
Fear is a sudden attack. Those of you who deal with panic attacks know how debilitating and how all-consuming they can be in an instant. We need the assurance as we deal with life’s sudden attacks that the Lord is on our side.
Let’s move on in the text.
3 when their anger flared against us, they would have swallowed us alive; 4 the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, 5 the raging waters would have swept us away.
2. You need to have the Lord on your side when things go from bad to worse.
The Psalmist is describing a bad situation that escalates. When flood waters rise and you know you are in trouble, but you can’t climb higher and you can’t swim to safety. When the current becomes a torrent and the waters rush in with a force you go where the water sends you. You lose all options. You have no control. You are forced to do whatever the water wants you to do and the weight of the water and the force of the current will send you under. This is the picture the Psalmist is painting.
Maybe this describes those long stretches where it seems like it is one thing after another. You can’t keep your head above water because as soon as you come up for air, something else is dumped on you and it might push you further down and take you longer to come up.
Didn’t this happen to Job? In Job 1:1 we read how Job was blameless and upright. He feared God. Say, “That’s good.” He hate evil. Say, “That’s good.” He was doing all the right things, and He was living a blessed life. He had a wife, ten kids and great wealth. Satan came to God to accuse Job of honoring God only because God had blessed him. Satan was like, “Oh sure Job loves you, God. You’ve made it easy for him. He has it made. Why wouldn’t he love you?” So, God gave permission to Satan to remove Job’s wealth and his children. Those are big and devastating losses, especially having his children taken from him. Job stood firm in his faith and love for God. In later parts of the book of Job, God allowed Satan to afflict Job physically. It was bad. The physical affliction he endured was awful. Job was grieved. Every day was hard, but he didn’t charge God with any wrongdoing. He remained steadfast in his commitment to and love for God.
Job’s friends added insult to injury. They were just sure Job must have sinned in order to this kind of treatment, but Job maintained his innocence. Job did struggle. He did have emotional and mental challenges. At one point he confessed he wanted to die. He did wrestle with questions and he asked them, but he never cursed God. In the end, after much suffering, God restored Job’s fortunes two-fold and he lived 140 years after his suffering. You have to read the whole book to get the intensity of the suffering, the severity of the loss, and the incredible nature of the way God restored it all times two to him. It is really quite stunning.
Never once, though he didn’t know how long it would go on, though he didn’t know how much worse it would get as if it could get worse, never once did Job lose faith in God. Though he was depressed enough to curse the day of his birth (Job 3:1-26) Job never cursed God (Job 2:9-10) and he never wavered in his understanding that God was still in control. Even when Job’s wife suggested he curse God and die, Job replied “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10)
At first read and even after thorough study, you might conclude, and maybe rightly so, that the book of Job is about the testing of Job’s faith. However, as I thought about what he suffered and how severe it was and how long it went on, the more I am convinced it wasn’t Job’s faith or love for God that was on trial. No, what I believe was on trial was the grace of God.
What Satan was putting to the test was the ability of the grace of God to sustain Job in the midst of the fire, in the midst of the flood, in the midst of the torrent and the raging waters. He was testing the quality of God’s grace that would keep Job from going completely under and turning his back on God. For Satan’s beef was never with Job. It was always was and always will be with God. We are simply collateral damage.
But the beautiful thing is that even when Satan was permitted to strip everything from Job that the world would say would give him pleasure or contentment and even when Satan was given permission to afflict him with everything the world would say would bring pain and heartache, Job found out what the Apostle Paul also learned when he heard God say to him, “My grace is sufficient for you!”
God’s grace is sufficient for us. It doesn’t matter how terrible the storm gets, how much is piled on us or how much is taken from us, God’s grace is sufficient to keep us in peace and to give us a future that looks far different than the storm and struggle. God’s love for us it perfect. His power in us and presence in our lives will satisfy our soul even when our hearts are broken. Romans 8:35-39 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Listen to me, our ability to weather the pressures and pains of life even when they pile up and push us under isn’t found in our ability to just look on the bright side or to put one foot in front of the other, or to grin and bear it, but our ability is found in receiving and resting in the grace of God which has sustaining and keeping power that is unmatched. God has got you. You need to know that. And if God has got you, His grace has got you, His love has got you, and His power has got you, and if you are connected to Him, you are good to go!
Psalm 124:6-8 6 Praise be to the LORD, who has not let us be torn by their teeth. 7 We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.
The picture that is being painted is the portrait of a helpless bird that has walked into a trap. Food lured the bird into a trap. Whatever was there to eat looked good to the bird. The bird saw the food placed there as beneficial as something that could sustain him, satisfy him, and take his hunger away. Verse seven tells us that not only was the bird rescued, now watch this, not only was the bird rescued from the fowler’s snare, but what happened to the snare? What happened to the trap? It has been broken. In other words, when the Lord is on our side, emancipation comes to us, rescue comes to us, freedom comes to us that can be permanent and lasting because that which trapped us before can be broken off from our lives. Hallelujah!
The general application of these verses involves sin. God has rescued us from the incarceration sin places under. We don’t have to live convicted and condemned. We don’t have to live with the labels our sin wants to plaster to us. We can be free to love and serve Christ and to enjoy the abundant life He offers. Jesus broke the trap, the hold, the clamp of sin that keeps people from soaring like a bird.
Satan has a dominion. He has a dwelling place. It is the realm of sin and darkness. It is a low-life, low-living place of bondage. It is the place of traps and torture, but God, in Christ has given us the opportunity to escape the trap and to live un-trapped for the rest of our lives.
You need to have the Lord on your side to live free.
Some of us today are living trapped instead of free. Some of us are trapped in addiction. What we are using looks beneficial. It looks like something that might help calm us and get us through the day. It looks like something that will sustain us and bridge the gap from one emotional struggle to the next. It seems like something that could lessen or even take away our pain. It seems like something that could give us rest or an escape, but it does exactly the opposite.
It incarcerates us. It infiltrates our bodies and takes up residence there. It starts to change the chemistry of our minds. Before we know it, the thing we thought would help us escape becomes something we have made ourselves a prisoner of. We slowly become dependent on the very thing we thought could help ease our troubles. We have to answer to it. We have to respond to it. We can’t ignore the voice of addiction that is always demanding that we sneak out to satisfy that craving, or steal to pay for the substance or lie to keep the voices from exposing us. It’s almost as if the thing we are addicted to is trying to blackmail us every day. Either give in and stay addicted or tell the truth about who you really have become. Addiction has a threatening component in order to keep people in the shadows, in hiding, and from admitting their need for help.
That thing we smoke or ingest or drink begins to get rooted in our organs and impacts the rhythm of our hearts. It compromises how well our liver can do its job. It hampers our lungs’ ability to expand and deflate. We become nervous without it. We can’t think straight without it, and before long, we can’t think well with it, and all we can do is think about our addiction. However, when we allow the Lord to be on our side, the trap of addiction can be broken off of our lives.
Some of us today are trapped by our hurt. We have suffered emotional and physical abuse. We have been the victims of other people’s bad decisions. We have given that pain a say in our lives, a say in our well-being, and a say over our future productivity, creativity, and a say regarding the quality of relationships in our lives. Some of us, because we have been trapped by those horrible circumstances, have believed we are meant to live trapped instead of soaring free and instead of living healed from the wounds that a trap inflicts.
Think about it; as long as an animal is in a trap, it is going to be wounded. There will never be a chance for the leg or the wing or whatever part of the animal is trapped to heal because it stays in the grip of the trip. That is what happens when we don’t bring our trauma to Jesus, when we don’t allow His Holy Spirit to pour out the grace we need to forgive those who have assaulted us and assassinated our spirits in the process. Some of you have lived trapped for years. Today, Jesus wants to release you and to destroy the trap.
Some of us are trapped by anger. Some of us don’t even know why we are angry, and the very people we should cherish and love and enjoy are people who get brought low into the trap with us. The Holy Spirit told me, as I was preparing this message, that anger often comes as the result of not dealing with our emotions appropriately. We allow things to build up over time. We don’t wrestle jealousy to the ground and we are angry that others have or enjoy something we don’t. We don’t humble ourselves when we need support, so we are angry about always having so much to deal with on our own. We don’t want anyone to see us struggling, so we keep our disappointments to ourselves. We view life as unfair and we get mad when other people seem to have it easier than we do. We are angry with ourselves and instead of dealing with our personal failures, we blame others for the way that we feel.
When we let stuff build instead of dealing with it, we incarcerate ourselves in anger. The walls of anger keep us isolated from people. We can’t interact with people and have fun and the enjoyment that is supposed to come from having healthy relationships because we are behind walls of anger. How many of you understand this morning that it is lonely in a prison? Anger becomes a lonely prison. God wants us to live free.
Some of us are trapped by the need for approval. For some of us, our social media posts are regular and often because we need the likes, the hearts, the smiley faces and the public support that our hair looks great, that our new outfit is the bomb, that our bikini body looks looks awesome, or that we look younger than we did last year. If we don’t get a certain number of likes or loves or whatever “feel-good emojis” we think validate us, we live low instead of soaring high. We check to see who the people were who gave us an emoji because we need to make sure that certain people saw our post. What people think of the dinner you cooked or the car you bought has nothing to do with your value, worth and contribution to society, but Satan wants to get you to believe the opposite. You’ll never get out of that trap until Jesus becomes your Source for validation and approval.
Some of us are trapped by the lust for sensual pleasure. It starts with a look. Everybody looks, right? It is normal to look. God created us to appreciate something beautiful. The look lingers. Our imagination begins to run wild. We think we deserve to experiment because after all, it is natural. It is what we humans do. Before long, what we are drawn to consumes us and we can’t get enough. We can’t be satisfied. People become objects to be used rather than persons to be respected and loved. We slink around and sneak around and exchange relationships for rendezvous, a real connection for a quick hook-up, and instead of being content, we are left feeling empty and ashamed. We never experience love because we have settled for lust and lust becomes a prison warden to keep us living on the lowest plane possible. Purity is replaced with perversion and perversion will always take life from us.
I could go on with examples of the things that trap us, but you get the picture. When Satan gets you to believe that something is harmless he is luring you into a trap. When he tells you there won’t be any consequences for you or that it will be OK to just do something one time to see what it is like, he is luring you into a trap. He wants you to question what God has said He wants for you life so that you pursue the thing that leads to a trap, that leads to his snare.
The definition of the word snare is sort of interesting. This is from the American Standard Dictionary: (1) something that leads to a place, or situation, from which escape is difficult. The
synonyms are trap, lure, and bait. (2) To gain control of, or advantage over, as if by trapping.
Satan wants to take advantage of you. He wants to appeal to you on a low level, on a lustful level where he can set a trap. Satan wants to gain control over you so that you have to remain living in that low-level, low-life place.
The Psalmist says in 124 that when the Lord is on your side, you can be freed from the trap and that the trap can be broken, never to hold you down again. Can you claim the words of Amazing Grace this morning? The words that say, “Through many dangers, toils, and snare, I have already come. Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”
Who is on your side today? I know the Lord wants to be. He wants to be on your side when you experience a sudden attack. He wants to be on your side when things go from bad to worse. He wants to sustain you with His powerful grace. He wants to be on your side when you fall into temptation and are trapped by the enemy so that He can free you. He wants to be on your side because He wants you to be free to soar and enjoy the best possible life. Maybe the question isn’t, “Who is on your side today,” but “Whose side are you on?” You won’t have to convince the Lord to help you when you give you heart and life to Him. He will just be God in your life. Get to God today and allow Him to be in you, with you, and for you all the days of your life.