Seed of Faith – Psalm 124  If It Hadn’t Been For God  By Pastor Dave  

“If the Lord had not been on our side— let Israel say— If the Lord had not been on our side when men attacked us, … Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 124:1-2, 5

Dear Faithful Seed Sowers,

We have been journeying to Jerusalem this Lenten season by walking through the Psalms of Ascent. The Psalms of Ascent are Psalms120-134. Today we will look at Psalm 124. These Psalms were sung as the pilgrims went up to Jerusalem to gather together for the three major feast and festivals of the year: Passover, Pentecost, and Yom Kippur — the Day of Atonement. Millions of Jews ascended to and from Jerusalem and as they ascended, they SANG! Sounds like fun.

I encourage you to read these Psalms. Read them out loud slowly, read them slowly. Put yourself on the journey to Jerusalem. Put yourself into the storyline. Underline which verse, phrase or word speaks to you. Ask the Holy Spirit to light up the words and fill your heart with the promises found in these passages.

This Psalm is given the title — A song of ascent of David. The scholars have given the credit of writing this song to King David. Maybe he wrote this when he faced Goliath in the valley of Elah. Maybe he wrote it after his own son, Absalom, had taken his throne and chased him out of Jerusalem. Many scholars say that this Psalm was written in Hezekiah’s day, during exile, or during Nehemiah’s day of rebuilding the temple and wall. One thing for sure, Psalm 124 is a relevant Psalm for all of God’s people who suffer.

As always, let us put ourself into this story. We are climbing up the mountain. We are Jerusalem bound for one of our 3 feast days (think of Christmas, or Easter) that requires us back to Jerusalem. And, as we gather and journey together, let us put the story of this psalm into our current life.

As I read the Bible, i ask myself a lot of questions. One question I ask all the time is, Where does God fit in?

Where does God fit into your life?

Where does God fit into your trials and tribulations?

Where does God fit into your hazards and hardships?

Where does God fit into your assaults and abuses?

Where does God fit into your pain and problems?

Where does God fit into your life—in 2024?

Can you imagine walking with your family from Galilee (about 100-120 miles) up to Jerusalem? You join in with the others and sing songs. If the average pace of an average person is 3 miles per hour, and you walk ten hours a day (?), then it’s going to take some time to walk 120 miles—4 days—uphill, thin air.

How can you sing songs when you are conquered by Romans and the climb is so long, hot, and steep?

How can you sing songs when there has been pain and suffering in your life?

There is a powerful word that is used twice in the opening of this Psalm. The word is “IF.”   The word begins with the first two stanzas/verses of the Psalm. “If” is a conjunction which means it is tying together what has been said before. The

Hebrew word “IF” can be translated with words like, “surely, unless, except, if not and if.”

What the Psalmist wants to make very clear is that all of Israel, and everyone after, must remember:

If the Lord had not been on our side— let Israel say—

If the Lord had not been on our side when men attacked us,

Surely the Lord had been on our side … Unless the Lord had been on our side … Except the Lord had been on our side — If the Lord had not been on our side.

I have been doing VBS for over 45 years (from when our children attended VBS til now). VBS is code for VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL! VBS is usually held in the summer and usually the church goes all out—the sanctuary is decorated with a theme (Ocean/Desert/Mountains—etc) and there’s tons of kids, tons of crafts, tons of music and tons of fun! When we did VBS, we often sang a song called— “Whose Side are you Leaning on?” The words went like this …

Whose side are you leaning on? I’m leaning on the Lord’s side.
Whose side are you leaning on? I’m leaning on the Lord’s side.
I lean, I lean, I lean, I lean—I’m leaning on the Lord’s side.

Of course it would be very loud and very interactive because we changed out the words “leaning on” with words like: clapping on, hopping on, shouting on, and whispering on…the Lord’s side! We’d divide up into two teams (boys vs girls, or one side of the church pews verses the other) and the church would be hopping loud!

The point was to teach the children and the adults to lean on the Lord’s side—no matter what.

When I read Psalm 124, I am reminded of those VBS days of getting the children, youth helpers and adults up and singing, clapping, hopping, shouting, and whispering—all on the Lord’s side.

The Psalmist here in Psalm 124 reminds us that no matter what we face in life, God is on our side. What the Israelites were singing was that the God they were going to Jerusalem to worship was ,indeed, a very great God. Just think of all God had saved them from—starting with Genesis.


The Psalmist gives us six powerful and moving images of trials, testing, hardships, hazards, fears, and fatal enemies that they faced.

One — An animal swallowing its prey (v. 3).The enemy was fierce. If God had not intervened, we would have been devoured by that fierce foe, the psalmist says.

Two — A flood submerging its victims (v. 4).The flood is a frequent figure in the Old Testament for sudden life-threatening dangers.

Three— A torrent rushing over everything (v. 4).In the first line of verse 4 the image was of being engulfed by quickly rising floodwaters.

Four— Waters sweeping everything before them (v. 5) Some times our trials, troubles, testing, and tribulations are like that. It is not so much a question of being submerged by these troubles—buried by them, as we might say. It is like being sucked under the water of a rushing flood trying to get to the surface and get a breath. Sometime the trials and troubles come in like a flood and it is so hard to get our head above the water.

This reminds me of the time I took a group of men from Rochelle, Il, to Boulder, Colorado for a men’s retreat called Promise Keepers. We drove all night to make the trip and, while there, we decided to go whitewater rafting one day. The guide was a great guide. We had several boats. We hit the rapids and one of our men was knocked out of the boat and went under the water. To be honest with you, I thought for sure we had lost him. The water was ice cold, and the river was still very high from the snow runoff. John went under and it seemed like it was a long time before we saw him surface down river from us—trying to swim to shore. We got him back in the boat, but I will never forget the torrent of water rushing fiercely over us

This is what the writer of the psalm (song) wants to tell us. If the Lord had not been on our side, the waters of life would have overwhelmed us.

“SO WHAT?” Do you ever feel overwhelmed? Then this song is for you!

We spent a month or longer in Romans 8 last year. There are some mighty verses to remember from Romans:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus … Romans 8:1

What, then, shall we sayin response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

The Greek word for “trouble” or “tribulation” used by Paul in Romans 8:35 is “thlipsis,” and it has to do with pressure and being pressed down by something. The Latin word, which is used to translate “thlipsis” is “tribulation.”

This is a powerful word picture that that the Psalmist gives us here.

Are we facing trials, testing, tribulations, and temptations that are overwhelming us like a flood?

Then we need to look up and reach up and trust that the Lord is on our side. God is with us. (EMMANUEL)

In verses five and six we have the last two terrible descriptions that can bring a person down to defeat.

Five — An animal grinding its prey (v. 6)

Six — A bird entangled in a trap (v. 7)

“If the Lord had not been on our side…”

The first is the image of an animal actually grinding away on a carcass. (I think of all those National Geographic videos where the big cat catches the antelope.) In the Book of Daniel this is what King Darius expected to see when he rushed to the lion’s den early in the morning following the day he had reluctantly caused Daniel to be lowered into it. “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” he cried out. (Dan. 6:20).

Daniel might have replied, “If the Lord had not been on my side, I would have been ground to pieces by their teeth.”

What he did say was, “My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me” (Dan. 6:22).

Many of us can also say, quite accurately, if the Lord had not been on our side, our enemies would have ground us into little pieces, swallowed us up, and spit out our bones.

The word “IF” is the stand-alone word that helps us to stop, pause and ponder all that God has ever done for us.

“If the Lord had not been on our side” — reminds me of some of the great “But God” statements in the New Testament.

Romans has the first one that comes to mind — “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)

But God demonstrates His love for us by sending His one and only Son to die for us— even while we are sinners.

Even when we are dead in our transgressions — when we are being overwhelmed by the raging waters of the flood, trapped in the snare of the fowler and the jaws of our enemies are closing in on us, God who is rich in mercy has made us alive in Christ by His marvelous, amazing, and outrageous grace.

This past week, I was talking with a young man who was really struggling with life’s battles. He texted me in desperation and asked how he could earn God’s love. He felt like all was dark and the waves of the troubles he was facing were crashing in on him.  In texted him back that night with a short answer. “You cannot ever earn God’s love. God’s love is all because of grace. All you can do is simply receive God’s love. Receive God’s grace.”  The rescue he was looking for was something that he wanted to earn himself. He thought he could work his way out of the trials, testing, tribulations, and temptations that were crushing him by doing something. Buzzer sound. NO! NO WAY.

But God … If God had not been for us — If God had not been on our side!

This Psalm is not about the problems and pain that we face. This Psalm is about the Person that brings us through. “IF GOD!”

This Psalm is not about the trials and tribulations that we have. This Psalm is about the Person that overcomes these trials and tribulations. “IF GOD!”

This Psalm is not about the hazards we will face in life. This Psalm is about the HELP we receive from the person who comes to HELP. “IF GOD!”

PRAISE — “Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

The last verse is so foundational. The last verse brings help in the midst of the storms and floods of life.

“Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

When I write in my journal. I stop to reflect on individual words.

Let us read it with the emphasis on one word at time …

“Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”  God is a personal God and He is always waiting for us to cry out to Him for Help.

“Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. ”Help!” Who here needs help? God’s strongest saints realize their weaknesses, and appeal to Him for strength. One Sunday morning, as Charles H. Spurgeon passed through the door back of the pulpit in the Tabernacle, and saw the great crowd of people, he was overheard saying, “O God, help!” Strong as he was, he realized that he was insufficient for so great a task as preaching the Gospel in power, unless God should be his Helper.[v]

“Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” I once talked with a man who was battling spiritual darkness. He said that one night it felt like the devil was laying on his chest trying to suffocate him. He said that the only word he could say in the darkness was the name of Jesus. He just said the name of Jesus over and over again until the darkness lifted, and the light began to shine. He said that at the name of Jesus everything broke free.

“Our help is in the name of the LORD…”

Dan Crawford, the  successor to David Livingstone, carried a copy of the New Testament in the pocket of his jacket. At the time of his death someone found the following verses penned on the flyleaf of that well-worn Book:

“I cannot do it alone! The waves dash fast and high.

the fog comes chill around, and the light goes out in the sky.

But I know that we two shall win in the end—Jesus and I.

Coward and wayward and weak, I change with the changing sky.

today so strong and brave, tomorrow too weak to fly.

But He never gives up, so we two shall win—Jesus and I!”[vi]

“Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

A story is told of Lord Radstock. Lord Radstock is perhaps best known for his work, beginning in 1874, as an Evangelical missionary among the aristocracy and upper-class of St Petersburg. He preached in French at evening parties and at 5o’clock teas and, according to the historian Leroy-Beaulieu, ‘This high-class missionary quickly became fashionable.’ Although sceptics mocked the ‘apostle-lord,’ as he was soon known, ‘the evangelistic seed sprang up none the less from falling on drawing-room carpets.’ He returned to Russia in 1875–6 and again in 1878. He also extended his mission all over Europe and visited India a total of seven times. In London he was responsible for many social and philanthropic works.

One evening Lord Radstock was speaking at a meeting in Woolwich, and afterwards nearly missed his train home. He just had time to jump in as the guard blew his whistle. But a young army officer had followed him to the platform and, running up to the carriage window, said to Lord Radstock, “Sir, I heard you speak tonight, but tell me, how can a fellow keep straight?”

The train began to move. Lord Radstock pulled a pencil from his pocket and laid it on the palm of his hand.

“Can that pencil stand upright?” “No,” said the young officer. Lord Radstock grasped the pencil in his hand, and held it up in an upright position. “Ah!” said the young fellow, moving beside the train, “but you are holding it now.” “Yes,” said Lord Radstock,” and your life is like this pencil, helpless, but Christ is the hand that can hold you.” As the train rounded the curve and was lost to sight, the last thing the young officer saw was Lord Radstock’s outstretched hand holding that pencil upright.

Twenty-five years later the same officer met Lord Radstock in India, and told him that all those many years ago, on that railway platform, he had trusted his life to Christ, who had upheld him and kept him ever since.[i]

So what?

Here is a thought, many years ago, a baby, then a child, then a teenager, then a young man named Jesus—made that same trek up the hill from Nazareth to Jerusalem. Three times a year Jesus made that trip; we know this for sure because we are told that Jesus got separated from his family and Mary and Joseph returned to find Jesus preaching in the synagogue! But think about this, some scholars say David wrote this Psalm, but some say it was written when the exiles returned from Babylon (539 BC)! Can we only imagine, Jesus singing this psalm as he climbed the mountain up to Jerusalem?

I do not know all. the trails, tribulations, testing and temptations that you face. I do not know the hazards, dangers, and perils that we will go through in this life. I do not know your sorrows or your sufferings, What I do know is this: our help — is the name of the Lord — who made heaven and earth. Were it not for God…I would not have made it. Whose side are we leaning on? We are leaning on the Lord’s side…for as long as it takes…until we have escaped.

See you Sunday!

God loves you and so do I,

Pastor Dave

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