NextSunday Worship


August 23, 2020

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

Dr. James M. Pitts Psalm 124 Year A – Proper 16 (21)

If the Lord had not been on our side—

let Israel say—

if the Lord had not been on our side

when people attacked us,

they would have swallowed us alive

when their anger flared against us;

the flood would have engulfed us,

the torrent would have swept over us,

the raging waters

would have swept us away.

Praise be to the Lord,

who has not let us be torn by their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird

from the fowler’s snare;

the snare has been broken,

and we have escaped.

Our help is in the name of the Lord,

the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 124

If you are looking for Godly counsel, the place to begin is the book of Psalms. Here one finds open access to the Almighty along with a mirror that reflects both the heights of human aspirations and depths of mortal depravity.

The Psalms were Israel’s hymnal and prayer book. It contains a diverse collection of praises and prayers, hymns and songs, melodies and poetry.

Throughout the ages, they have comforted the troubled and challenged the comfortable. Today, the book of Psalms is the most widely read books in the Old Testament.

Psalms is one of the more intimate and emotional books of the Bible. It is not a tame collection of tidy, sterile prayers.

The Psalms include the heights and depth of human emotions: joy and pain, anger and love.

The Psalms point to God as our anchor,

when were troubled; God is our comfort,

when we feel abandoned, God is our encouragement

when support is desperately needed.

Mirroring the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) the Psalms are divided into five books, (1-41, 42-72, 73-89, 90-106, 107-150). Hymns of praise, sorrowful laments, songs of thanksgiving, remembrances of sacred history, affirmations of royal leadership and responsibilities, worship liturgies and wisdom teachings form this collection.

Listen again to the shouts of

if the Lord had not been on our side—

let Israel say—

if the Lord had not been on our side

when people attacked us,

they would have swallowed us alive

when their anger flared against us;

the flood would have engulfed us,

the torrent would have swept over us,

the raging waters would have swept us away.

Praise be to the Lord,

who has not let us be torn by their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the fowler’s snare;

the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the name of the Lord,

the Maker of heaven and earth.

Confident you can identify and each and all of us can add our praise

Our help is in the name of the Lord!

May God be praised!

There is thanksgiving for safe travels

There is thanksgiving by those freed from prison

There is thanksgiving for those healed from sickness

There is thanksgiving for God’s generosity.

In the book of Psalms, we are invited into the school of prayer,

where we honestly present ourselves with the heights and depths of human emotion,

including joy, pain, anger, love, and even hate.

 

This is more than an individual song of thanksgiving but a community of praise.

John Calvin said “I have been accustomed to call this book, I think not inappropriately, an anatomy of all the parts of the soul. There is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious, that is not here represented as in a mirror. Or rather, the Holy Spirit has here drawn to life all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hope, cares, perplexities, in short, all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated.”

“The Book of Psalms makes known to us this privilege which is desirable above all others … that not only is there opened to us familiar access to God, but also that we have permission and freedom granted to us to open to God our infirmities which we would be ashamed to confess before men. It is by perusing these inspired compositions, that men will be most effectually awakened to a sense of their maladies, and at the same time, instructed in seeking remedies for their cure.”

C, S. Lewis stated “I find meaning in that kind of Psalm, though I realize how I can be humbled by it. There are people with whom I have been, who are just about as angry as the Psalmist was with the fellow in Psalm 109. Even the thought of expressing that anger in the presence of God makes me tremble and want to hide my face in shame.”

I am reminded of the citizens of Selma, Alabama walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, singing we shall overcome! “We shall overcome” is a gospel song which became a protest song and a key anthem of the civil rights movement.

We shall overcome

We shall overcome

We shall overcome some day

Oh, deep in my heart

I do believe

We shall overcome some day

We’ll walk hand in hand

We’ll walk hand in hand

We’ll walk hand in hand some day

We shall all be free

We shall all be free

We shall all be free some day

We are not afraid

We are not afraid

We are not afraid some day

We are not alone

We are not alone

We are not alone some day

The whole wide world around

The whole wide world around

The whole wide world around some day

We shall overcome

We shall overcome

We shall overcome some day

Psalms comforts the troubled, and challenges the comfortable.

In Psalm 124 we have thanksgiving song by those who have been delivered from life threatening situations. The one who gave them help is the maker of heaven and earth. On this earthly pilgrimage there are shouts of joy and thanksgiving.

 

About the Writer:

Dr. James M. Pitts is university chaplain [retired] and professor of religion emeritus, Furman University. A native of Washington, DC, Jim is a graduate of Furman University in Greenville, SC, Southeastern Seminary at Wake Forest, NC, and Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY.

An experienced pastoral counselor, he has worked in both congregational and hospital settings. His professional expertise includes crisis counseling, substance abuse intervention, and career guidance for persons in ministry.

His sermons and essays on biblical and pastoral themes are published in books, magazines and on NextSunday.com. One of the founders of Smyth & Helwys, Jim serves as Chairman of the Board, principal photographer and editor of www.NextSundayGallery.com an educational resource with a comprehensive collection of high quality photos illustrating the geography and archaeology of the Biblical world.

Jim and his wife Nancy are the parents of two sons and two daughters-in-law: Stewart (deceased) and his wife Kelley, and Jonathan and his wife Jackie. They are the proud grandparents of three grandsons, Will, Jon Walker and Colton, and a granddaughter, Lilli.

 

Scripture and Music:

Exodus 1:8-22; 2:1-10

Psalms 124. 138

Romans 12:1-8

Matthew 16:13-20

Hymns:

Lord, Whose Love Through Humble Service

Take My Life and Let It Be

As Those of Old Their First fruits Brought

Forth in Thy Name, O Lord

Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Anthems

Upon This Rock — John Ness Beck

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

God Will Take Care of You

Many Gifts, One Spirit — Allen Pote

Solos:

Sanctuary — Twyla Paris

Take My Life, Lead Me Lord

God of Many Names