You ever find one of those scriptures that haunts you? I'm not talking about little angels
and demons with pitchforks sneaking up on you and saying "BOO!". I'm talking about a scripture that your mind goes back to with every passing moment, trying to work out the finer details... you strain in an attempt to read between the lines, knowing that there's something else there.
I'm in the middle of one of those now. I bought a CD (I do know a great place to buy them from) called "Please Don't Make Us Sing This Song". No, not kidding. It's a folk-rock CD, filled with some of my favorite artists that no one has ever heard of. Waterdeep (Don & Lori Chaffer), Derek Webb, Jami Smith, Jill Phillips... these are all regulars on the Nano. But there was this one song that I couldn't process. I've been commuting back and forth to West Palm, and I must have repeated this song dozens of times, working it through... Seth Wood's "O The Deaths We Would Have Known If You Had Not Been With Us" based verbatim on Psalm 124. While I've never heard of Seth Woods and have enjoyed Googling him and "The Sad Accordions" for the past hour, I do think we need to look at some other things. Buy the CD, listen to the song. If you like Acoustic Rock, you'll love it. Let's move on.
A song of ascents. Of David.
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.
Told you it was powerful. Look at the passion of the scripture: "men attacked", "anger flared", "flood...engulfed", torrent...swept", "raging waters", "torn by teeth". This is literary genius. This scripture is as visual as I've seen in a long time... I don't know about you, but I get the feeling there was some bad stuff going on. I became obsessed. What's going on? Who's attacking who? Flood: literal or figurative?
And what does a snare drum have to do with anything?
I've poured over commentaries. One says that David was celebrating the release of Israel from captivity - ie Moses (attacked in slavery, flood being the parting of the sea). It might be my X-Files mentality showing, but I think there is a conspiracy here keeping me from the truth. Other commentaries echo my thoughts. To quote Matthew Henry, "David penned this psalm (we suppose) upon occasion of some great deliverance which God wrought for him and his people." Geez, when Henry doesn't even know, you know you're in trouble.
In the end it doesn't really matter. Let's just speculate that it's a new event. Bad, angry people wanting to kill you. Torrential storms on rough waters. Not a pastoral place for the people of God. You got some serious smack going down, and what are the children of God going to do?
Be better children of God. Sacrifice two lambs. Throw the strange guy off the boat towards the whale. Look at the scripture again.
"If the Lord had not been on our side." (v1, 2). READ: He was already there. When the men attacked, when they surrounded us, when they were going to kill us, the Lord was there. When the floods came and the waves were on top of us, dragging us away, the Lord was there. How great is it that we have a God that doesn't want to see us dead? I mean that, not at all funny. Why does the Lord have to be on our side? Christian/Jesus/Holy Spirit thing I get it. You're missing the point. What if God chose to side with everyone but us and we were obliterated? What if God enabled our enemies to overcome us? What if the flood would engulf us? the torrent sweeping us away? Why does God choose us? Therein lies some of my "haunting". Regardless of our failures, evidently God wants us around, and is willing to come to our rescue, preventing us from being "torn by their teeth". (v6)
What did/does God do? "We escaped like a bird (sparrow) out of the fowler's snare and we have escaped" (v7). First off, translation. Fowler = Bird Hunter. Snare =
drum hunting tool similar to a noose, lasso. The picture here is that we are trapped. It's not that God prevented us from facing our enemies, or even a struggle. READ: Big Bird Hunter traps us, ties a noose around us, choking us, coming close to killing us... when the noose breaks and we run free. I dunno. Sometimes I feel that 21Century Church (USA) thinks that being a Christian means God prevents our suffering. God wants us rich, happy, and more powerful than everyone else. But this is different. We are not the hunter, but the huntee. Our neck is in the noose, and it is choking us. We feel pain. We struggle on our own. We do not overpower our enemies. They live to fight another day. The Lord does not smite them. We get to the point where there is no escape without help and then the noose breaks. Help does arive. He saves us.
"Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth" (v8). This is what I cannot get out of my head. I'm trying to work it through. At the mere mentioning of the name, help arrives? I don't think God works that way. I've never viewed God as Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice: mention his name 3 times and he shows up. He's bigger than that, and doesn't need our help. As surely as His name is the Lord, He will be on our side. I don't know about you, but I sleep better at night knowing that the Maker of Heaven and Earth is "our help" (v8) and is regularly "on our side" (v1).
Things I'm taking away from this scripture:
1) Thank God He's on my side: If my enemies are "capable of swallowing us alive" (v3), then I certainly want God on my side. If He's not with me, what hope do I have? I'm floss! (ref v6).
2) Thank God I'm not in as deep as they were: My troubles are nil compared to King David's. I remember meeting a popular Christian rock group during a video interview several years ago. One of the questions I asked was for their brief testimony. After hearing each testimony about how God saved them from abusive parents, alcoholism, drugs, the sin-lifestlye, etc. We got to the lead singer who said "honestly, God saved me from the best. I grew up in a Chrisian home and never had to deal with that." Blew me away. But if our God is capable of saving us when the "flood would have engulfed us" (v4) you know he's capable of doing it now. How great is it that we don't have this fear in 21Century Church (USA). Freedom is a great thing...
3) Lest we forget... British Poet Rudyard Kipling wrote "Recessional" in 1897, going into detail how the British Navy was able to overpower and conquer the seas, spreading the "dominion" of the monarchy far and wide. Yet, as powerful as the Navy becomes, Kipling tells of it drifting away until it compared to the dwindling "Ninevah and Tyre". Governments, Kingdoms and Powers come and go, yet as long as we can keep the Lord on our side we can survive the tumult. Or as Kipling would say: "Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, Lest we forget - lest we forget!"
O Lord, Let us never forget. When we are surrounded, engulfed and overwhelmed please be our help.