The Celebration of Deliverance – Psalm 124
“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side…”Psalm 124:1
Take a moment and read Psalm 124.
The opening verses of this psalm are set in a liturgical format, a versicle and response. The cantor sings:“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, let Israel now say…”; and the people respond, “if it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us…”, and they conclude the thought with the remaining verses of the psalm. This call and response format creates the sense of ownership of the truths found in the words of the psalm. This is the same format that is used at the beginning of the prayer of consecration at Holy Eucharist, called the sursum corda. The priest says, “Lift up your hearts”, and the people respond, “We lift them up to the Lord.” The people express their willingness to participate and “own” the thanksgiving being offered to God in the consecration prayer.
Here, in Psalm 124, the people are claiming their readiness to set out toward Jerusalem, even though their enemies, tormentors, and captors have done all they could to discourage them and keep them bound in their fears. Verses 3 through 5 give examples in poetic imagery of the trials and tribulations the exiles have experienced in their captivity. But they cry out, “if it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us up alive…” The faithful are declaring their faith; they are proclaiming their trust in God’s deliverance and provision for the journey ahead. They also recognize that what is ahead is a perilous journey where they will be under constant threat, but they are willing to stand on the promise that the Lord who has delivered them in the past will deliver them on the road ahead.
The pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem knew they could not make the journey alone. In the same way we are helpless to make the journey to the New Jerusalem alone. It is easy to become ensnared in the dangers and temptations of this world, and we are all too prone to take control of our lives rather than trust in the Lord. The Jews knew that nothing human could save them, and there is nothing human that can save us. St. Paul, in Romans 8:18, said, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” The Lord who made heaven and earth is fully capable of saving us and setting us at liberty from all evil. Let us take a more in-depth look at that promise tomorrow.