Help from God Alone (Phil Johnson)

Psalm 124   |   Sunday, December 9, 2012   |   Code: 2012-12-09-PJ

      We return to our study of the Pilgrim Psalms, and today we'll be studying the fifth psalm in the series, Psalm 124. (That means at the end of this hour we'll be one-third through the series.) These are worship songs—praise choruses. The best tradition says these songs were sung by groups of travelers as they made their way to Jerusalem for worship on the great feast days and religious festivals. Songs for pilgrims.

      The word "ascent" in the inscription refers to the fact that you can't get to Jerusalem from anywhere else without going up. By the way, the climb to Jerusalem is a steep one. If you were traveling from Jericho to Jerusalem, it was an ordeal. The distance between the two cities is only about 16 miles as the crow flies. But by road, it's more than 45 miles, because the road twists and winds so much. It's filled with switchbacks and hairpin turns, because it's uphill all the way. The floor of Jericho is about 850 feet below sea level, and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is at about 2500 feet above sea level. So traveling from Jericho to Jerusalem is like climbing a 3400-foot mountain—like walking from seal level to the highest peak in the Catskill mountains.

      And along the way, pilgrims would sing songs. Many of the songs of ascent (including Psalm 123, which we looked at last week, and Psalm 124, our psalm for today) are designed to be started by a single voice and then joined by the larger group. That's why Psalm 123 starts in first-person singular and then shifts to first person plural.

      And look at Psalm 124. Verse 1 is a summons for all Israel to join the song. So you can picture how these were sung.

      By the way, these fifteen songs aren't necessarily meant to be sung in any set order. Because Psalm 122, which we have already looked at, seems to be meant for singing as the pilgrims entered the city of Jerusalem. So that psalm (third in canonical order) basically celebrates the end of the journey. It's wouldn't be a fitting chorus close to the start of the journey. So I don't think there is supposed to be a fixed order in the singing of these psalms. It's like a songbook, where people could call out the number they wanted to sing. You'd simply start singing, and at the appropriate point, all the other voices would join in.


      Now, if you've followed this series from the start, you will probably have noticed some recurring themes. Most of the Pilgrim Psalms are about God's protection on the journey, about the persecution that worshipers were subject to from worldly people, about hazards that make the trip hard, and about the pilgrims' trust in God. Counting this one, four of the first five talk about persecution, or opposition, or danger—mainly from the hostility of the wicked.

      Some of these psalms include prayers for peace and traveling mercies, words of blessings for the faithful, and pleas for deliverance from the enemy. All of those are themes that faithful worshipers need to prepare their hearts with. So these psalms are practical and applicable for us, showing us how to prepare our hearts for worship.

      Now look at Psalm 124. Like most of the psalms labeled "psalms of ascent," it is fairly brief. This one has 8 verses, which is about average. It starts with that familiar inscription, "A Song of Ascents," but this one adds a byline to the inscription. This is a psalm "of David."

      This is the second psalm attributed to David in this collection of Pilgrim Psalms. Psalm 122 (The song of Jerusalem) had the same inscription. In all, four of these fifteen psalms identify David as author—psalms 122, 124, 131, and 133. Psalm 127 is attributed to Solomon. All the rest are anonymous.

      I should mention that some commentators dispute the Davidic authorship of this psalm, mainly because some of the oldest manuscripts omit the words "of David." You won't find that part of the inscription in , as well as the Septuagint, the Latin Vulgate, or the Syriac versions, either. Some biblical scholars think the themes of these Pilgrim songs generally belong to a later era of Israel's history, such as the reign of Hezekiah, when Sennacherib attacked Israel. The themes of these psalms also fit an even later period of history, namely, the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. A couple of commentators have suggested this particular psalm (124) might be a response to the nation's escape from Haman's decree, described in the book of Esther.

      This is a song for the whole nation, a hymn of praise for national deliverance. Look at the end of verse 1: "Let Israel now say—if it had not been the Lord who was on our side when people rose up against us." So it's not just David, threatened by Saul, singing this song, but the whole nation is celebrating God's deliverance.

      It's also true that there a lot of themes in all these fifteen psalms that seem well suited to a time after the years of captivity. All the themes of persecution, and the honor of the nation, and deliverance from the hand of the enemy are certainly things the nation would have sung about after they returned to their homeland.  

      But these same themes run through all of Israel's history. This might just as well be a celebration of Israel's deliverance from Egypt. God was always delivering them from their enemies. That's the point of this psalm.

      So there's no good reason to doubt that this is a psalm of David. The vast majority of ancient manuscripts contain the inscription. The content of the psalm certainly isn't incompatible with what we know of David. It's quite possible that the 15 Pilgrim Psalms may have been compiled and made into this little songbook during Hezekiah's time or later, but I'm convinced there is every reason to trust that the ones attributed to David were indeed written by him.

      Here's what Spurgeon says about the critics who doubt that David was the true author:

The superfine critics have pounced upon this title as inaccurate, but we are at liberty to believe as much or as little of their assertions as we may please. They declare that there are certain ornaments of language in this little ode which were unknown in the Davidic period. It may be so; but in their superlative wisdom they have ventured upon so many other questionable statements that we are not bound to receive this dictum. Assuredly the manner of the song is very like to David's, and we are unable to see why he should be excluded from the authorship. Whether it be his composition or no, it breathes the same spirit as that which animates the unchallenged songs of the royal composer.

A close study of Psalm 124 affirms what Spurgeon is saying. The language, the themes, the imagery, and the metaphors of Psalm 124 are all Davidic in style. Keil and Delitzsch (a couple of 19th-century German commentators) point out a long list of close parallels and cross references between this psalm and seven other Davidic psalms. So it is clearly Davidic in character.

      David's authorship of this psalm is no small issue. David was born in the eleventh century BC. Ezra led the nation back from the Babylonian captivity in 457 BC. So that's a 500-year difference, and if you discard David as author, you'll read only the later history of Israel into this text—and in my judgment that misses the whole point.

      The truth is, Israel's history (wall to wall) was full of deliverances that fit the pattern described in this psalm. This isn't a song about one incident; it's the story of Israel's entire history—starting with the original Exodus and escape from the armies of Pharaoh. Then there was the conquest of the Promised Land under Joshua and regular episodes of divine deliverance during the time of the Judges. In fact, the specific incident that prompted David to write this psalm could well have been the rout of the Philistines after David Killed Goliath. The psalm fits that episode as well as any other chapter of Israel's history.

      Also, remember that one of David's sins was the numbering of Israel (1 Chronicles 21). "Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, 'Go, number Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, and bring me a report, that I may know their number.'" This suggested that David had begun to trust in the size of the nation and their military might, rather than depending entirely on God. Joab instantly challenged David, because he knew that to make a great show of Israel's size and strength was tantamount to boasting—as if they were taking credit for something God had done for them. It was a form of self-glorification.

      Proverbs 14:28 says, "In a multitude of people is the glory of a king." But (Isaiah 31:1): "Woe to those who . . . rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!"

      David, to his credit, repented of trusting his own military might. From that episode in his life, he learned the very lesson that this song sings about: "If it had not been the Lord who was on our side when people rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us up alive."

      So there's no good reason to question the Davidic authorship of Psalm 124.


      This is a song about God's sovereignty, His wisdom, His goodness, and His nature as a savior. It's a joyful song. I commented last week that Psalm 123 seems like it should be sung in a minor key. This one is full of joy and jubilation—and it's a suitable song to sing any time we escape some calamity, resist some devilish temptation, or rise above the opposition of some adversary.

      I'm going to read the entire psalm, and as I do, I want you to watch the themes of danger and deliverance that run through it. Notice especially how David uses several different perils from the forces of nature as emblems of the various dangers Israel had faced. He uses three distinct metaphors to illustrate how helpless Israel would be if the Lord did not come to their aid. Watch for those metaphors as I read Psalm 124, "A Song of Ascents. Of David."

If it had not been the Lord who was on our side—let Israel now say—

2 if it had not been the Lord who was on our side when people rose up against us,

3 then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us;

4 then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us;

5 then over us would have gone the raging waters.

6 Blessed be the Lord, who has not given us as prey to their teeth!

7 We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped!

8 Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

      A word about structure: There are two stanzas in this psalm. The first five verses are words of remembrance—like a sermon and exhortation to the people of Israel. That first stanza includes, of course, the call to worship at the end of verse 1. Starting at verse 6 through the end, you have the response—words of praise from the people of Israel as every voice joins the song. So it's a two-part structure.

      One other thing I want to point out while we still have a kind of bird's eye view of the psalm is the poetic repetition. This is a carefully crafted song, and there is repetition throughout. Verse 1 and verse 2 begin with the same phrase: "If it had not been the Lord who was on our side." Verses 3, 4, and 5, each start with the same word: "Then." Verses 2 and 3 end with the same expression: "against us." Verses 4 and 5 end with the same phrase in most versions. In the New American Standard Bible, the last phrase in both verses is "swept over our soul." (The ESV unfortunately obscures the parallelism of those two verses, but it's there in the Hebrew.) Then verse 7 begins and ends with the same expression: "We have escaped." So there are repeated phrases throughout the psalm. It's all very poetic.

      But what's most poetic, and what I want to focus on, are these three metaphors that illustrate danger and deliverance. In verses 3 and 6, you have the image of a wild beast. Verse 6 mentions the predator's teeth. However, the image is of a beast so large and so aggressive and so voracious that he swallows his prey alive (verse 3). The teeth merely signify the pain and injury the beast inflicts as he swallows his prey alive.

      Then there's the metaphor of a raging flood (verses 4-5). This is an unstoppable torrent that sweeps away everything in its path. Again, the idea is something so much larger than its victims that there is no earthly hope for deliverance.

      Then finally, there's the metaphor of a fowler's trap (v. 7) a large net that would be spread on the ground in some camouflaged fashion in order to snare birds. Once more you have the image of something vastly bigger than its prey, a threat that renders the victim totally helpless. If not for the intervention of God, Israel would have been overwhelmed and utterly destroyed by traps and calamities and predators such as those.

      This is yet another psalm about the sovereignty of God. Israel was expressly chosen by God to illustrate this truth. In Deuteronomy 7:7, God says to Israel, "It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples." Several times in that same chapter (Deuteronomy 7), the Lord points out that the seven nations that dwelt in Canaan before Israel were all " more numerous and mightier than" Israel. And yet, God says, "If you say in your heart, 'These nations are greater than I. How can I dispossess them?' you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, by which the Lord your God brought you out. So will the Lord your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid."

      Israel's enemies were almost always more cruel, more crafty, more numerous, more powerful, more skilled at war, more ruthless, and more devious than the people of God. By comparison, Israel always looked helpless, clueless, powerless—ill-equipped and ill-prepared for any kind of serious, large-scale military engagement. From the very start, the Israelites defeated Jericho by promenading around the city, kept outside by those supposedly impenetrable walls. They had no siege weapon that could fling fireballs of destruction over the walls. The focal point of their whole procession was a cluster of seven priests carrying the ark and blowing shofars.

      David himself went against the giant Goliath as a young boy without any armor. Goliath looked at him with absolute contempt and said, "Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?"

      David understood that a "king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue." That's Psalm 33:16-17. The whole point is that God is sovereign. Psalm 33:20: "He is our help and our shield." But God is not only sovereign; he is also gracious. And omnipotent. He is our Redeemer and Deliverer. No predator, no calamity, and no adversary can overcome us if God is our refuge and strength. Here's how David says it in Psalm 27:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall.

3 Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.

Now, there's a corollary truth that is just as important as the sovereignty of God, and it's also one of the key points of Psalm 124. This song is not only about the absolute sovereignty of God; it's also about the utter poverty of Israel—her lack of sufficient military might, her inability to ward off so many enemies, and her own complete spiritual bankruptcy.

      You have to read this psalm in light of Israel's frequent backsliding and her long history of lazy and lukewarm unfaithfulness. Israel did not earn God's favor. Their salvation (again and again, against every conceivable foe) goes against every human expectation. It magnifies not only the sovereign power of God but also His grace and goodness. And that's what evokes the psalmist's praise.

      By the way, the spiritual lesson embodied in the weakness and insignificance of Israel is a truth that is applicable to you and me as well: we are all destitute of spiritual strength, devoid of any righteousness of our own, in desperate need of redemption, and totally unable to save ourselves. In short, we are spiritual paupers—poor, weak, and helpless. And if God were not our deliverer, we would have no hope at all.

      That's precisely the message of this psalm. I love the first verse. It starts a thought that remains unfinished: "If it had not been the Lord who was on our side—" It just breaks off mid-sentence and leaves the thought hanging. One commentator I read says, "The form of speech is tantamount to saying, What if the Lord had not been for us?—leaving the answer to the imagination of the reader."

      Now, I especially want to focus on those three metaphors imbedded in the psalm, because here's how the psalmist himself answers the "what if?" question. If the Lord had not been on our side, we would have been devoured as if by wild beasts, carried away as if in a flood, and entrapped like a bird in the fowler's net. The metaphors speak of total destruction, eternal ruin. But God averted all that for Israel.

      So keep in mind: this is a celebration of God's character as a Savior—a Deliverer from every kind of foe, or danger, or evil. That's why it's crucial to see that this is not merely a song about a single military triumph; it has eternal overtones, and that is what makes it significant for us.

      Consider these metaphors. First—


1. The wild beast (vv. 1-3)

      Here the idea is an attack motivated by sheer malice. Verse 2: "If it had not been the Lord who was on our side when people rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us." This is a human enemy with all the characteristics of a rabid animal. "People"—plural—and they are angry, and it's a voracious anger.

      The King James expression is "[they would have] swallowed us up quick"—and of course "quick" in that context is the Old English usage, which means "alive," so "swallowed alive" is the right idea. But I like the sound of "swallowed . . . up quick." The idea of speedy destruction is accurate, because to swallow someone alive, you'd have to do it in one gulp, with some haste.

      There are a couple of instances in the Old Testament where people are swallowed alive. One was in Numbers 16:32, when Korah led a rebellion against Moses. He managed to stir up large numbers of people against Moses. He pressed his rebellion to the point of no return. Finally, Moses proposed a showdown. Numbers 16:28: "Hereby you shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these works, and that it has not been of my own accord. If these men die as all men die, or if they are visited by the fate of all mankind, then the Lord has not sent me. But if the Lord creates something new, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, then you shall know that these men have despised the Lord."

      So this was the test: if they were swallowed alive, that would be proof to everyone of God's personal displeasure against Korah and his cohorts. And on the day of the showdown, verse 32: "The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, 'Lest the earth swallow us up!'"

      The other instance in the Old Testament where someone was swallowed alive was (of course) Jonah. That, likewise, was an emblem of the Lord's displeasure. Getting swallowed alive by a fish was an instrument of discipline for Jonah, but it also had a gracious purpose. The fish was a vehicle to get him back where he was supposed to be.

      The same word for "swallow" is used in both of those incidents, and its the same Hebrew word we have in Psalm 124:3. That same word is likewise used in Exodus 7:12, where "Aaron's staff swallowed up [the] staffs [of the Egyptian magicians]." In all those cases, to be swallowed up was to incur the Lord's displeasure. But more important, the imagery speaks of sudden, decisive ruin. In Jonah's case it only appeared he was going to his doom. He wasn't—but that's still an important concept in the way this language is used.

      There's a difference here, though. The expression in our psalm has nothing to do with God's judgment. In fact, it's the opposite. These are Israel's adversaries—enemies of God—who want to destroy and devour the people of God. They are motivated by carnal anger. It is blind, wicked rage. Verse 3: "They would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us." The idea is a sudden, unprovoked uprising, without warning, but brazen and hostile. It's a terrifying image, because the victim in such an assault is basically caught off guard and defenseless. The only motive for the attack is sheer, angry malice. And the predator is large enough and aggressive enough to swallow the victim up alive.

      What does that make you think of? For me, it suggests a Satanic attack—a personal assault by "Your adversary the devil [who] prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." That's 1 Peter 5:8, a description of Satan that uses the very same metaphor we find in verse 3 of our psalm. Peter goes on to say, "Resist him, firm in your faith . . . [and God] will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you." James 4:7 adds this: "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."

      Of course, it is God who enables us to stand firm in the midst of satanic attacks. And the devil flees, not because he is fearful of you, and certainly not because you possess any power in and of yourself to defeat or even withstand "a roaring lion," but because he knows God comes to the aid of His people, and He will not permit their destruction.

      David himself wrote of this. Listen to David's confidence in Psalm 57:3-4. David says:

He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!

4 My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts— the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.

There's also the example of Daniel in the lions' den. And in Psalm 22, you have a messianic psalm filled with specific prophecies about the crucifixion. So in that psalm we have a picture of Christ on the cross, and listen to what he prays (Psalm 22:20-21): "Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion!"

      God answered that prayer in the resurrection, of course. Christ's sheep will never be devoured by their adversaries, thanks to the work of their Shepherd on the cross. And even though Christ willingly bore our sin and took the penalty we deserve, God did not abandon Him or allow Him to see corruption. He raised Him from the dead.

      In the words of Romans 8:31, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Even powerful adversary like the devil himself, who comes against us like a roaring lion, cannot threaten the purpose God has for His people.

      Look at the second metaphor in verses 4-5:


2. The raging flood (vv. 4-5)

      This is a deliberate series of shifting word pictures. It's not an accidental mixed metaphor, which would be a piece of bad writing. But the psalmist is using a series of similitudes to emphasize how thoroughly the Lord had saved Israel from a host of different troubles, time and time again. David moves immediately from the idea of a wild beast to a raging flood. Remember the context: "If it had not been the Lord who was on our side" (verses 4-5) "then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us; then over us would have gone the raging waters."

      There may be an oblique reference to the Red Sea crossing in that verse. On that occasion, of course, it was the pursuers of God's people who in the end were inundated and swept away by the raging waters.

      Floods could also be a serious threat in the wilderness in a desert climate like Sinai. Israel had spent 40 years wandering around Sinai. In the desert, as you know, water tends to run off, and gullies and canyons can become turbulent, muddy death-traps with almost no warning. I found this description of the flood-danger in the Sinai peninsula in a primitive Methodist magazine that was published in 1871. It says:

The whole [Sinai] peninsula is subject to prolonged droughts of the most fierce and scorching character; and is sometimes visited with great floods of a very destructive kind, especially when heavy thunderstorms are accompanied by the melting of vast masses of snow from the mountain tops. A great . . . flood, took place in the Wady Solaf, in 1867, "when an Arab encampment was washed way, and forty souls, together with many camels, sheep, and other cattle, perished in the waters. The scene was terrible to witness. A boiling, roaring torrent filled the entire valley, carrying down huge boulders of rock as though they had been so many pebbles, while whole families swept by, hurried on to destruction by the resistless course of the flood. Trunks of large palm-trees were borne down the Wady-bed, more than thirty miles from where they had grown. A single thunderstorm, with a heavy shower of rain falling on the naked granite mountains, will be sufficient to produce these dreadful effects, and to convert a dry and level valley into a roaring river in a few short hours."

That's the imagery of this metaphor. Like the first metaphor, it pictures sudden, catastrophic destruction by a massive force that the victim is powerless to resist. In this case, the bodies of the dead would be swept away, buried, perhaps lost in total oblivion.

      The wild-beast metaphor embodied the idea of raw malice. This one embodies the notion of raw power. The threat in this case is a superhuman, catastrophic force, and the only possible defense against it is the almighty power of an omnipotent God.

      Notice: both powers—the beast that devours and the flood that devours—are beyond human control, so in characterizing Israel's deliverance this way, David is again acknowledging not only the absolute sovereignty of God but also the utter helplessness of Israel. But it's more than mere physical weakness. The nation is also destitute of any merit or virtue that would give them any right to deliverance. Their salvation is purely a work of God's grace, and this psalm is a formal acknowledgment of that fact.

      There's an irony in this metaphor, too. Though Israel's enemies threaten to overwhelm them like a flood, it is ultimately they themselves (the wicked oppressors) who drown in an outpouring of divine wrath. It happened that way to Pharaoh and his armies at the Red sea. It happened to the Philistines in the time of David, too. In 2 Samuel 5, "When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel," they gathered their forces to overthrow him. Second Samuel 5:18-19: "Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim. And David inquired of the Lord, 'Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?' And the Lord said to David, 'Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand.'"

      There's not a lot of detail about the battle that took place. The next verse simply says, "And David came to Baal-perazim, and David defeated them there. And he said, 'The Lord has burst through my enemies before me like a bursting flood.' Therefore the name of that place is called Baal-perazim." That name means, "master of the crevices," referring to a crack in the dam that unleashes a flood—in this case a flood if judgment from God that overwhelmed and swept away the Philistines "like a bursting flood,"—just as they had threatened to overthrow and eliminate David.

      This is not the only place in the psalms where you'll find this metaphor. In another psalm of David's, Psalm 18:16-18, he writes, "[The Lord] drew me out of many waters. He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support."

      In Psalm 144:7-8, he prays, "Stretch out your hand from on high; rescue me and deliver me from the many waters, from the hand of foreigners, whose mouths speak lies and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood."

      So there's the image of a wild beast, emphasizing the malice of Israel's enemies. The image of a raging flood, emphasizing their power. There's a third metaphor here in verse 7—


3. The fowler's trap (vv. 6-8)

      The stress here is on the enemy's cunning. The imagery speaks of someone who lays a trap, lies in wait, renders his victim utterly powerless by some artifice or ruse, and then unleashes an ambush.

      In Jeremiah 5:26, God speaks through the prophet: "Wicked men are found among my people; they lurk like fowlers lying in wait. They set a trap; they catch men."

      So Israel's adversaries embody the cruelty of wild beasts; the destruction of a raging torrent, and the subtle wily skill of someone who traps wild doves.

      Doves are defenseless creatures. Other than their ability to fly, they have no way of fending off a predator's attacks. The bird-catcher—or fowler—would devise a trap of some sort (sometimes it was a snare; sometimes a pit; usually a large net). He would catch and cage the bird, and the doves were sold, either to be sacrificed in some ritual or to be roasted and eaten.

      This metaphor stresses not only the cunning of the predator but also the helplessness of the dove. Once trapped, the bird has no hope of freeing himself. He has no teeth or claws or strength sufficient to fight off his captor. Unless someone breaks the snare for him and sets him free, he is doomed.

      That's exactly how God delivered Israel; He foiled the fowler. Verse 7: "The snare is broken, and we have escaped!"

      This too is familiar imagery in the psalms. Psalm 91:3: "[The Lord] will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence." Psalm 25:15: "My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net."

      And once again, I think there's the hint of something demonic in this attack. Second Timothy 2:26 speaks of "the snare of the devil." Ephesians 6:11 speaks of "the schemes of the devil." Second corinthians 11:3 speaks of Satan's cunning. Genesis 3:1 mentions his craftiness—his subtlety. The devil uses deception and trickery to mislead and tempt us—to snare us in his nets. Second Corinthians 2:11 says "We are not ignorant of his [devices]." We shouldn't be outwitted or misled by him, because all his tricks are old tricks.

      But unbelievers are like naive birds trapped by a fowler. They are easily susceptible; they willfully go after the bait he sets out. And let's be honest: even as believers, we allow ourselves to be fooled and fall for Satan's ploys far too often.

      Thank God Satan cannot lure a true believer to eternal destruction. God always makes a way of escape for us. First Corinthians 10:13: "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

      In other words, the Lord has broken the snare of the fowler. We could never escape that trap on our own. "If it had not been the Lord who was on our side—" we would be destroyed.

      But "Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth"—and that trumps any snare that any enemy could ever possibly lay for us.


      I hope you see the point: Israel's deliverance from her earthly enemies has a lot in common with our salvation from sin and Satan. The same principles apply: It is the work of God to save us; we are helpless to rescue ourselves. The Lord doesn't save us because we are worthy or because we have earned His approval; he does it to the praise of the glory of His own grace—for His own name's sake. In fact, we don't deserve deliverance at all. Titus 3:5: "He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy." Nevertheless, He saves us—and He saves us to the uttermost. Philippians 1:6: "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."

      So when God delivers His people, it is beyond the power of their enemies to inflict any real harm on them. "The snare is broken, and we have escaped! Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth." The One who created the universe is the same one who saves us. And if He is on our side, no enemy, no danger, no evil, no scheme, no devilish wile can possibly destroy us.

      Psalm 56:11: "in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?" Psalm 118:6-9:

The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?

7 The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.

8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.

9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.

Romans 8:31: "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?"