PSALM 124 - If not for the LORD, where would Israel be?
1. A Song of degrees of David.
Psalms 120 - 134 are all titled in this way. It is thought that the songs of degrees {ie., ascents} were sung by travelers going up to Jerusalem for the periodic feasts.
If [it had not been] the LORD who was on our side,
now may Israel say;
2 If [it had not been] the LORD who was on our side,
when men rose up against us:
3 Then they had swallowed us up quick,
when their wrath was kindled against us:
4 Then the waters had overwhelmed us,
the stream had gone over our soul:
5 Then the proud waters had gone over our soul.
If it had not been the LORD...-
"It is uncertain what the particular deliverance was which is celebrated in this Psalm. Some refer it to the deliverance of Hezekiah from Sennacherib; and others to the return from the Babylonian captivity; while [another scholar] refers it to that of the Jews from the massacre intended by Haman." [TSK]
     While each of those scenarios is a fitting illustration of the thesis of this psalm, all occurred hundreds of years after David, to whom the psalm is attributed.
     The thesis is that little Israel could never survive the attacks of its enemies, except for the miraculous intervention of the LORD. This is highlighted by the emphatic repetition of: "If it had not been the LORD..."
     Apparently, David wrote, in remembrance of previous historic events (eg., Ex 15:1), and with prophetic insight regarding events that would occur later (such as those suggested above). The continued existence of Israel, as a people and nation, through calamities, captivities and dispersions, can only be explained by the power of God, to keep His promises to them. From the beginning of its long and troubled history, Israel's preservation reveals the reality and character of the Living God, to the unbelieving world (eg., Psa 129:1-5, which is thought to have been written following the partial return from the Babylonian captivity).
...the LORD who was on our side...-
The LORD has always desired what is best for His people. However, while many claim to be God's favored people, few are on His side (eg., Ex 32:26). This is true of Israel and also of the 'church' (Mat 12:30). The LORD stands with His faithful remnant. But He is against those who are contrary to Him (eg., Deu 4:23-31; Isa 63:7-10). The LORD chastens His people, in order to purify and separate those who are truly His, from rebellious unbelievers.
     Those who know and serve the LORD, can be sure that He is on their side. Psa 25:10,14-15; 103:17,18; 118:6,7; Rom 8:31
...when men rose up against us...-
God's people have been attacked from without by ungodly nations and also by wicked men from within the camp (Psa 27:12; Mic 7:6; eg., Num 16:2,3).
...then they had swallowed us up quick {ie., alive}, when their wrath was kindled against us...
Moved with Satan's hatred of God and His people, Israel's human enemies engage the battle with overwhelming numbers and nearly unlimited resources.
Their purpose is to eradicate God's people. Psa 56:1,2; 57:3; 83:4,5
Such hatred against Israel has been displayed repeatedly in history...
  • the ancient captivities under Assyria, Babylon and Rome... eg., Psa 137:7-9; Eze 25:15
  • the inquisitions under Roman Catholicism...
  • the pogroms under the Russian Empire (and in other places)...
  • the holocaust under Hitler...
  • the recent invasions and terrorism from Islamic neighbors... Psa 120:6,7
...then the waters had overwhelmed us... the proud waters had gone over our soul.
On many occasions, enemy armies have flooded into the land, with arrogant self-assurance of Israel's destruction.
     In the future Tribulation period, Satanic hatred will move the sea of humanity against God's people. Isa 17:12-14; Joel 2:1-11; Rev 12:15-17
     But the believing remnant of Israel will not be destroyed, because the LORD is on their side. Jer 30:11; 31:35-37; 33:25,26; 46:28; Zech 13:8,9
6. Blessed [be] the LORD,
who hath not given us [as] a prey to their teeth.
7 Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers:
the snare is broken, and we are escaped.
8 Our help [is] in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
Blessed be the LORD, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth.
Here, 'the redeemed of the LORD' praise Him (Psa 107:2), for He has seen their plight and delivered them from the beastly, vicious hatred of their enemies (Psa 35:15-18). The LORD rescues His own and renders their enemies powerless (Psa 58:6; 3:7; Deu 28:7).
Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken...-
  • 'The fowlers' set their traps, but the LORD delivers His own (Psa 25:15; 91:3)
    The fowlers set their snares with...
    • harmful intent - A snare does not set itself.
      The fowler intends to take the life of a bird.
      In v.7, the 'fowlers' include wicked men and Satan, the master 'fowler'. 2Tim 2:26
    • deception - A snare is set secretly and does not appear dangerous. Prov 1:17
    • bait - A snare appeals to natural appetites and weaknesses. eg., Prov 7:21-23
  • 'Snares', of various types, have ensnared Israel (and will, until they are set free).
    • the foolish alliances with gentile nations and their false gods.
      Deu 7:16; Josh 23:11-13; Judg 2:1-3; Psa 106:34-37
    • the malicious intent of godless enemy nations.
      Psa 140:4,5; 142:3
    • the malignant influence of ungodly leaders within Israel.
      Jer 5:26,27; Hos 5:1; 9:8
    • the fear of (or, trust in) man rather than trust in the LORD. Prov 29:25
      Israel's unbelief is the common thread in each of the above points.
      Through disregard of God's Word, they became susceptible to deception.
    • the perverse disorder of the future Time of Jacob's Trouble (the Tribulation period).
      Isa 24:17,18; Luk 21:34-36; Mat 24:21-24
      This period will ensnare everyone on earth, in satanic deception at its worst.
      Then, the LORD will collapse the ungodly empire, while preserving Israel's believing remnant.
  • Our soul is escaped as a bird...
    But, like a bird (and like all mankind), Israel is unable to deliver herself, for she is weak and hopelessly entangled in Satan's lies, and in bondage to sin and death.
         Only when she realizes her need and turns to the Savior, will the snare be broken, for in Him, the LORD has made the way of escape. Isa 61:1-3 (cp. Luk 4:16-21); Zech 9:9-12; Joh 8:31-36
Our help [is] in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.-
Only He is able to deliver.
He delivers, those who trust in Him, completely. Isa 8:13-15; Heb 2:14-18; 1Pet 2:6-9

This Concludes the study in Psalm 124.
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