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TEXT: Psalm 124
SUBJECT: Songs on the Way to Heaven #5
Do you ever watch Jeopardy? Alex Trebec has been its host for many years, but I'm old enough to remember when Art Fleming did the honors. I can't say why I remember him from forty years ago, but I do remember him. In any event, Jeopardy is a quiz show with a difference:
Instead of starting with questions, it starts with answers, to which the people playing it are supposed to give the right question. For example, on 'celebrity week' we hear things like this:
Central American capitals, for one hundred, Alex.
For one hundred dollars, This city is the capital of Guatemala.
Jennifer: What is Panama City? No.
Angelina: What is Mexico City? No.
Brad: What is Washington D.C.? No.
I'm sorry, the question is: What is Guatemala City?
Eventually someone wins, of course, and makes a fool of himself by screaming, jumping up and down, or otherwise acting like a five-year old on sugar donuts!
The content of Psalm 124 is a lot more important and serious than the things you see on Jeopardy, but the structure is the same. It begins with an answer, vv.1-2a, goes on to the question, vv.2b-4, and finishes with a celebration, vv.5-8.
The answer is, The Lord was on our side.
This was composed and first sung under the Old Covenant, when the Lord's siding with Israel pointed to key events every pious Jew kept in mind and celebrated. While the Great Works of the Lord are too many to number, a few of them hold a deeper significance than most others. Among them are:
Not long after the Flood, the whole human race corrupted itself under the leadership of Nimrod. God soon brought down a terrible judgment on the madman and his followers, but they were made no better by it. Tired of their rebellion, He turned away from the whole human race, and chose one man out of it on whom to bestow His grace. That one man was Abraham, whom the Lord would bless in a special way, and who would become a blessing to all the families of the earth.
Right down to the marrow, every Jew felt the privilege of being a descendant of Abraham and a participant in the Covenant God made with him back in the day. Even the most respectful man did not think Abraham was worthy of this high honor, but got it simply because, The Lord was on their side.
If Israel was chosen in the days of Abraham, they were not a nation-no less a redeemed nation-until the Exodus from Egypt. On the night they left their prison, a lamb was sacrificed and its blooded painted over and around the doorway. When the Avenging Angel stalked the land, he killed the firstborn in every home, except in those where he saw the blood and passed over it. This was-symbolically-the forgiveness of their sins, and it was followed by freedom from the enemies who were drowned in the Red Sea, and a new identity, no longer a race of slaves, but now, a kingdom of priests.
For seven days every year the Exodus was re-lived in the Feast of Passover. For that was the day of their redemption. When the waters stayed up for Israel's crossing and crashed down on Pharaoh's chariots and horsemen, the people knew, The Lord was on their side.
As if this were not enough, the Lord did another great favor for His people. It came long after the exodus, and after many years of chaos, defeat, and failure. I mean the building of David's House. Not the place he and his family lived, but his Dynasty, the wise and potent Lordship he and his heirs would have over Israel.
The kingdom began with a false step, with the people demanding a king who would be to them what the heathen kings were to their people. They got what they wanted, in the fool and tyrant King Saul! But God loved His people too much to suffer fools to reign over them forever.
He went to Bethlehem Judah, to the house of Jesse, and there He chose the man's youngest son to be Israel greatest king. About thirteen years later, the kingdom came to Jesse's son, and like no other man in the history of that people, he ruled justly in the fear of God.
Near the end of his life, the king wanted to build a house for the Lord, and, at first, his prophet told him to do it. But that night, the prophet was overruled and David was told he would not build God's house. This, however, was not a punishment on the man, but rather, a colossal blessing, for if David would not build a house for God, God would build a house for David.
You'd expect a Lord to let His servant serve Him, but here, the Lord serves the servant. David's House is built and firmly established. The king took no credit for this strange turn of events, Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house that You have brought me thus far?
Why was the House of David set up? And why did the people receive so many benefits as a result thereof? There's only one possible, The Lord was on their side.
The things done for Israel were done for us too. For everyone who believes in Christ is an Israelite, only we're the Israelites who get more than what our fathers got. If the Lord was on their side, He is even more on our side.
The blessings they got were perishable, but our blessings cannot be lost or fade way. To us, The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
Having justified us, for Christ's sake, we will never be found guilty-
Who shall lay any charge to God's elect? It is God who justifies!
Having possessed us by His Holy Spirit, we will never be without Him-
I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you.
Given the hope of heaven, we will not be disappointed in the end. We have been promised and we must have-
An inheritance undefiled, incorruptible, that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.
Why are we justified? Why do we have the Holy Spirit? Why is our hope a real one?
It would be flattering to say we have them because we're better than those who don't. But this flattery-like most other-is a lie. These things are ours for one and only one reason-
The Lord is on our side!
No other reason is given because no other reason is needed. If a wife told her husband, I love you, what man is fool enough to ask her why? Why she loves him doesn't matter; if she thought about it, she might quit loving him! If he's a fool, the Christian is a bigger one for poking around in God's business, wondering why he's loved. It's enough to know: He first loved us.
Please, Lord, don't look for reasons in me to love me; look for reasons in yourself to love me!
This is the answer: The Lord is on our side.
Now, what's the question?
When men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive, when their wrath was kindled against us; then the waters would have overwhelmed us, the stream would have gone over our soul.
Why aren't we destroyed by our enemies? Israel had their Philistines, and we have ours. To make it short, our enemies are, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Or, to cite another place, The prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now energizes the children of disobedience. A third place, the course of the world.
The devil is against us. The world is against us. We are against us.
A hundred years ago, most scholars scoffed at the devil, and took him for a hangover from some superstitious past. But now many scholars (who are not Christians or Jews) think there's something it the old boy. How else do you explain the horrors of the Twentieth Century? The suicidal passions that moved nations to annihilate each other and themselves too?
The world doesn't mean 'material things' 'the earth' and so on, but the sinful systems which rule it. The systems differ by time and place, but however different they are, they all oppose our salvation. Whether it's false religion, backed by law in Saudi Arabia, or secularism and materialism backed by advertising in America. The culture is against us, every culture is, though not in the same way.
If the devil and the world are enemies, our hearts are traitors, for they often sell us to the enemy, by way of lust or envy or covetousness or pride or some other way we're all too familiar with.
Like the Israelites of old, men (and devils) would swallow us up or drown us.If the Lord had not been on our side.
He is on our side and we know this, not just because He says so, but because of what He has done for us-not promised to do-but done, really done for us in time and space. What He did for us is summed up in Romans 8:32 and proves the verse before it,
What then shall we say? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Paul is right, of course. If God is for us.But is He?
He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
The crucifixion is God's Last Word to us. If it doesn't say He loves us nothing can. But that's just what it says, and not only says, but proves,
No greater love has any man than this: that he lay down His life for His friend.
What should we do if the Psalm is true? If the Lord really is on our side and if His siding with us keeps us from damnation, what would be the proper response?
Go back to the Game Show we started with and you'll know. The proper response to winning is celebrating!
This is what the Psalmist does-
Blessed be the Lord who has not given us as prey to their
Our soul has escaped as a bird from
The snare of the fowlers;
The snare is broken,
And we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
To 'bless' is to 'speak well of', and it carries with it the idea of praise, public praise, I might add, which includes witnessing to the lost. We're to be thankful and not only be that way, but show that we're thankful by giving thanks. And, as my old friend used to say, Bragging on Jesus.
If you're a Christian, remember the Lord is on your side-not may be, or is when you're at your best-but He is always on your side, even when you're at your worst.
Remember, too, that the sufferings of this life don't disprove His siding with you, but prove it-Whom the Lord loves, He chastens and scourges every son whom He receives.
Don't be content remembering He's on your side, but praise Him for it and tell the lost that He's on their side too-- no matter what they've done or how often they've done it,
God commended His love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. While we were without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly.
I have one last word, spoken directly to unbelievers. The fact that you are still alive-and not in hell-means the Lord is on your side too. His patience-the Bible says-is for your salvation. His goodness is meant to lead you to repentance, to turn from the selfish life you've always lived, to a life submitted to Christ. Turn to Him now in faith and you'll see that what I've said is true,
If the Lord had not been on our side, the waters would have overwhelmed us.
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