Psalms 124 - Psalms of Ascent and a Psalm of Deliverance

Date: 9/30/2018
More audio from All Saints Church
Type: Sunday Sermon
Topic: Bible Psalms
Organization: All Saints
Price: FREE

Psalms 124 - “Had it not been the LORD who was on our side,” Let Israel now say, 2 “Had it not been the LORD who was on our side When men rose up against us, 3 Then they would have swallowed us alive, When their anger was kindled against us; 4 Then the waters would have engulfed us, The stream would have swept over our soul; 5 Then the raging waters would have swept over our soul.” 6 Blessed be the LORD, Who has not given us to be torn by their teeth. 7 Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper; The snare is broken and we have escaped. 8 Our help is in the name of the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.

The Psalms of Ascent - Psalm 124 is one of fifteen psalms in the category of “Songs of Ascent,” Psalms 120-134. In them are frequent references to Jerusalem, Zion, and Israel. The term “ascent” (?????????? ma?alot) is the word for “step.” a) It is, in fact, a physical ascent to get to Jerusalem and the temple mount. Israelites were to ascend to the high place in Jerusalem several times a year (Ex. 34:23). Consider, the last walk of Jesus from from Jericho (846 ft below sea level) to Jerusalem (2400 ft above sea level). It is over a 3000 ft climb (and only 14 miles as the crow flies). b) It is also a spiritual ascent to travel as a pilgrim to festal worship. The Mishnah indicates that these psalms correspond to the fifteen steps that led from the Court of the Women to the Court of the Israelites. Each year Israelites traveled to Jerusalem for the feasts of Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles. “They were evidently songs used by the pilgrims on their way up to the temple at Jerusalem for the feasts” (Kidner, Tyndale). This “procession” to Zion is appropriated in the new covenant as ascending in worship before the Triune God (Her. 12:22-24): “But you have processed/drawn nigh to Mount Zion even the City of the living God, Jerusalem in the heavens, with millions of angels in solemn assembly for the festival, with the Church of the Firstborn whose names are inscribed in the heavenly register, and to God the Judge of all, and to the departed who were faithful, who have been made perfect, and to the new covenant Mediator, Jesus, and to [His] covenant blood which is much greater than the shed blood of Abel” (GS translation).

A Psalm of Deliverance - Psalm 124 is an anthem of deliverance from “men who rose up against us” (literally, adam, “a man rose up against us,” singular). Since the Psalm is ascribed to David, consider the deliverances of David which may have been relevant to the composition: a) Deliverance from Goliath, the giant of the Philistines who taunted the army of Israel and blasphemed YHWH. David (as a young man, small of stature and inexperienced in war) volunteered to fight him, trusting in YHWH’s deliverance. Goliath was “was clothed with scale-armor” (NASB, 1Sam. 17:5). As we know, the head of this serpent-dressed giant was crushed (Gen. 3:15), because “YHWH does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the YHWH’S ” (1Sam. 17:47).  b) Later the writhing body of the Philistines also attacked when David became king (2 Sam. 5:17). They were also crushed as with a flood. It is instructive to remember that the defeat of Philistines replays Egyptian defeat since they were from “Mytzraim” (Egypt, Gen. 10:13-14). The Israelites experienced many subsequent deliverances from the likes of Sennacherib (Assyrian), Ahab/Jezebel (Israelite/Sidonian), Belshazzar (Babylonian), and Haman (Amalekite/Agogite). In Psalm 124, this deliverance is expressed in four metaphors. Israel is delivered from a) beasts that would have eaten them alive; b) a flood that would have drowned them in raging water; c) beasts that would have torn them with their teeth; and d) a fowler’s snare or trap. These images speak to the motives and actions of their enemies. They are malicious enemies that would have destroyed them. In the last image, the enemy is deceptive in methodology, like a bird catcher, entrapping them with a deceitful scheme. In our own experience we are to be prepared for such hostile enemies and their entrapments by men: e.g., “the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming (methodeia) (Eph. 4:14) and the schemes of Satan: “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes (methodeiaI)” (Eph. 6:11). We are not to be “ignorant of his schemes” (2Cor. 2:11).

Gregg Strawbridge Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as receive a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more