By Eileen Lundy
Daily lectionary reading: Psalm 124; Genesis 8:1-19; Romans 6:1-11
Selected passage for reflection: Psalm 124
Psalm 124 The Message
If God hadn’t been for us —all together now, Israel, sing out!—If God hadn’t been for us when everyone went against us, We would have been swallowed alive by their violent anger, Swept away by the flood of rage, drowned in the torrent; We would have lost our lives in the wild, raging water.
Oh, blessed be God! He didn’t go off and leave us. He didn’t abandon us defenseless, helpless as a rabbit in a pack of snarling dogs.
We’ve flown free from their fangs, free of their traps, free as a bird.Their grip is broken; we’re free as a bird in flight.
God’s strong name is our help, the same God who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 124 is one of a series of Psalms referred to as Psalms of Ascent. These were Psalms that were sung or chanted by the people of Israel as they drew near to Jerusalem and began to ascend to the city.
This Psalm or song begins with a repeated cry of praise “if God hadn’t been for us”. If not for God we would have been overcome and swept away by our enemies, by those who seek us harm. If not for God, who didn’t leave us defenseless and helpless. If not for God, who is our help in times of trouble. This is trouble that comes from the hand of our enemies or from the circumstances of living in a broken world. In these times of trouble when we are overwhelmed or feel trapped and afraid for our very life the psalmist proclaims that God’s strong name is our help.
This past year, I have experienced several unexpected surprises. None of them were good surprises and all left me afraid and anxious. The most recent was my husband awakening me in the middle of night asking me to drive him to the hospital because he was having chest pain. He was having a heart attack, but because he arrived at the hospital, at just the right time, not too early and not too late, a stent was placed and there was no damage to his heart. If not for God. The words of Psalm 124 call me to remember this experience of God’s faithfulness and deliverance. Remembering this “if not for God” moment helps me to trust God's faithfulness and goodness in situations that remain unresolved and that still bring fear and anxiety. In my fear I can remember and find hope as I cling to the truth of Psalm 124, God is for us.
This Psalm of Ascent fits well with the beginning of Advent as we begin our journey toward the manager. Here at the start of Advent let us find hope in remembering God’s faithfulness and deliverance in the past. During our journey may we remember that God is not only for us, but in the birth of Jesus, also God with us, Immanuel.
Spend some time with Psalm 124, placing yourself in the Psalm. Is there a “if God hadn’t been for us” moment you remember? Where might you need to experience God’s defense today? How might God’s strong name give you help and hope today?
Almighty God, thank you for not leaving us alone, for not abandoning us. As we begin our journey of Advent, give us hope in places that seem hopeless as we remember your faithfulness and goodness in times past. May we find hope in knowing that you are for us. Amen
About the Author
Eileen Lundy lives in Omaha, Nebraska. She is a nurse, a bi-vocational pastor and a spiritual director. Eileen is married to Steve, her best friend, and they have 3 adult children. She loves a good story in any form, spoken, written or video.