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"We got Help!"

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Psalm 124:1–8 NKJV
“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,” Let Israel now say— “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, 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; Then the swollen waters Would have gone over our soul.” Blessed be the Lord, Who has not given us as prey to their teeth. 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.
There is a local network whose newscast claims to be “On Our Side”. They claim that they are “on our side” because they ask the tough questions about issues in our community and because they go to bat for consumers who have complaints about companies they have done business with. And I’m sure that they probably have helped a lot of people over the years, although my guess is that their motivation for doing so has a lot more to do with trying to increase ratings than purely altruistic purposes.
There is a local news network whose newscast claims to be “On Our Side”. They claim that they are “on our side” because they ask the tough questions about issues in our community and they go to bat for consumers who have complaints about companies they have done business with. Now, I’m sure they probably have helped a lot of people over the years, although my guess is that their motivation for doing so has a lot more to do with trying to increase ratings than purely altruistic purposes.
There is a local network whose newscast claims to be “On Our Side”. They claim that they are “on our side” because they ask the tough questions about issues in our community and because they go to bat for consumers who have complaints about companies they have done business with. And I’m sure that they probably have helped a lot of people over the years, although my guess is that their motivation for doing so has a lot more to do with trying to increase ratings than purely altruistic purposes.
But, living in a time such as this, where school shootings have become to much of the norm, bigotry is espoused from the white house to the neighbors house, where racism raises its ugly head while trying to buy lunch, and don;t get caught sleeping, starbucksin, driving, studying, barbecuing, breathing or simply existing while black - in all these things we need someone on our side. We need someone who can do something about everything in our life. We need a Holy Helper!
The truth is, as we embark on our journey to become mature disciples of Jesus, we are going to encounter obstacles along the way. In fact, as we’ll see this morning, tat often in the midst of doing the right thing, we are still a bunch of Real Folks, serving a Real God - but we shol’ nuff got some Real Issues . . .
Fortunately we have someone much more powerful than a local TV station on our side.
We have someone more powerful than a news commentator
We have someone more powerful than the local blogger
shows us that we have something special . . . We’ve Got Help - We’ve got THE LORD on our side!
is the fifth of the fifteen Psalms of Ascent that were sung by the Hebrew pilgrims as they would travel up to Jerusalem three times a year to worship God at the feasts He had prescribed for them. Like many of the other Psalms of Ascent we don’t know for sure what historical event – or events – gave rise to this Psalm. The descriptions of the Hebrews’ enemies that we find in the Psalm are pretty general and the Psalmist could be referring to any number of different times that God came to the rescue of His people.
I believe this is another place where the Scriptures are intentionally vague so that when we read and study them, the application is not just limited to a particular type of situation or circumstance. But, we can apply it to the many challenges we often face in life.
Twice in the first two verses, the Psalmist proclaims that God is on the side of His people. And then He demonstrates how important that is by going on to describe what would have happened had God not been on their side. In other words the psalmist reminds us all today - that
WE GOT HELP!
There are a few things we learn from this text today:

1. We need a Real God for Real Problems

Israel faced some powerful enemies and the Psalmist uses some vivid language to describe their nature. His people were in danger of being swallowed up alive by enemies who were like wild animals. They were in danger of being swept away by enemies who came at them like raging floods. We can certainly relate to that picture here in Texas where we’ve seen people swept away in flood waters - where they were thrust into danger by the unexpected.
Certainly among the historical events that the Psalmist had in mind here was Israel’s captivity in Egypt. There they were enslaved like a bird in a snare, working as slaves in a foreign land. And when God finally released them from that slavery their enemies pursued them like wild animals, intent on swallowing them up. And then, when they finally got to the Red Sea, they faced the danger of being engulfed by the waters - yet God made a way for them through the sea.
Because He was on their side, God had rescued them each time.
Family, we need a real God for real problems. There is a risk we take when we choose to center our lives on a God who we have never seen or touched or heard. And as we live out that life of faith we face fierce enemies who would like nothing better than to swallow us up or engulf us or put us into subjection.
Some of those dangers are internal. Our own doubts and fears often knock us off track and keep us from living the kind of life of that we strive for.
Some of the dangers are unseen, like Satan who is seeking to devour those who have committed their lives to Jesus:
1 Peter 5:8 NKJV
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
Some of the dangers arise from those who are close to us – family, friends and co-workers who smile in our face but, all the while their trying to take our place . . . Backstabbers . . .
(ESV)
Some of the dangers arise from those who are close to us – family, friends and co-workers who tempt us to abandon our faith in Jesus and ridicule our attempts to live in obedience to Him.
Being a committed Christ follower in the 21st century in the United States, or anywhere else in the world, for that matter, is not easy. And that means that…
Being a committed Christ follower in the 21st century in the United States, or anywhere else in the world, for that matter, is not easy. And that means that…

2. With God we miss destruction and arrive at destiny

Our English translations of this passage can’t adequately convey the ruthlessness of the enemies that Israel faced.
In verse 3, the Hebrew word translated “would have swallowed us up” comes from a verb that literally means “to eat up”. In this context, it is meant to convey the idea of absolute destruction.
In verse 4, the translation “swept us away” is actually very accurate. We have seen, almost every year people who are literally swept away by flash floods, never to be seen again. That’s exactly what the psalmist is picturing here.
And in that same verse, the translation “would have gone over us” comes from a term that means to remove whatever is in the path of an advancing force.
When we put all this together, it becomes quite apparent that Israel faced enemies who were intent on their complete destruction and that there was nothing that they could to stop it.
The same is true for us today. We’ve already seen that Satan is described as a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. That word “devour” is a compound word in Greek that literally means “to drink down” and the picture there is that Satan seeks to completely destroy Jesus and those who would follow after Him. And throughout Scripture we see Satan attempting to do just that. His attempts to utterly destroy Jesus are particularly evident in the New Testament, beginning with inciting Herod to kill all the babies in Jerusalem after the birth of Jesus and continuing through his temptation of Jesus in the wilderness.
And now that Jesus has risen from the grave and ascended to the right had of His Father, Satan has turned his attention to His followers.
And the world around us, where Satan is currently operates as the “prince of the power of the air” () is no less intent on destroying the influence of Jesus and His followers. And on our own, we are helpless against those forces.
But the good news is that this Psalm is not a Psalm about hazards. It is a Psalm about help. And that leads us to the focus of this Psalm:

3. God’s Helps us for His glory

This is a good place for us to address a nagging question that I’m sure all of us have asked at various times in our life:
If God helps His people when they are in desperate situations, why doesn’t He just prevent those situations in the first place?
If God was able to drown the entire Egyptian army as they pursued Israel, couldn’t He have kept them from being enslaved in Egypt in the first place? Or couldn’t he have stopped Pharaoh from sending his armies after them?
If God could rescue Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the fiery furnace, couldn’t he have just prevented them from being thrown into the furnace in the first place?
If God broke Paul and Silas out of a Philippian jail, couldn’t he have prevented them from being arrested in the first place?
If God knows ahead of time that He intends to help His people, why does He allow these difficult situations in the first place?
That is actually one of the most important questions we can answer in our journey, because if we get the answer to that question wrong, we are prone to misinterpret what God is doing in our lives, especially when we are in the midst of trial and tribulation.
Without this Psalm, we could easily come up with the wrong answers to these questions.
For instance, we could easily conclude that the difficulties are a result of something that we’ve done wrong. Jesus’ disciples certainly came to that wrong conclusion on at least one occasion:
John 9:2 NKJV
And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
(ESV)
We’ll see how Jesus responded to that question in just a moment.
The problem with that kind of thinking is that it affects our decision-making and causes us to try and change our circumstances because we assume that we’ve missed God’s will somewhere along the way and need to make a change.
If I experience difficulties in my marriage I can think that is because I married the wrong person, so the solution is to get a divorce and marry someone else.
If I’m having difficulties at work, it’s easy to think that I’m not in the job where God wants me to be, so the solution is to find another job.
Now obviously we do sometimes face problems because of bad decisions and God can use difficulties to discipline us when we have sinned and we ought to at least consider those possibilities.
But, before we start making even worse decisions we need to make sure that God is leading us to make those changes.
In the examples we looked at earlier, certainly Israel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and Paul and Silas weren’t facing trouble because they had done something wrong. In fact, they were in trouble because they were doing exactly what God wanted them to do.
Another way we can respond incorrectly to difficulties in our life is to assume that God has abandoned us or that He no longer loves us. Even after God had miraculously delivered them from the Egyptian army, it wasn’t long before the Israelites started thinking like that.
Exodus 17:3 NKJV
And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”
But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”
(ESV)
Probably most of us have felt that way at times. How easy it is to forget all that God has done for us and begin to think that He has abandoned us. But God’s character is such that throughout the Scriptures He continually promises never to leave or forsake His children.
So that brings us back to the question we started with:
If God helps His people when they are in desperate situations, why doesn’t He just prevent those situations in the first place?
Let’s go back to for a moment. Remembered when the disciples asked Jesus who had sinned so that the man had been born blind? Here is how Jesus responded to that question:
John 9:3 NKJV
Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.
Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
(ESV)
Sometimes God allows His people to go through terrifying situations, with no way out, in order to display His power. Often He is preparing to do something great and mighty to demonstrate to the world, through us, what a powerful God He is. God’s primary purpose in rescuing His people from those kinds of situations is so that He’ll get all the glory; and we’ll be reminded that We Got Help!
From Exodus to Revelation, we find the consistent testimony, sometimes even through song, about how God freed His people from slavery in Egypt and wiped out the armies that came after them.
From Exodus to Revelation, we find the consistent testimony, sometimes even through song, about how God freed His people from slavery in Egypt and wiped out the armies that came after them. In our culture today people still make movies about that event and even unbelievers are exposed to the greatness of God.
The way God preserved Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace obviously changed Nebuchadnezzar’s opinion of their God:
Daniel 3:28–29 NKJV
Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this.”
Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king's command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”
And because Paul and Silas were thrown into jail a jailer and his family committed their lives to Jesus.
(ESV)
And because Paul and Silas were thrown into jail a jailer and his family committed their lives to Jesus.
So the next time that we encounter difficulties in our discipleship journey, the question we need to ask is this:
How does God want to display His mighty works in my life?
Finally, in this Psalm we discover that…

4. God’s Help is complete

We clearly see this in verse 7. God had completely rescued His people from the traps their enemies had set up and not only that, He also completely destroyed the traps so that His people would be totally free. We’re reminded once again that, just as we have consistently seen in these Psalms, there was nothing that the Psalmist and his people could do to rescue themselves. They were completely dependent upon God for their deliverance.
And that rescue, that deliverance, was absolutely complete in every way. It impacted both…
• Past and present
The Psalmist begins by looking back on God’s deliverance in the past. But it is never enough to just know that God saved people in the past. So the Psalmist ends the Psalm by bringing things into the present:
Our help is [present tense] in the name of the LORD…
While it’s good to know that God has rescued His people in the past, we need to have the confidence that He still rescues His people today! It is that confidence that allows us to persevere even in the face of overwhelming difficulty.
• Corporate and personal
The focus in this Psalm is on how God rescues his people as a corporate body. You’ll notice that all the pronouns are plural – “us” “our” and “we”. That certainly reinforces the importance of being part of a community of faith
But I also know that if there is a we, then that includes me . . . If God promises to deliver us, that I will be to !!
In my distress I called to the LORD,
and he answered me.
Deliver me, O LORD,
from lying lips,
from a deceitful tongue.
(ESV)
Both aspects of God’s salvation are crucial for our journey. We need to have the confidence that God has and will rescue me personally. But is it also encouraging to know that He has placed me among an entire people who have experienced that same salvation. It’s encouraging to know that I’m not the only one who faces these ferocious enemies along the way and to know that God is protecting us as a people as well as each of us individually.
Im sorry ya’ll but I need to pause here for a praise break - because when I look around this room I see where God has brought US a mighty long way . . .
Although the focus in this Psalm seems to be primarily on God rescuing His people from physical harm here on this earth, the way God rescues His people in the physical, temporal realm also points to a deeper, spiritual reality. God delights in rescuing His people from hopeless, impossible situations here in this life in order to demonstrate that when the time comes, he will save us from the ultimate hopeless situation – death.
In his letter to the Roman church, Paul also wrote of a God who is on our side:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Expound . . .
(ESV)
If God is for us, or, as the Psalmist put it, He is on our side, then it really doesn’t matter who is against us because we have a Heavenly Father who is sovereign and powerful and who is able to rescue us from all those enemies.
Paul goes on to describe the enemies we face, both temporal and eternal and how Jesus has rescued us from them all:
Let’s join with the Psalmist this morning and give praise to God for His rescuing power that is at work in your life because He is on your side.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God may not always choose to rescues us from the temporal difficulties we face – at least not on our own timeline. As we’ve seen, He is much more interested in rescuing us for His glory than for our comfort. But we can be assured that if we’ve committed our lives to Jesus that He will be faithful to be with us through those trials and that one day He will conquer our final enemy – death.
Although the life of Christian discipleship is indeed hazardous, we can make that journey confidently knowing that God is on our side. So the final question we must answer this morning is this:
How can we make sure God is on our side?
Most of you can probably remember back to your days as a child when you faced the agonizing process of choosing teams for some particular game or competition. Two captains would be chosen and then they would alternate picking people to be on their team. And everyone’s hope is that they wouldn’t be the last one picked. Sometimes if the captains had someone they wanted to be on their team they would make a deal if it wasn’t their turn to pick – if you let me have Bubba, you can have Billie Bob.
So how can we make sure that we have the benefits of God’s rescuing power by making sure He is on our side? That’s actually pretty simple. I make sure God is on m side…
• By responding to His invitation
There is actually noting we can do to make sure God is on our side. Israel certainly didn’t to anything to merit being chosen by God to be His people.
For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 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, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
(ESV)
And there is nothing we can do to merit having God on our side either. But, God has extended an invitation to us to be on His side by sending His Son Jesus to this earth to die on the cross, just as we saw earlier in . And when we respond to that invitation by placing our faith in Jesus Christ alone, then we become God’s children:
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
I encourage you to join with the Psalmist this morning and give praise to God for His rescuing power that is at work in your life because He is on your side.
And once we become His children, one of the benefits is that God is permanently on our side. We don’t ever have to worry that someone else will steal us away from Him.
If you’ve never responded to that invitation, then if you want to be assured that God is on your side and that you can experience His rescuing power, then I want to encourage you to respond to His invitation this morning. If you’d like to know more about how to do that there are a lot of people here this morning that can help you.
And if you have responded to that invitation, then I encourage you to join with the Psalmist this morning and give praise to God for His rescuing power that is at work in your life because He is on your side.
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