The Songs of Ascent (Psalms 120-135) are the songs of pilgrims on the road to meet with God. They vocalize the reasons for pilgrimage, its benefits, and struggles.
Psalm 124 is a song from the vantage point of the finish and of hope realized — the hope which pilgrim’s carry in their hearts along the way. The pilgrim way is a way of faith, and it, rather than an optimistic feeling, is the manner in which we walk. Hope is at the end, it is the reason we keep on walking. Midst the journey though, hope is still unrealized, unseen, and the unseen is very difficult to trust, to remain steadfast unto.
Psalm 124 is a song for the fearful — for those who’s hearts are beginning to give way to the terrors and catastrophes which can suddenly befall us. Within its verses is a collective memory, that ‘the Lord has not left us alone’ nor given us over to death and defeat. The Scriptures are full of the accounts of people who, rather than stoically rising above life’s disappointments (as we might think the godly, dignified saints out to have done), succumb to despair, honestly complain against, and about which sing lament. In Psalm 124 we hear the rallying cry of those who have been delivered, who were beyond hoping things would turn out better, but thankfully were not without the hope of their faithful savior.
Psalm 124 reads,
If it had not been the Lord who was on our side—
let Israel now say—
2 if it had not been the Lord who was on our side
when people rose up against us,
3 then they would have swallowed us up alive,
when their anger was kindled against us;
4 then the flood would have swept us away,
the torrent would have gone over us;
5 then over us would have gone
the raging waters.
6 Blessed be the Lord,
who has not given us
as prey to their teeth!
7 We have escaped like a bird
from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken,
and we have escaped!
8 Our help is in the name of the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
If helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet below.
Here beyond, there is rejoicing and peace;
Death’s dull dank as a cloud gave way
To the balmy breeze of victory and grace
Which billows my shroud, fills my new day.
For defeat as a dragon had swallowed me whole;
As a flood, fear flashed, swept courage away;
The jaw of death’s teeth, held, ground my soul;
Hopeless as a dove snared, my doomsday.
Had it not been for the Lord, the Name high above;
The Name above all names, WHO IS AND WAS,
The Name who spoke mine, called me in love
Out of the mouth, from the jaw, snare, and flood.
“Lazarus, come forth!” my Savior called me,
Fly from the earth! Arise! You are free!
© Randall Edwards 2017
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
artwork: detail from an illustration of The Pilgrim’s Progress or Christian’s journey form the City of Destruction in this evil World to the Celestial City; Published July 1, 1813 by J. Pitts No 14 Great St Andrews Street Seven Dials.