Psalms of Ascent: 124

1  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.

During this season of Advent, the Psalms of Ascent are a wonderful thing to study. Advent is a time when we wait on Jesus’ arrival, both looking back to his first arrival on Christmas and looking forward to his second coming when he will reunite Heaven and Earth.

The Psalms of Ascent are also about waiting for the presence of God. The Israelites sang these songs as they journeyed to Jerusalem to worship in the Temple where the presence of God resided. Advent and Ascent are very similar, and none of the psalms illustrate this point more than Psalm 124.

Christmas time is all about Immanuel, which is a Hebrew word meaning, “God with us”. This Hebrew word appears in Psalm 124 verse 1 in its past tense from (hayah lanu) which means “had been on our side”. Psalm 124 is asking the question: What if God was never with us? What if Jesus had never become our Immanuel?

The psalmist describes complete desolation if God had not been on their side. Enemy armies would have wiped them out. Fire would have consumed them. Floodwater would have overtaken them. They were helpless if the Lord was not present with them. But with the Lord’s help, they experienced freedom and safety.

If Jesus had never been born among us, we would be helpless and desolate too. Jesus’ incarnation, when God became man, changed the shape of our lives for the better. During this Advent season, I invite you to take the posture of the ascending Israelites. Look into your past, where you have come from and where you are now, and ask yourself, what if Christ had not entered into my life? I promise your response will be, as it was for the psalmist, to fall upon your knees in worship and thankfulness.