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This jubilant song speaks of a sudden peril and narrow escape, and praises God for the great deliverance. We take it to be, according to its title, a Psalm of David, not a hymn founded upon his character, writings, and history. It is full of his force and fire, suits not a few situations in which he shared the lot of Israel as herein described, and contains expressions parallel with words occurring in compositions of which he is the undoubted author. The figures employed describe the situation of God’s people in any place or age, when they suddenly find themselves overtaken by calamity as if in the earthquake’s jaws, when sorrow bursts upon them like the mountainous waves on a ship, when floods of ungodly men make them afraid, when they seem to feel in their flesh the teeth of slander and malice, when they are unexpectedly entangled in perplexities and difficulties, like the bird in the snare.—The Caravan and Temple.
THE INSATIABLE VORACITY OF THE WICKED
I. That the wicked are ever ready to devour the righteous. “They had swallowed us up quick” (Psalms 124:3). “The Lord hath not given us as a prey to their teeth” (Psalms 124:6).
1. The righteous are assailed with the anger of the wicked. “Men rose up against us; their wrath was kindled against us” (Psalms 124:2-3). The sight of virtue, however modest and inoffensive, will inflame the anger of the wicked. It is said of a certain lady that when the mirror revealed the wrinkles in her face she dashed it to the ground in a fury. So is it with the wicked; they are enraged with the transparency of a character in which they see reflected the moral deformities of their own. The anger of the wicked is unreasonable. It springs from the basest passions, and scorns all attempts to control it. It is like a rudderless vessel tossed about in a tempestuous sea. The anger of the wicked recoils upon themselves. Says the proverb, “Anger is like ashes which fly back in the face of him who throws them.” Pope pithily observes, “To be angry is to revenge others’ faults upon ourselves.”
2. The anger of the wicked is insatiable. “Then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul: then the proud waters had gone over our soul” (Psalms 124:4-5). As the advancing tide carries everything before it, and sucks it back again into the capacious throat of the stormy sea, so the wicked pour out their anger like a flood, and would fain swallow up the righteous, on whom their fury is spent. But the anger of the wicked, though insatiable, is impotent to destroy the good. It is limited by power Divine, and may be made to minister to the Divine praise (Psalms 76:10).
II. That the Lord is the Deliverer of the righteous. “The Lord was on our side” (Psalms 124:1-2). More than ordinary help was needed on this occasion. The enemies were too fierce and too formidable for any human power to withstand. Jehovah champions the cause of the helpless; and when the last moment of extremity is come, He strikes in for victory. There is a waste of power with Him. When the sinner sinks down in despair, and gives up all for lost, then the Lord stretches forth His hand and saves. In this way He demonstrates the salvation to be Divine.
III. That thanksgiving should be offered to the Lord for His delivering power. “Blessed be the Lord, who hath not given us as a prey” (Psalms 124:6). This is the leading sentiment of the Psalm. Let God have all the glory. He only is the Deliverer, and His help is all-sufficient. The grateful heart rejoices in rendering its praise to God; and in proportion to the depth of distress from which we are lifted up will be the reality and fervour of our thankfulness.
1. If the wicked had their way, every vestige of righteousness would be utterly destroyed.
2. The power of the wicked is divinely restricted.
3. The righteous have always some cause for grateful praise.
THE SOUL’S ESCAPE FROM DANGER
I. That the soul is surrounded by many dangers. “As a bird, the snare of the fowlers” (Psalms 124:7).
1. It is ensnared by worldliness. One of the most gigantic dangers against which God’s people have specially to guard—an enemy to all spirituality of thought and feeling.
2. It is ensnared by selfishness—a foe to all simple-hearted charity, to all expansive generosity and Christian philanthropy.
3. It is ensnared by unbelief—the enemy of prayer, of ingenuous confidence, of all personal Christian effort. These are not imaginary dangers. We meet them in every-day life. They threaten us at every point, and often have we to lament over the havoc they make in our hearts.
II. That the dangers surrounding the soul are not invincible. “The snare is broken, and we are escaped” (Psalms 124:7).
1. May be overcome by watchfulness.
2. By prayer.
3. By obedience. And yet all our endeavours will fail, if we depend on them rather than on God. We cannot boast of our natural powers. “What pride has a bird in its wings and feathers when once caught in the silken thread, or fast in the golden wire? However splendid their endowments, only God can deliver souls from evil, and keep them free.”
III. That a way is divinely provided for the escape of the soul from all danger. “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalms 124:8). Here we learn that the name of Jehovah is the source of help, and that this help is omnipotent. He “who made heaven and earth” is infinite in resources: all the forces of the universe are within His view, and obedient to His nod. “We may not see any peril, when our safety is to let our Saviour see for us. We only see beautiful shrubs and shadowy trees. He who is on our side sees the foe behind them in ambush. We only see the pleasing bait on a bosom of shining grass and showy flowers. Our constant Friend sees there the hidden trap. We only see the smooth turf inviting our feet, tired of ruts and stones. He who is yet for us sees the pit artfully concealed. We only see the glancing water and the smiling sky. Our Keeper sees the hurrying squall, and cries, “Beware! take in sail” (The Caravan and Temple). As we look back upon the past, we see that our help in extremity has come from Jehovah. In Him, therefore, may we place implicit confidence for the future.
1. Our greatest dangers are those we least suspect.
2. The utmost vigilance does not always avail.
3. The only reliable help is from God.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 124". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany