Sunday, August 28, 2011

Psalm 124 – Help Comes in the Name of the LORD

“Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth... Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” ~Psalm 124:6, 8 (NRSV).

On the winding upward path of Ascent, this song is sung by the throng of Israel. This psalm is a battle charge of confidence in the help that comes from God when the enemy attacks. How verily appropriate its position: verging toward midway, the Psalms of Ascent (these are Psalms 120–134, which were sung in order by the pilgrims on their annual journeys to Jerusalem during the festival season).

This song is literally an ode of thanks for survival; the Lord is the very reason for that survival.

An Eternal Cry for Help by the Faithful

The faithful can call upon the name of the Lord because that’s the only place where help can reliably come from. It is this pledge of faith that characterises the faithful. They know where to turn in times of distress and uncertainty.

But it is a distinct and specific threat that David the psalmist has in mind. The faithfulness of God is never more highlighted than from the scarp of an averted danger; looking back at what could have been disaster, but has now revealed the miraculous nature of God to come through and save us when all seemed forlorn. Hence faith: the technique for the impossible.

The eternal cry for help by the faithful underscores much of our Bible, particularly the Old Testament and notably the Psalms. It is a refrain God wants us continually reminded of.

Our God – A Very Present Help

Who doesn’t need the help of God?

This is actually an easy question to answer. Those in the faith—by their constant and daily reliance on the God of their salvation—demonstrate their need. They pray and patiently wait. Acceptance is more their byword than dissonance or conflict is.

Those who don’t need God ‘do life’ on their own. Some days are good; others not so. Their days are no different, really, than the days of those who trust in God. Those who need God, however, have the coping mechanism for dealing with the emotions that come from ordinary human existence.

Sure, ambivalence (a technique of the faithless) is one way to cope with adversity, but it rallies against the truth. What good is it to anyone, ultimately, to not deal with life in truth? There’s no good at all in valuing falsity.


John Calvin had it to say that verse 8—“Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth”—portrayed the truth about any congregation gathered for worship in about as good a way as any Scripture could.

The fact that our help comes in the name of the Lord signifies the most common reason we believe. Has not God already proven divine help; in all our lives? Analyse that and we will find it is true for every single one of us.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

General Reference: James L. Mays, Psalms – Interpretation Series (Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 1994), p. 396-97.

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