It’s an interesting observation that in many wars, both sides are often quick to claim that God is with them. Why do we do this? Perhaps part of the answer is simply because there is great comfort in the thought that someone or something bigger than the situation, bigger than the opposition, and with a clearer sense of right and wrong, is on our side.
We like to think that if God didn’t exist we could do alright on our own. But it’s precisely in times of most intense pressure, fear and weakness that we really hope he is alongside us.
There are two parallel themes in this Psalm: danger, and safety. David, the songwriter, describes the attack of other men (v2-3) using four metaphors of dangers in the world, two from the natural world and two from the animal world: earthquakes (v3), flash floods (v4), beasts with big teeth (v6) and a bird trap (v7). One scholar explains that doubling up on imagery like this in ancient poetry suggests totality: in other words, there is nowhere in the world that is without danger. We are constantly under threat of attack from others.
And yet, the only source of true safety is stated clearly, three times: the Lord (v1-2, v6, v8). How often we feel alone on the journey – but he is always alongside us (v1). How often we feel defeated – but he has not let us be torn apart (v6). Even if we do not know him, even if we live life without ever having considered him: whenever we have survived attack or danger, it is because he has provided us an escape (v6).
You might feel that you can survive life without God; but if you’re in trouble, you’ll know that you need him on your side. You’re invited to continue the journey with him alongside you. Consider how much comfort that would bring.
PRAYER God, you are the Maker of heaven and earth. Nothing escapes your grasp, and you have been caring for me my whole life. Show me how you have helped me so far, and help me to trust you going forward. Amen.
A song of ascents. Of David.
1 If the Lord had not been on our side – let Israel say –
2 if the Lord had not been on our side when people attacked us,
3 they would have swallowed us alive when their anger flared against us;
4 the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us,
5 the raging waters would have swept us away.
6 Praise be to the Lord, who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
7 We have escaped like a bird from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.
8 Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.