Psalm 124: A Psalm of “What If?”

Do me a favor and please read Psalm 124.

Our psalm today continues with the psalm of Ascents as the people sing and move, proclaim, reflect, and cry out to God. What danger and chaos are they reflecting upon? We don’t know. But that’s not their goal anyway. Maybe they assume that everyone already knows what the danger was. Or maybe it simply doesn’t matter what event they went through. Because in the end all events, all tragedies, all dangers are bad. The bigger question? The most pressing issue? What if the Lord hadn’t been with us? What if the Lord had abandoned us?

What if? What if?! What if?!!

I hate “what if” questions…always have. We have NUMEROUS conversations with our kids about NOT doing this…because they always ask “What if…?”And “what if” questions really do not serve a purpose – they do nothing. And I hate this question because you’re trying one of two things: You’re asking a question THAT CANNOT BE ANSWERED or it simply doesn’t matter because it didn’t happen.

“What if?” Is a worry question about the future…and we cannot control nor can we see the future. So what if?  Nothing. It doesn’t matter. It’s a moot point. The future is not only out of our control but it does no good worrying about it – so don’t even ask. But the big one we get from the kids is the second part – the one about worrying about what COULD have happened even though it didn’t. What you are doing is asking a “what if” question as an alternative to what already happened – what DID happened. “Yes, we landed safely on the tarmac…but what if we hadn’t?” What if?   Who cares. It doesn’t matter because it didn’t happen – that’s not the outcome we were given. People who live in these “what if” scenarios fret and worry about everything – which can be harmful.

But what is interesting here, in our text, is that this “what if” is not an unanswerable question. The “what if” we see in this text is actually a declaration – a praise – a statement. “What if the Lord wasn’t on our side? We would all be swallowed up. The inferno that blazed around us would have burnt us alive. The crashing waters would have consumed us – just like they did to Pharaoh’s army so long ago.” Verse 6 speaks of these calamities that aren’t “going to happen”…but that are happening. The Psalmist is saying that THIS WAS happening to us. We WERE in the teeth of the beast and we were getting shredded.

We didn’t avoid the trap…we were IN the trap and we couldn’t escape. The only reason we got out of the trap is because the Lord broke it. The only reason we were removed from the grip of the teeth is because the Lord did not let it tear us apart. But know this…we were torn up. We were ensnared….we got soaked!

These were tumultuous times for the Israelites…as well as almost all other people. Wars were common. Other nations, other people were trying to wipe the Israelites out. Trying to take their land and kill them. It was a “you have what I want” mentality that thrived in these lands. Greediness flourished. People saw something, wanted it, and took every means possible to get it. Our world, since just after God gave all that is good to Adam and Eve, has fallen into a world of pain, suffering, greed, hate, and envy. There are people who want what others have, and will do whatever is necessary to take it. There are people out there who hate others with every ounce of who they are and are willing to die to bring harm to them. And in reality? If people are willing and driven to harm there isn’t a whole lot you or I can do. Evil has a strength and power that is on its side that neither you nor I can do anything about.

So what if? What if God wasn’t on our side and allowed evil to win? What if God allowed Satan to have his power for eternity? What if God didn’t love his children to the point he would die for them upon the cross? What if God didn’t hold to his promises or deliver upon his word?

What if? What if?! What if?!!

As Paul says in Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who is against us?” The Lord watches over us and delivers us. He removes the finality of harm and more importantly…death. And this is not unlike our lives today. Because from the day of conception until the day we see the glory of God – our lives are bookended with His presence…His Spirit, whom he sent to be His presence in our lives, his love, his guidance until he comes again in all his glory…never leaves nor abandons us. The Holy Spirit convicts us, reminds us, loves us, refreshes us, encourages us and shows us hope.

From the moment God, in his triune self, decided to create the heavens and the earth – and put man and woman upon her surface – to the time when Christ returns in all His glory…we are watched over, protected, and held. There is no area of our lives, no place in history, where God has not bookended it with his love and covenantal promise to never abandon nor forsake. No matter what harm people try to bring upon you – they cannot overcome the power of God. No matter the type of snare created to trap you it cannot and could not, keep God from snapping it with a simple breath. No matter the raging waters that crash upon your head that try to sink you…it cannot overcome the voice that calms them. No matter what beast may come, no matter the teeth it bares – no matter the amount of blood it draws from us…it  cannot overcome the blood of the Lamb that was shed for you.

We are a delivered people that need to remember “what if” but make it a praise-worthy declaring statement and not a worrisome-plagued question that has no answer and that fears for the possible future – because we DO have an answer and his name is Jesus Christ.

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