Psalm 124 – Our Help

Maker of Heaven and Earth by C Diane Alvarez

What if the Lord had not been on our side?
    Answer, O Israel!

“If the Lord had not been on our side
    when our enemies attacked us,
then they would have swallowed us alive
    in their furious anger against us;
then the flood would have carried us away,
    the water would have covered us,
    the raging torrent would have drowned us.”

Let us thank the Lord,
    who has not let our enemies destroy us.
We have escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap;
    the trap is broken, and we are free!
Our help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth. (Good News Translation)

There are many Sundays I begin the worship service with the ancient confession of faith that our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. It is a call to worship the G-d who is above all and sees all – and can do something about the adversity and trouble we face in the world. 

When confronted with a new day, our attention needs some direction in the positive way of acknowledging that the eternal and ever-present G-d is ready and vigilant to guide us through our waking hours. 

Our ultimate help is in the Lord. Our fears about the future, our insecurities of what will happen, and our anxieties about all the upcoming stuff we must face can be transformed with the biblical perspective of acknowledging our need for G-d. 

The Lord is our most prescient support. The virtual meeting you have been dreading; that conversation you have been avoiding; a deadline that has been looming over your head; or ongoing health issues which seem to never end; these and all situations can only find their proper perspective in light of the God who helps.

I am a believer in making daily affirmations of faith in G-d. Early in the morning, I deliberately profess truth about G-d, even if I don’t feel like it, each and every day so that some solid robust theology is at the forefront of my mind, and the attributes of G-d sink firmly into my heart. 

For faith does not simply come through checking-off a list of orthodox beliefs, then moving on as if those beliefs have no connection to daily life. Rather, faith arises as a response to the recognition that G-d is good – all the time – and that the Lord helps those who intentionally and constantly seek divine help and enablement.

There are a lot of things we do not know: what will happen tomorrow; how a situation will shake out in the end; whether a relationship will flower or wither; and a million other things which can weigh down our hearts with anxiety. However, there is one sure truth we can count on right now and for every minute into the future: G-d is with us. G-d’s ever-present help remains the constant ballast in a sea of changing circumstances.

“If God is on our side, can anyone be against us?… I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love—not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord!” (Romans 8:31, 38-39, CEV)

Not even the grave can limit G-d. With the Lord, death is defeated. The enemy is flat on his face. His power is abolished. We are only in danger if we let ourselves go near our old toothless foe. And even then, we have the shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit, and the shoes of peace.

The dangers of water and fire, traps and snares, enemy armies and spiritual foes are all undone by almighty G-d. The maker of heaven and earth personally advocates and helps us. Indeed, the Lord is on our side.

Creator God, you are the ever-present One who provides everything I need for life and godliness.  I need your help today and everyday so that I can confidently do your will.  I stand with full assurance of faith because I serve the Lord Jesus, who is benevolent and always does what is right and just.  Amen.

Psalm 73:21-28 – God Is Near

When my thoughts were bitter
    and my feelings were hurt,
I was as stupid as an animal;
    I did not understand you.
Yet I always stay close to you,
    and you hold me by the hand.
You guide me with your instruction
    and at the end you will receive me with honor.
What else do I have in heaven but you?
    Since I have you, what else could I want on earth?
My mind and my body may grow weak,
    but God is my strength;
    he is all I ever need.

Those who abandon you will certainly perish;
    you will destroy those who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me, how wonderful to be near God,
    to find protection with the Sovereign Lord
    and to proclaim all that he has done! (Good News Translation)

Sometimes we put our foot in our mouth. We know how it feels saying rash words that we later regret. And we also know what it feels like to get dumped on by another who has some choice words for us.

The psalmist, Asaph, records an encounter with God. Asaph was upset. He gave God a piece of his mind. Then later, after reflecting on the experience, Asaph admitted that his soul was embittered and let his base nature take over.

The human brain is a complicated organ. We process information in different parts of the brain. The neo-cortex (the rational part of the brain) allows us to engage in logical analysis and complex decision making. 

Another part, the limbic system (sometimes referred to as the “reptilian brain”) processes information very quickly, largely by instinct. When we become scared, surprised, upset, or angry, adrenaline gets pumped into our limbic system so that we can quickly react to the perceived threat, danger, or injustice.

Having our brains flooded with adrenaline when there is real danger is necessary. There are life-threatening circumstances in which we need that quick response. Yet, if our brains remain on high alert and are continually fearful and upset, even when there is no real problem, we don’t calm down, and the result is less than stellar behavior. 

So, what is the answer to this situation? Asaph said God holds his right hand and guides him with wise counsel. Being near to God brings the brain chemistry to appropriate levels so that we can relax and trust.

God is with us always in the person of the Holy Spirit. There is never a time, place, or situation where God is absent. As we learn to rely on God’s presence, and remind ourselves of it on a daily basis, we can restore more rational thoughts to our lives. We can live knowing God is in control and continually vigilant to watch over us.

Gracious God, I have no one in my life like you. My flesh and my heart may fail, my brain might become overwhelmed with irrational fears, but you are my strength and the Rock of my salvation. Thank you for your continual provision and help each day through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.