Psalm 124: Our Defender
After a visit last spring with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner walked out of a Jerusalem hotel and declared, “The world is on ﬁre.” Boehner was concerned about the dangers facing Israel and America.
Living in danger was nothing new to my late colleague Zvi Kalisher. He lived in Israel for nearly 70 years and witnessed countless dangers. He often described his situation as “living on an active volcano.” “Our Muslim neighbors are doing all they can to begin a new war,” Zvi would say. “They come at us like locusts, yet we are still here. So who is on our side?”
Zvi, of course, knew the answer and used it many times when speaking to Arabs. It is found in Psalm 124, beautifully written by King David: “If it had not been the Lᴏʀᴅ who was on our side…they would have swallowed us alive” (vv. 2–3). Psalm 124 describes God’s presence with and protection of His people and oﬀers the praise due His holy name.
Twice, in fact, David said, “If it had not been the Lᴏʀᴅ who was on our side” (vv. 1–2). That is the Holy Spirit’s way of emphasizing the fact. He is indeed with them; and without Him, Israel would not exist.
God’s presence is what makes possible His protection. Throughout Jewish history, when men have tried to eliminate the Jewish people, God has protected them. Special days, such as Passover, Purim, and Hanukkah, are remembered with food and celebration because God preserved His people.
Obviously, Israel is not always right, nor do the Jewish people win every battle. Their right to the land, for example, is continually challenged. They have been removed from it twice. As strangers in other lands, they have been continually harassed and harangued. They have seen one third of their people murdered simply for being Jewish. Yet through the centuries, they survived it all, and their enemies failed to annihilate them.
The same God who protects Israel is the God who protects those of us who have placed our faith in God alone through Christ. He knows those who belong to Him and promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
David wrote that his enemies would have swallowed Israel alive “when their wrath was kindled against us; then the waters would have overwhelmed us, the stream would have gone over our soul” (Ps. 124:3–4). But God did not allow it: “Blessed be the Lᴏʀᴅ, who has not given us as prey to their teeth” (v. 6).
The same promises God gave Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob filtered down through the ages to David and the Jewish people today. Jeremiah 31:35–36 details the Lord’s unconditional promise that the Jewish people will never be destroyed:
Thus says the Lᴏʀᴅ, who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (The Lᴏʀᴅ of hosts is His name): “If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the Lᴏʀᴅ, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever.”
That reality of God’s presence and protection produces the response of praise: “Blessed be the Lᴏʀᴅ” (Ps. 124:6).
When Zvi spoke to his Arab neighbors who threatened his demise, he could speak conﬁdently that, though they might come “like locusts,” the Lord was on Israel’s side. God does not make idle promises. He will accomplish His purposes every time.
Psalm 124 ends with this affirmation: “Our help is in the name of the Lᴏʀᴅ, who made heaven and earth” (v. 8). Even if the world is on fire, the One who created absolutely everything and has absolute power is the One who helps Israel and, as believers, helps us. You can’t beat that!