What If?

Psalm 124

Famous preacher (MacArthur), 07/19/15, 51 minute sermon titled “We Won’t Bow Down”

“The two greatest attacks of terror on America were perpetrated by the Supreme Court. Not by any Muslim, but by the Supreme Court of the United States. The first one was the legalizing of abortion. Subsequent to that, there have been millions of babies slaughtered in the wombs of their mothers. It’s incalculable to even comprehend that. The blood of those lives cries out from the ground for divine vengeance on this nation.

The second great act of terror perpetrated by the Supreme Court was the legalization of same-sex marriage. The destruction of human life in the womb—in a sense, the destruction of motherhood—and now the destruction of the family itself. No bomb, no explosion, no attack, and no assault on people physically can come anywhere near that kind of terrorism. Our country is being terrorized by the people most responsible to protect it—those who are to uphold the law.

And that leads me to believe that we’re now living in Romans 1. … Get ready folks, the reprobate mind has now reached the highest levels. …We are the target now. We’re in the bullseye. And there’s no deception; this is how it really is. Now, just to make it clear: We don’t bow down to Caesar. We bow to our king.”

Went on from there to make case God has to judge evil in America, etc. Suppose there’s a place for rah-rah, but sure seems balance is wrong. A talk more effective in rousing the troops than encouraging the saints. No question, is great abundance of evil at all levels present in our nation and the world. Also without question, Christians must recognize evil and respond to it in way pleasing to God. Church has some powerful, vicious and determined enemies. Must be sure we are using proper strategy if we are not to be overcome in the battle.

“David then represents as in a mirror the uncertain and changeable condition of the Church, just such as it had been from the beginning, to teach the faithful that its stability had not been owing to its own intrinsic strength, but that it had been preserved by the wonderful grace of God; and to habituate them to call upon God in the midst of dangers.” Calvin

So how do we stay mindful of God’s grace and deal properly with danger, with real threats?

A. a good question v.1-2a

two ways of asking question: what if the Lord were not on our side; what if it were not the Lord on our side

would mean we’re on our own, dependent on own resources and strength, often against unseen (sometimes unknown) enemies

would mean positive outcome unlikely, even hopeless, if the Lord is on the other side – if God is the enemy, we’re on wrong side

never good or safe to assume God and we are on same side – we get off track, can be misguided / deceived

need regular checks to make sure we are in right place doing right things for right reasons; only then can have confidence

consider what if’s to prevent complacency, avoid taking blessings/provision for granted, taking credit for self

at risk of minimizing danger, thinking not as serious as really is; expecting since we wear uniform, God is obliged to protect and sustain the troops

if just going by what we see, not thinking about God’s part in all things, start thinking more highly of self, how much credit self deserves, not giving God his due

important note: not speculation about future; is viewing past, recognizing God’s hand in it

events / circumstances in view v.2b-8 from past history – real things that had occurred with known outcomes

“what if when we experienced that from those people the Lord was not on our side, how would it have turned out?”

conclusion in every case: only reason we survived is because of God’s help, would not have without his deliverance

opening word of v.3-5 – the Hebrew, azai, “surely,” (being an intensive form of “then,” az, found only in this psalm) – certain destruction (emphatic) without God’s deliverance

B. real threats

threats are present and directed at church in all ages; don’t forget true power behind threats – Satan – true of life after Fall and curse

things seem to be changing here in America – fewer cultural restraints on ungodliness, more tolerance of sinful acts in general

follows natural trend of corrupt human nature – things lead to things, generation to generation, increased wickedness until God intervenes; seems God does so on national or people group basis, similar to OT times (Judges, Habakkuk, e.g.)

past decades of great tolerance for church should be viewed as “blessed reprieve”, not the norm – that’s what is coming and church needs to be prepared, this Psalm gives examples of threats we and coming generations will face

don’t forget: Christ wins and so does his church; means we all get safely home, regardless of what happens here

angry attack v.2b-3

evil men (and women) attack rise up against God’s people, the church – psalmist and original audience as well as pilgrim singers would have pictured military attack

certainly can take that form, even today – many places in world where attacks against church involve physical violence and weapons, often with sanction of civil government

think places VOM identify as closed or hostile to Gospel – Muslim / hindu / Communist dominated

can be non-military in nature – violent attacks with words either verbal or written and in images

think court decisions, acts of legislation and regulation, personal conversation, media and social media portrayals

goal is destruction – “swallowed us alive” – completely eliminating those who would prick conscience, remind of right/wrong

current situation re: social/moral issues – not content with having contrary viewpoints tolerated, must be affirmed and no criticism allowed

even if not mandated by law, practice has become: evil / immorality must be accepted and affirmed by all; to find fault or call it what Bible does is hate speech

motivation: anger; object of anger: God! – evildoers encouraged by Satan to be autonomous, law to self, ruled by self, determined to satisfy self and personal desires/priorities

react violently against anyone who would overrule (God) or remind them what they are doing is wrong (God’s people)

a caveat: don’t be taken in (won’t say “suckered”) by sensationalism, especially that promoted by other “Christians”

lots of people making lots of noise about evildoers, links on Facebook, etc.; some is true, much is not …be careful! …about what you believe, what you share with others

raging flood v.4-5

pictured here not 1 or 2 or a few adversaries; is an overwhelming force that submerges everything in its path: flash flood, avalanche

kind of opposition we will face one that attracts a following – basically “mob mentality” – a few start something, then snowballs

important thing to remember: no sure way to anticipate or protect against flash flood; comes without warning, does not allow time to get out of danger

just like flood, can be opposition and attack from multiple sources and directions that threaten to overwhelm

work / family / community; health / finances / material needs; relationships / discouragement / responsibilities

various combinations of some or all of above, working under direction of Satan and his agents including human ones

notice how God comes to rescue: “stream would have gone over” …”swollen waters would have gone over

“His oath, His covenant, His blood, / Support me in the whelming flood. / When all around my soul gives way, / He then is all my hope and stay.”

God is our “life raft” so we can ride out the flood and not be overwhelmed / overcome by it

hungry beast v.6

Satan a roaring lion (1 Pet. 5:8), his followers are copy-cats – try to do as he does and tear apart God’s people

when God is on duty, they have about as much success as lions did with Daniel; remember how God turned that one out! Accusers thrown in to lion’s den, instant lunch

hungry beasts simply acting according to their nature – predators satisfying hunger and territorial urges in normal way

exactly what evil people, enemies of God are doing – acting according to their nature, satisfying their urges

is impossible for us to make anyone/thing act contrary to nature or restrain natural desires; is possible for God

hidden trap v.7

this one probably the most dangerous – baited with what looks good and right, may even truly be so up to a point

then find out things aren’t what they seem, is indeed a trap from which there is no obvious escape

doesn’t have to be a setup with hidden cameras, can be most anything that ends up making Christian witness/life ineffective

good news here, is 1 Cor. 10:13 in action:

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

God breaks the snare, providing way of escape for his people

C. good answer v.8

sigh of relief, had right answer to what if’s, rightly placed trust – would have been done for if the Lord not on our side

but he was, he delivered – can see that looking back on previous situations, those times when obviously was God’s doing how it turned out

good to look back and be reminded: what is most important – are we on side of Commander of Lord’s army? Joshua 5:13-15; if so, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 2 Ki 6:15-17

D. personal application

church primarily in psalmist’s view, does have individual application – starts with Israel (v.1), ends with “the LORD, Who made heaven and earth”

again from John Calvin: “As I interpret the verse (8), he not only gives thanks to God for one benefit, but affirms that the Church cannot continue safe except in so far as she is protected by the hand of God. His object is to animate the children of God with the assured hope, that their life is in perfect safety under the divine guardianship.”

Would agree with that, also add: our life is in perfect safety only under divine guardianship. Doesn’t mean we escape all harm in this life; God will preserve us from all that would harm our souls. If he is our shelter in time of storm, can be certain he will bring us safely to our eternal home.



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