Psalm 124
Dr. Sidney Leak
August 27, 2023

During the summer of 1974, Charles Schulz ran a series of Peanuts cartoons, where all the children filled out applications not to go to summer camp!

Sally is working on hers when Charlie Brown comes up.

“What’s this you’re filling out?”

S:  It’s an application for not going to summer camp.

If you’re accepted, you can stay home all summer

 and not go to camp.”

C:  “I’d probably fail the physical.”

Well, Sally’s is first to come back approved.

“Look big brother!” she exclaims.

They accepted my application not to go to camp. How about that?

She walks back in the house, reclines in front the the TV and says:

“Boy and I lucky!  Now I can hang around the house all summer and deteriorate!”

Linus is also lucks out.  When his comes back, he runs to Charlie Brown.

“Look!” He says.

“My application not to go to camp was accepted”

Boy what a relief!  No summer camp!”

Then he marches off quoting the words of Psalm 124.

“We have escaped as a bird

 from the snare of the fowler.

The snare is broken.

And we have escaped!”

And Charlie Brown says:

“I never realized that King David worried about going to camp.”

Linus’ words are near the end of our lesson of the morning 

which begins like this:

“Had not the Lord been on our side

When men rose up against us,

They would have swallowed us up alive;

when their anger was kindled against us.

Traditionally attributed to King David,

these words describe a narrow escape 

from situation seemingly more desperate

 than being shipped off to summer camp.

The speaker of these words was part of a people whose destination was

 centered in God, shaped by God.

So, it is not surprising, that, after a such narrow escape

these folks voiced their astonishment & gratitude

for the way out God provided.

Israel understood much of its life as a conflict

with a very powerful enemy.

We are not sure who this particular enemy was …

except to say it must have been a very formidable adversary

consisting of everything in the world

hostile to God.

Such an enemy respects no boundary.

Anyone can be a victim.

It reminds me of an old Scottish prayer that asks for

divine protection this way:


“From ghoulies and ghosties

and long-legged beasties

and things that go bump in the night

Good Lord deliver us!”

We have all known such circumstances 

At one time or another, we have cried out like the Psalmist:

“Save me, Lord, for the waters are up to my neck!”

And it is no secret that such circumstances affect the community of faith

In recent years, as John Leith observed

we have moved from the parish church in Christendom 

in a churched society

To the highly voluntary church in a pluralistic, 


unchurched society

dominated by mass- media

In the words of Martin Marty, we have gone from a society 

where all the props supported the church

 to a society where none of the props support the church.

Promoters of church development and transformation

urge us toward the adoption of programs,

gimmicks and techniques

just to keep the doors open.

Well, whatever the situation, whatever the challenge

 this Psalm provides us two basic theological assertions.

That can help us face the challenges posed by modern culture

with poise, dignity, with even a sense serenity

keeping God as our destination.

Note with me the first thing this Psalm tells us is :


The Hebrew translation of the first two verses reads this way:

If the Lord had not been for us,

they would have swallowed us up alive

…the flood would have swept us away.”

How is God for us?

According to Shirley Guthrie, two ways.  First, God’s love is:

  1. Initiating


God does not wait for you & me 

to come to him asking for his love and acceptance.

God does not wait for us to ask him to be loving and faithful.

God does not wait until we are good enough

…until we have done all we can do to help ourselves.

God comes to us to help us, oftentimes,  when we cannot help ourselves.


Before we make a move toward God

God moves toward us.

God’s love is initiating.  And God’s love is 


  1. Faithful


God’s love is something we never ever have to worry 

about God taking back.

Even when we have not been faithful to God, God remains faithful to us.

How does the prophet Isaiah say it?


“When you pass through the waters,

I shall be with you;

And through the rivers

They shall not overwhelm you;

When you walk through fire,

You shall not be burned

And the flame shall not consume you.”

              Is. 43:2 RSV

Paul put it very plainly to  young Timothy


“If we are faithless, he remains faithful

For he cannot deny himself.”

Because as he told the Romans:

“ … the gifts and call of God are irrevocable.”

And if God is for us as individuals, why not the church?

Now, in society today, in the face of so much opposition

the church indeed faces challenges.

But in the face of such challenges, the words of Hans Kung give us hope


“When the church forgets that it is something provisional and temporary

   when it makes too many demands on itself, it grows tired and weak 

and will fail because it has no future.  

But when the church knows that its goal is not in itself 

…when it realizes its goal can only be found in the kingdom of God, 

that church can survive.  

It does not need to prove that it is something definitive.  

It does not need to prove itself an abiding city.  

When shaken by doubt, when hindered by obstacles, 

it doesn’t need to be surprised.  

Christ promised the church the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

When you and I and the church are up against uneven competition.

God is powerful enough to vanquish that competition,

& make life possible in a world that appears

 fundamentally impossible.

“If God is for us,” Paul asked the Romans, “who can be against us?”

He who did not spare his own son but gave him up for us all

Will he not also give us all things with him?”

God is for us and not against us.  Andy Edington has observed:

Understanding God is impossible

And there is no way of explaining or anticipating his mercy.”


…except to know and believe God is for us,not against us, first.  

So what do we need to do?  Second:



It is no accident that the last words in the Psalm go like this:


Our help is in the name of the Lord

Who made heaven and earth.

That means God is not only for us but over us.

Shirley Guthrie, mentioned earlier  has said 

we cannot have Jesus as savior for us 

without having him as Lord over us.

So why not trust him?

True, we have to live in the world.

But we do not have to take things like reason, technology, progress, 

or even change as the last word.

It is like our Declaration of Faith tells us:

“Our confidence and hope for ourselves and for other people

do not rest in the powers and achievements of this world

but in the coming and hidden presence 

of Christ’s kingdom.”

So what do we need to do?

Trust God in all things.

And that even means trusting God with the life of the church.

Think a minute.

Who called the church into being?

We didn’t.

God did.

So what does trusting God with the life of the church look like.

Simply stick with the practices of church life 

that are clearly stated  in the New Testament, 

The simplicity of preaching

The simplicity of the worship & the sacraments

And the simplicity of church fellowship.

What happens when we do these things?

According to Acts 2, when the people devoted themselves to these things:

“The Lord added to their number day by day…”


Since God is for us and over us, 

the bottom line is to trust him in all things.

Benjamin Studdert Kennedy’s translation of the old 16th century hymn

says it all:

“Who trusts in God, a strong abode

In heaven and earth possesses

Who looks in love to Christ above,

No fear his heart oppresses.

In Thee alone dear Lord, we own

Sweet hope and aspiration;

Our shield from foes, our balm for woes

Our great and sure salvation.”

In Jesus Christ, God is our shield from foes, our balm for woes

the presence and power of God for us

Over us. &, best of all, with us 

as Redeemer and Lord.

In Jesus’ name,  Amen.


*Cover Art by StushieArt; used by subscription