THE BROKEN SNARE & FREEDOM

Psalm 124

  1. If it had not been the LORD who was on our side,
  2. Let Israel now say—
  3. If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when men rose up against us:
  4. Then they would have swallowed us alive, when their wrath was kindled against us.
  5. Then the waters would have overwhelmed us, the stream would have gone over our soul:
  6. Then the swollen waters would have gone over our soul.
  7. 6Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as a prey to their teeth.
  8. Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we have escaped.
  9. Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

Praise God, some of us have never felt we were on the brink of disaster, never teetered on the edge of the abyss, never felt the loss was too great to bear, never lost sight of comforting landmarks as we sailed beyond familiar waters. We know the source of our blessing and we sincerely thank Him for his protection and generosity.

But many among us have been through hell and back.

We had heard this psalm of David [124] read to us, may even have read it ourselves many times and thought how fine it was. We may even have heard a good sermon on it [or preached one] and thought it assuring so we tucked it away in our hearts as something fine to tell others who were in trouble.

Then imminent disaster stared us in the face, calamity smashed through the doors of our happy homes and obliterated all sense of comfort and all our good answers, handy quips, fine verses and great sermons vanished like vapor and we knew we were doomed.

But God was magnificent!

We survived. Were saved, and now we were stronger and braver having come through the horror.

Psalm 124 was a familiar song from a psalmist, a lovely-sounding text but now it has become a throbbing personal experience. It was no longer just David’s song; it was ours.

We knew that such a deliverance was the work of God. Now we read the text with new eyes and tell our families and friends and fellow-strugglers, “Were it not that the Lord was on my side I would have been swallowed up alive. The swollen waters would have gone over my soul.”

How God worked that deliverance is a very complex matter though it isn’t vague or obscure; It’s simply too rich, too multifaceted, too deep for us to follow all the many ways He carries out His acts of rescue. But Paul doesn’t mind telling us that God most often does His magnificent work through things that look ordinary, things that are explained as nothing more than ordinary by many people. If He wants to work a miracle He does it! But read the Bible for yourself; miracles are recognized as “miracles” because they aren’t usual.

In 2 Corinthians 7 Paul is profoundly worried about the troubled and hostile Corinthian congregation and their response to a fierce letter he wrote them so he sends Titus to see how things are. He can’t wait for the report so he leaves a successful evangelistic situation and runs to meet the young man. He finally meets with a smiling and assuring Titus, giving Paul the “two thumbs up” sign as he comes into sight—good news!—and he is comforted. There are those who will plausibly tell you that it can all be explained in social and psychological terms and that’s the end of it. Paul wouldn’t believe a word of that! He says it was God who comforted him through Titus and in social/psychological experience. God made us humans and works with us as humans. There’s no need to deny that God enables us through “ordinary” means—the blunder is to reduce the comfort to nothing but “ordinary” means, meaning to exclude God. How do we think God answers our “give us our daily bread” prayers? So it suddenly appear on the table or floats down through the ceiling?

God keeps us through friends he has already shaped and they help us, truths already stored away in the heart, sights and sounds of brave people around us, bearing their awful losses in a gallant spirit, prayers offered on our behalf, people who gather around us and provide what they can provide under the circumstances—these and so many other things are the already-in-place instruments of God who delivers us. There are too many of them; they’re as complex as life. Evil comes at us in similar ways—we’re humans, for pity’s sake and God works with us as humans

The crucial point at this moment is this—it is God who delivers us through these lovely realities. In the medical realm we don’t thank the antibiotics or the EKG machine or the surgeon’s scalpel; we thank the people who produce and use such things to bring us health.

In the end it’s about persons and in the end it’s a Person believers turn to and applaud and thank for His gracious power when we are blessed and/or delivered.

For believing people, prayers may well be for deliverance from social, economic, family and other calamities—that’s no surprise, believers are as human as any other humans. As Shakespeare reminded us via Shylock in The Merchant of Venice when they’re hurt do they groan, when cut do they bleed, when they’re thirsty do they need to drink?

But down below their felt need for these basic human necessities there’s the desire to stay on their feet in the matter of faith.

Some years back when asked what their greatest fear was when first going into actual combat a great number of soldiers agreed that the overriding fear was not about dying but about failing to live up to expectations, fear of shaming themselves under pressure and consequently shaming their beloved families. That’s no surprise either.

What is true of soldiers is true of those who name the name of the Lord. Their social or physical agony matters but for them the fundamental thing is to stay on their feet as soldiers and servants and friends and representatives of God. Understandably, under the burden of pain or loss or bewilderment there is the appeal for God to remove the burden but it is to God the believer turns for help and it is to God they bring their tears and agony if the calamity wrecks all around them.

Standing, perhaps stunned, in the middle of the debris of a life in social ruins they maintain their faith in God and that is a magnificent deliverance. It isn’t just things or relationships—however precious they are—that are under attack, it’s their souls, their personhood, their very being.

Then with hearts broken, chests heaving and eyes streaming they realize they’re still on their feet. They might once have thought they’d fold or fall apart under disaster, they might have thought that calamity would obliterate their trust in God but now they know better.

But they know this also:

  1. If it had not been the LORD who was on our side,
  2. Let Israel now say—
  3. If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when men rose up against us:
  4. Then they would have swallowed us alive, when their wrath was kindled against us.
  5. Then the waters would have overwhelmed us, the stream would have gone over our soul:
  6. Then the swollen waters would have gone over our soul.
  7. 6Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as a prey to their teeth.
  8. Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we have escaped.
This entry was posted in REFLECTIONS ON THIS AND THAT on by .

About Jim McGuiggan

Jim McGuiggan was Ethel's husband for fifty-three years. They have three children and eight grandchildren. Ethel went to be with Christ on Easter Sunday, 2009 at the close of a gallant life. He has written some books including: Celebrating the Wrath of God; Heading Home with God; Life on the Ash Heap; Jesus: Hero of Thy Soul; The God of the Towel, The Scarlet Letter; and The Dragon Slayer.

3 thoughts on “THE BROKEN SNARE & FREEDOM

  1. Donna Stevenson

    Brother Jim, will you please meet with me after Sunset Workshop to discuss Public Speaking? You are awesome! I was a Semi-Finalist in the Toastmasters international a World Championship. Please text 832-588-6839. Thanks a billion, Donna Stevenson

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