Psalm 124: Kept by the LORD

Session 9 in the series "Bringing sons to glory"

Psalm 124 is a Psalm of King David, calling on the people of Israel to recognise that it is the LORD who has preserved them as a people, and the LORD, the Maker of heavens and earth, is the only One who can set them free.

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Psalm 124

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Psalm 124: Kept by the LORD (Session 9)


The LORD chose Israel. "... the LORD has chosen you" He said, "to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples on the face of the earth" (Deuteronomy 14:2).

The people of Israel are the descendants of the 12 sons of Jacob ... the 12 tribes of Israel.

The LORD brought Israel out of slavery in Egypt. They saw amazing miracles, and yet "they did not believe in God, and they did not trust in His salvation" (Psalm 78:22). So God placed Israel under the Law.

The Law was added, we are told in the Bible, because of their transgressions (Galatians 3:19). The Law came through Moses, and was given to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai. The Law was added ... it was placed on top of the unconditional promises that God had made to Abraham.

The Law is conditional. God said: "If you obey all the Law, I will bless you. If you disobey, I will bring curses on you" (see Deuteronomy 28:1-2,15ff).

Those who are under the Law are under a curse (Galatians 3:10 and Deuteronomy 27:26) because it is impossible for fallen man to obey all the requirements of the Law (see Hebrews 8:8). To break even one commandment in the Law, is the same as breaking all the Law (James 2:10).

The people of Israel said they would obey the Law (Exodus 19:8 and 24:3). It was to be a snare for them. They trapped themselves by allowing themselves to believe that they could measure up through their own good behaviour.

But, Jesus kept the Law. Jesus bore the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for everyone who believes in Him (Galatians 3:13).

The Law is in place, for the people of Israel, until they accept their Messiah (see Galatians 3:19,22).

The history of Israel, as revealed in the Bible, is a sobering example of the consequences of unbelief. The imperative is to stay in faith. Look to Jesus. Never stop trusting in Him.

The LORD has always had a remnant of individuals who do not trust in their own righteousness, but look to Him for justification and salvation (see Romans 9:27 and Isaiah 10:22). That's the LORD's way of righteousness ... by faith in Him (Genesis 15:6 and Romans 4:2-5).

The apostle Paul asked, "Did God reject His people?" "No!" he says. Emphatically "No", because the LORD preserved a remnant of believers out of the people of Israel (Romans 11:1-3).

The LORD has preserved Israel, so that He can have a remnant for Himself, so that it can never be said that He doesn't keep His promises. God is faithful. And God is going to demonstrate His faithfulness, and His grace, by saving the remnant of Israel at the end of the age.

"All Israel will be saved" (Romans 11:26). All the remnant ... all the Jews who are alive in that day ... will be saved. It's a promise for the people of Israel.

And they will be saved in the only way that it is possible for anyone to be saved ... by coming to faith in Jesus, the Messiah (see Acts 4:12).

When they turn to Jesus the veil will be removed from their eyes (2 Corinthians 3:13-16). The snare will be broken. They will be set free.

We are working our way through the Psalms of Ascent. We have come to Psalm 124. It is a Psalm about Israel. It speaks of the people of Israel. It speaks of God's purposes for the people of Israel.

It is a lesson for believers in Jesus. It teaches us that God is faithful.

We are given every reason to trust the LORD. And, we see, again ... salvation is only in the name of Jesus.

Psalm 124 - English & Hebrew

Here is Psalm 124 ... a translation closely following the Hebrew text.

  1. Song of the ascents, unto David. "Unless the LORD was for us," let Israel say,
  2. "Unless the LORD was for us in (the) uprising against us of man,
  3. then life would have been engulfed for us in burning against us,
  4. then the waters would have overflowed us, streaming up over our souls,
  5. then our souls would have been overcome by the raging waters."
  6. Bless the LORD who has not given us as prey to their teeth.
  7. Our soul, like a bird from a snare of trappers, will escape. The snare will be broken and we will escape.
  8. Our help is in (the) name of the LORD; Maker of heavens and earth.

Here it is, in the Hebrew: (Read in Hebrew)

Psalm 124 Verse by verse

Song of the ascents unto David ... (read in Hebrew)

This is the second of four times in the Psalms of Ascent where a Psalm is attributed to King David. Psalm 122 is also attributed to King David. We saw in Psalm 122 that the Hebrew indicates that this was a song that came to King David from the LORD. David was king over all Israel.

Psalm 122, and now Psalm 124, express the LORD's heart for the people of Israel.

The LORD wants the people of Israel to recognise that their help is in the name of the LORD. And we know that name. Jesus. To Hebrew-speaking Jews it would be Yeshua.

The LORD wants Israel to realise that He is the one who has preserved them as a nation, and He is the one who wants to set them free.

"Unless the LORD was for us" ... (read in Hebrew) ... "let Israel say" ... (read in Hebrew). May the people of Israel say: the LORD (Yeshua) has been watching over us throughout our history.

Verse 2 ... "Unless the LORD was for us" ... (read in Hebrew) ... "in the uprising against us of man ..." (read in Hebrew).

In Psalm 123 ... we saw that the LORD's people do come under contempt and persecution. Powers of darkness, spiritual forces of wickedness, are behind this. A spiritual battle is taking place. There is an unseen enemy who is at work to oppose God's purposes. And Jews have often been at the forefront of the battle. But, it's the LORD who has restrained the enemy, so that as a people Israel has been preserved. The devil works through people. The battleground is in the minds of men.

The fact that Israel exists as a nation ... that Israel and the Jewish people have not been destroyed ... testifies to the existence of the LORD ... their Redeemer.

Verse 3 ... "Then life would have been engulfed for us" (read in Hebrew) ... "... in burning against us" (read in Hebrew)

Verse 4 ... "Then the waters would have overflowed us" (read in Hebrew) ..."streaming up over our souls (read in Hebrew)."

Verse 5 ... "Then our souls would have been overcome" (read in Hebrew) ... "by the raging waters" (read in Hebrew).

The imagery in the Hebrew needs no further explanation.

Verse 6 ... "Bless the LORD"(read in Hebrew) ... "who has not given us as prey to their teeth" (read in Hebrew).

Note that the language in these verses is in the past tense. Verse 3 ... life would have been engulfed for us … Verse 4 ... the waters would have overflowed us … Verse 5 ... our soul would have been overcome … Verse 6 ... the LORD ... has not given us as prey ...

The LORD is watching over Israel. If the LORD was not watching and guarding and preserving them by restraining evil, they would have been utterly destroyed.

Now, in verse 7, the language switches to the future tense. "Our soul like a bird from a snare of trappers will escape" (read in Hebrew). "Will escape" "We will escape". The NUN prefix on a Hebrew verb means "we will" ... future tense.

"The snare we will break". If you have a Bible that reads "the snare has been broken", then you need to know that it has not been correctly translated from the Hebrew text into English. The phrase doesn't even mean "the snare will be broken". "The snare" ... (HAPACH) ... is singular And ... (NISHBAR) ... is the Hebrew verb ... (SHAVAR) ... meaning "break, crush or destroy", with the NUN prefix, meaning "we will". "We will break" "We will break the snare".

In verse 1, we saw that this Psalm is about Israel ... the nation of Israel ... the Jewish people, who the LORD has protected and preserved, but who are under the Law. They placed themselves under the Law when they said they would obey all the Law. And they have it in their power to break that snare when they accept their Messiah ... who has done for them what they can never do for themselves.

Jesus obeyed the Law ... the letter and the spirit of the Law. When anyone turns to Him, they are set free.

"Let Israel say" ... may Israel recognise ... The LORD Jesus has been watching over them. The LORD Jesus has kept them.

And may they come to the place where they see their salvation, and liberty, in Him.

"Our soul, like a bird from a snare of trappers, will escape. The snare we will break (read in Hebrew) ... "and we, we will escape ourselves" (read in Hebrew). (VA'ANACHNU) ... "and we" ... (NIMLATNU) ... "we will escape". The NUN prefix = "we will". The NUN VAV ending emphasises "we". We ourselves will escape.

It's a promise. All Israel is going to be saved. The remnant, regathered in the land, is going to come to faith in their Messiah.

Just a minute ... Jesus said: (Matthew 5:17-20) "Do not think I came to abolish the Law ..."

Jesus did say that. But, a person makes a big mistake if they stop the quotation there. If they stop the quotation there, then all that I have been saying would be rubbish. But Jesus didn't stop there. He continued: "I came to fulfill the Law". Jesus kept the Law. And He continued, saying: "Not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until ...

"Until" means there will be a conclusion to the Law ... one day. "... until all is accomplished."

We have seen the goal: The salvation of Israel. And, in Psalm 133, unity in the faith … All Israel in faith in their Messiah, united with the LORD's people from among the Gentiles … all as one in Christ Jesus.

And, Jesus said: "Your righteousness has to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees." And the only way to do that is to hide yourself in the LORD Jesus. He alone was completely righteous. And only in Him will we find acceptance.

And that's why Psalm 124 ends with verse 8 ... "Our help is in (the) name of the LORD." Israel, at this point in time, does not have the name of the LORD Jesus to call upon. And they need to come into that revelation.

"Maker of heavens and earth". It was Jews: The apostle John (in John 1:3) who told us that "all things came into being" through Jesus.

And Paul (in Colossians 1:16) who told us that: "By Him all things were created, in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible ... all things were created through Jesus."

And, the writer of that most Jewish of all New Testament books, Hebrews (Hebrews 1:2), told us that it is through the Son of God, the LORD Jesus, that He made the world. And that message needs to be carried back to the Jewish world ... Jesus is your Messiah. Take on the power of His name, and you will break free of the snare.

Go now to the next session: More watermarks of God in the Psalms of Ascent.