A song of ascents. Of David.
Had not the LORD been with us,
let Israel say,
Had not the LORD been with us,
when people rose against us,
The Psalmist begins in praise, praise for the help that the people of Israel have received from the Lord. It is from God that all our help, all our strength comes.
Although we are surrounded by enemies, our life is troubled by anxieties and evils still we can say “The Lord is with us and the Lord does support us.”
Notice “let Israel say.” This experience of God’s help is not an individual reality, but a corporate one which involves the entire body of God’s Holy People. The Psalmist urges us all to realize the extraordinary reality which is God’s support.
If God had not been with us in this anxiety, when this people attacked us, we would not be here today. If we were not held in the hand of a good and loving God we would cease to be.
But God is at work among us, moving always, working in silent and hidden ways to save and support us. Just because at times we do not see God's power manifested does not mean it is not present.
This psalm is not some marketing piece meant to boost God’s reputation. It is the true and honest testimony that comes from having experienced God’s grace.
Lord, we have known your help and we know that it is your continuing love which turns the universe and sustains us. Help us grow ever more aware of your deep and sustaining love and mercy.
Then they would have swallowed us alive,
for their fury blazed against us.
Then the waters would have engulfed us,
the torrent overwhelmed us;
then seething water would have drowned us.
Our enemies, whether they are other people or the interior struggles we face, can seem massive and powerful. They are dragons who would have “swallowed us alive” and “blazed up against us.” These powerful forces we struggle against are like a violent flood which threatens to sweep away everything we love and care about.
And amid these experiences is God.
It is God who pulls us from the waters and slays our dragons.
It is God who swiftly races to our side when suddenly we are surrounded by anxieties and temptations. When we know that God is at our back, warding us from our fears a certain recklessness should seize us. The life of a Christian disciple is not one of fear but of action and witness.
Our cry is heard by God in the highest heavens and in the deepest depths and because of this we know God is at our side. Armed with such knowledge we should laugh with all the wild abandon of our soul. We should bare our throat and smile, sure in the knowledge of God who alone saves.
Lord, you guard our backs against our enemies. Help us to trust you more, our Refuge and our Strength. Give our hearts courage to be true disciples.
Blessed is the LORD, who did not leave us
to be torn by their teeth.
We escaped with our lives like a bird
from the fowler’s snare;
the snare was broken,
and we escaped.
Imagine this scene: we are trapped. Our prison cell is dark and cramped. The sounds at night send us shivering to the corner. There is no escape. We are trapped in our sins, our failings and our own expectations. We pull and pull on the chain which binds us to no avail. We cry out, bang our hands against our prison walls and shout until our voice is nothing less than a whisper. No one is coming.
And then, a sound, a voice maybe. A shaft of light breaks through into our cell and the door opens. In a rush we find ourselves surrounded by a love so comforting it is as though every embrace we’ve ever experienced was shoved into a single moment and amplified.
God has come. We are free.
Our Father has found us, Our Savior has freed us, and the Spirit surrounds us.
We have escaped with our lives from the prison cells that our own sins and the Devil’s promptings had made for us.
When it seemed as if escape was impossible, when doom was certain, God came.
Oh “Blessed is the Lord” we whisper as he takes us out of our sins. We’re still shocked, still afraid, but God carries us, cradles us in his arms.
We are not defenseless. God has not and God will not ever leave us.
Lord, In the midst of our darkness you shine light, in weakness you give strength, and in ugliness you bring beauty. Cradle us, love us, and protect us in our need. We trust in you.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.
Perhaps the most marvelous part of all is that God, the King of Heaven and Earth, the Creator of all that was, is, and ever will be, is our help. God crafted the smallest particle to the largest, most expansive galaxies and it is he who rescues us, protects and shields us.
We are not beneath God’s notice. We are not merely cogs in the machine of Creation.
When Christ died he died not for some amorphous thing called humanity.
He died for you.
He died for me.
He died for each of us.
When Christ was dying on the Cross, while his blood was pouring out upon us, it was as though he saw the face of every person who had or would ever live and to each one he said:
“Yes, I will die for you. I will die so you may live.”
Truly, our help is in the Name of the Lord.
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Dominican Friars of St. Louis, MO
The Dominican Friars living at St. Dominic Priory in St. Louis, MO are members of both the Central U.S. Province and the Southern U.S. Province. Our student friars go through their formation together at the St. Louis Studium, otherwise known as the House of Studies.