Text: Psalm 124
Introit for Proper 7B (St. John the Baptist’s Day obs.)
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Things are looking bleak for our heroes: they gave it their best, and they briefly gained the upper hand, but in the end, the villains were too strong, the heroes too few, defeat is certain, and all that’s left is just enough time for some last words….Wait, what’s that? Did I just hear a trumpet? Who is it? It could be the Riders of Rohan galloping to their aid. It could be Robin Hood’s Merry Men of Sherwood Forest mounting a rescue. It could be the Avengers storming in at the last minute. But ultimately, they rescue the heroes and convert what would be a pretty depressing ending into an out-and-out win for the good guys. This is a common element in many stories, and one I particularly enjoy when it is done well. It’s the sudden and dramatic rescue.
Part of the reason why the sudden and dramatic rescue is used so frequently is because it gives voice to something which we know is very true. We all long for a saviour. We all have a deep realization that our situation is dire and that we’re in desperate in of being rescued. The Psalm appointed for our Introit is about how the Lord suddenly and dramatically rescued us, when it looked like our enemies were going to win!
I. If God did not rescue us.
Our Psalm starts out by explaining just how bad the situation is. The Psalmist plays a game of “Let’s pretend.” Let’s pretend for a moment that God had never intervened in our lives. If God hadn’t stepped into your life to rescue you, but instead left you to your own desires, reason, and strength, where would you be? What would happen if the Riders of Rohan, or Robin Hood’s men, or the Avengers never came? Then evil would have won, and all hope would have been lost.
The problem is that many of us fail to realize that we have enemies who seek to destroy us. Now, perhaps you’re thinking, “Who? Me? I don’t have any enemies. Everybody loves me. I’m just, loveable!” No! Sin, Death, and the Devil are your mortal enemies. They conspire together to enslave you. Without God’s dramatic rescue, these three enemies would bring about your utter destruction because you have no power to stop them.
Firstly, you are your own worst enemy. You don’t need anyone else to mess up your life and cause trouble, you can do that just fine on your own. Deep inside you is a darkness, an unspeakable evil, which threatens your very existence. The evil inside you seeks your own destruction. Left unchecked it would swallow you up alive. God has been working in your lives through his Word to keep the dark, unspeakable evil inside you at bay. Now, Let’s pretend, says the Psalm, that God had not rescued you. Where would you be? What would you be like? We have all had those passing sinful thoughts. But, sometimes one pops into ours heads which is pure evil, and we find ourselves shocked that we could have thought such a thing. So, we push it out of your mind. What if, instead of pushing it out of your mind, you acted upon every evil thought and inclination you had? What damage would you do to yourself and others? You may not even realize just how much work the Lord has done, and continues to do, on you.
Just like we all have a dark, unspeakable evil inside us, we all also must come face to face with another fierce enemy: death. We will all face death. Today we want to ignore death. We want to forget about it and push it out of our minds like it doesn’t exist. Some people want to forget about death so much that they don’t even have a funeral! This enemy, Death, eventually comes for us all, and there is no escape. Death is like a tsunami, a raging wall of water which wipes everything out and from which you cannot escape. If God had not rescued us, then death would be it. It’s our final enemy. Whatever happiness, joy, and fulfillment you managed to find in this life would be all you ever get. After that, all you would have is endless darkness, despair, loneliness and misery, that is, if God hadn’t come to rescue you.
Worst yet, we have the Devil. We were made in the image of God, to fear, love and trust in the Lord above all things. Because of that, Satan hates us. He hates you with a deep and burning hatred. He is like a roaring lion, prowling around looking for prey. He will use every tool at his disposal to attack you. He entices, seduces, and deceives. He steals, kills, and destroys. If God had not rescued us, we’d be utterly defenseless.
That’s what the psalm is asking: what if that the Lord had not been the one on your side, imagine where you’d be. Imagine the darkness. Imagine the horror. Imagine the pain of it. Where would you be if God hadn’t stepped into your lives and dramatically rescue you? You’d be swallowed up, engulfed by the waters, caught by the teeth of some ravenous beast. You’d be trapped, and there’d be no way out.
II. Because God did rescue us
Why we haven’t been engulfed by water? Why we haven’t been caught in the snare of the hunter? Why we haven’t been caught in the teeth of a roaring beast? Who is our help and deliverer? Who is on our side? Who is going to rescue you? The psalm says it’s the Lord of heaven and earth. He is on our side and he has suddenly and dramatically rescued us from sin, death, and the devil.
The message of the Psalm is that God is for us; he’s on your side. He has committed himself to rescue you from the hands of your enemies. The Almighty God himself, the one who created this universe with a mere word, who continues to uphold, sustain, and keep this universe going, that’s the one who has decided that he is on your side. He’s got your back. And so, in our time of need we cry out to God and we implore his aid. “Help us! Save us! Rescue us!” And the God of the universe comes to fight for us.
That’s how much God is on your side. He sent his only Son into the world. Jesus is the one who rescues you from your enemies. Consider the language of the psalm: when Jesus was surrounded by enemies who wanted to attack him, who hated him with a deep and fiery hatred, God did not rescue him. God did not rescue his Son when he was swallowed up alive by Death. God did not rescue his Son from the teeth of the ravenous beast. He was trapped in the hunter’s snare and the Lord did not rescue him. Where would you be if God had not come to rescue you. Imagine the darkness. Imagine the horror. Imagine the pain of it. Where would you be? That’s where Jesus was. This Jesus of Nazareth is the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. Our help is in him alone. He is our deliverer. He is the one who has rescued us
This Jesus who endured darkness, horror, and pain, has suddenly and dramatically rescued you in Holy Baptism. Holy Baptism drowns sin. Holy Baptism rescues you. The flood drowned the evil and violent people in Noah’s day, and Noah and his family were rescued and lived a new life. The Israelites were rescued from death and slavery in Egypt through the Red Sea as Pharaoh and his army were drowned in it. So too Jesus’ drowned and put to death all sin in you. This drowning of sin is not something that happens only at your baptism, but every time you confess your sins and receive the absolution, Jesus is drowning them again. You have a new life in Holy Baptism. In Holy Baptism you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, who creates and sustains faith for you to trust in God and His promises. Holy Baptism is proof that God comes even this very day among us and continues to rescue us from our enemies.
God has demonstrated that he is for us; he is on our side. No matter what should happen to you in this life, you can cry out to God in prayer. Even if you must come face to face with your own evil, God is on your side! Even if the Devil is hunting you, Christ will rescue you. Even when it’s your turn to face Death itself, you need to be afraid. As our hymn of the day put it,
“If God himself be for me, I may a host defy;
For when I pray, before me my foes, confounded fly.
If Christ my Head and Master, befriend me from above,
What foe or what disaster can drive me from his love?” (TLH 528)
Through the waters of Holy Baptism Jesus rescues us from the Devil. Through being united to Jesus resurrection from the dead, we too are promised that Death no longer has any hold on us. Because Jesus has suffered and died to repay God what we owe, our sins are forgiven. We continue to experience the rescue of God in the weekly receptions of God’s gifts! Our enemies have been defeated! God has suddenly and dramatically rescued us through his Son Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God. Amen.
And may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.