God’s Dramatic Rescue
“If the Lord had not been on our side—let Israel now say—if the Lord had not been on our side when our foes attacked, then they would have swallowed us alive in the heat of their anger against us. Then the waters would have carried us away and the torrent swept over us; then over us would have swept the raging waters. Blessed be the Lord, who did not leave us a prey for their teeth. We have escaped like a bird from the fowler’s trap; the trap is broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.”
Psalm 124, Revised English Bible.
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.
Psalm 124 is about how the Lord suddenly and dramatically rescued us, when it looked like our enemies were going to win! 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.
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 realisation that our situation is dire and that we’re in desperate in of being rescued. 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 life 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.
Why we haven’t been engulfed by water? Why we haven’t been caught in the trap of the hunter? Why we haven’t been devoured by the teeth of a terrifying 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 you; 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.
Just how much God is on your side? He sent his only Son into the world, that’s how much. 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.
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 one hymn puts 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?”
Through the word and Sacraments of the Church, Jesus rescues us from all our enemies, from sin, death, and the Devil. 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.
Rev. Matthew Fenn