Theme: Thanksgiving and Praise
In this week’s lessons, we are reminded of the many ways God shows his protective care, and of our privilege to praise him for his goodness.
Scripture: Psalm 124:1-8
Those cries of grateful thanksgiving to God lead to the second half of Psalm 124, which is a declaration of thanks to God for his deliverance. This is what the words “praise be to the LORD,” which begin the second stanza, mean. They mean “thank you.” We praise God because we are thankful to him for his many spiritual and material deliverances.
Notice the sequence of thought here and in the earlier verses. It can be summed up by the short English connecting words: “if,” “then,” “but” and “therefore.” First, if the Lord had not been on our side…. Second, then we would have perished…. Third, but the Lord has been on our side…. Fourth, therefore we will praise him…. It bothers me that there is so little genuine thanksgiving to God expressed by Christian people. It is not heard in our everyday speech very often, and it is not even a major element in our worship services. Why is this? I think the explanation is in this sequence. God has been so faithful to us that we take his protection and deliverances for granted. However, if we were aware of what would happen if God were not protecting us, that we would perish instantly, then we would be thankful and we would be found praising God wholeheartedly and often.
Why shouldn’t we develop this biblical way of thinking? If the Lord had not been on my side, then I would have perished utterly. But God is on my side and will continue to be. Therefore, I will praise him. “Praise be to the LORD, who has not let us be torn by their teeth” (v. 6).
The final verse of Psalm 124 is an echo of Psalm 121:2. Similar verses occur throughout the psalms, and many worship services have begun with these words or others like them. Job Orton (1717-1783) reported in the late eighteenth century that the French Protestants always used it to begin their public worship.1 Rightly so, for these words direct our thoughts to God who is the only sure help of his people and the only rightful object of our true devotion. There are three important points to this verse.
1. “Our help is in the name of the LORD.” Others may offer to help us, but we dare not turn to them since they do not have what we need. Only the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth, is adequate for us in our weakness. And he really is! He is omniscient; he always knows what we need and knows it perfectly. He is omnipresent, and therefore he is always present when we need him. He is omnipotent, and therefore he can do what needs to be done. He is loving and gracious, and therefore he always has our spiritual best interest at heart. With a God like this why should be ever trust other gods or lean so much on other people?
2. “Our help is in the name of the LORD.” Everything we need or can possibly need is in God, but particularly we rejoice that our help is in God since we are so helpless. One writer observed that in God we have help “as troubled sinners.” We have been delivered from the punishment and guilt of our sin. We have help “as dull scholars.” We have been helped to know and understand God’s Word. We have help “as trembling professors,” that is, as witnesses to his gospel. God has given us words to speak and has blessed our testimony in the lives of others. We have help “as inexperienced travellers” on life’s journey. We have been helped to find the right paths and have been kept from perilous pitfalls and wasteful detours. We have help “as feeble workers.” We are unprofitable servants at best, but God has blessed the work of our hands and made it of lasting value.2
3. “Our help is in the name of the LORD.” Finally, the help that is to be found in God is our help, not someone else’s but our very own help. We have tested God’s word and have found God to be everything he has described himself as being. We look to the past and testify, “The Lord has helped me.” We look to the present and assert, “The Lord is my help even this very day.” We look to the future and affirm, “The Lord will be my help forever.”
Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
1Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 3b, Psalms 120-150 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968), p. 56.
2Ibid., p. 57.
What is declared in the second half of the psalm?
Why is thanksgiving to God not always heard?
Explain why it does not suffice to turn to others for help. How has God helped us?
Reflection: When have you taken God and his blessings for granted?
Key Point: If we were aware of what would happen if God were not protecting us, that we would perish instantly, then we would be thankful and we would be found praising God wholeheartedly and often.
Prayer: Thank God for his continual help and pray for a greater depth of understanding of what he has done for you.
Application: Begin actively praising God for his faithfulness so it becomes a regular part of your speech.
Review: Review three ways our help is in the name of the Lord.