This week we had a great speaker from a local small Christian college. It was a little different but the Psalm was beautiful and our speaker pointed out a few things I hadn’t previously considered and put the Psalm in the context of Lent. Considering the speaker himself is from a tradition that doesnt celebrate Lent I was rather impressed.
A song of ascents. Of David.
1 If the Lord had not been on our side—
let Israel say—
2 if the Lord had not been on our side
when people attacked us,
3 they would have swallowed us alive
when their anger flared against us;
4 the flood would have engulfed us,
the torrent would have swept over us,
5 the raging waters
would have swept us away.
6 Praise be to the Lord,
who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
7 We have escaped like a bird
from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
and we have escaped.
8 Our help is in the name of the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
There are a whole series of Psalm referred to as Psalms of Ascent. This generally means that they were said, or chanted on the way up the mountain or high places to worship the Lord. Israel built their temples, worship centers, and altars on the highest hills or on top of mountains. This was a long standing tradition. The great temple in Jerusalem is built upon a hill raised above most buildings in the city.
This Psalm reminds us that the Lord is quite literally on our side. It uses repetitive language to emphasize this in the very beginning of the Psalm. When you see this done it is for emphasis, so that we, as the reader, will know what direction or what theme the Psalm will take. During Lent we take a journey, much like the journey highlighted in the Psalm, through trials and somber reflection, and even through self sacrifice. We do this in order to discover a more perfect understanding of what living our lives in fulfillment of what we are supposed to be as children of God means. Lent is a journey. And the Lord is by our side on the way up the mountain.