There’s often a sense of hard plodding in these Psalms of Ascent. And that’s really encouraging, because it’s so much the same sense that we often get in life at the moment.
And as he plods, David finds encouragement and shares it with those plodding along with him. Here are three encouragements he shares in this Psalm.
A great danger (v1-5)
The Psalmist finds encouragement by looking back at past perils. It’s not clear what the past situation is, but that means it’s easy to generalise to our difficulties too! But it felt like a giant monster who threatened to swallow them alive, like an angry mob, a flash flood, like being an animal caught by a poacher.
And his praise is this. “If the Lord had not been on our side” it would have been so much worse. He takes time to dwell on the bad things that might have happened, and to praise God that they didn’t.
Maybe for some, the grief of the last 16 months is still too present to be able to turn to praise like this. But for others of us who haven’t been directly affected, we can praise God that things have not been much worse. Praise God for the things that still work, for the disasters that haven’t happened, whether in our national life or in our own personal histories. And looking at all the disasters that haven’t happened gives us confidence as we face an uncertain future, because we know that just as God has kept us this far, so he will bring us safely home.
A great escape (v6-7)
Here the threat is more intense – it is a trap that has been set for us, that we have been caught in. And yet we have escaped, not because of our skill but because the trap has been broken. There may well be specific examples, but it clearly applies to our sin. See Eph 2:1-5, for example.
We were caught and ensnared by our own sin, and yet the snare has been broken by Jesus dying in our place and rising again, and we have been set free. Sometimes we struggle to take hold of that freedom – pray for one another!
A great declaration (v8)
Our help is in the name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.
Our confidence is in God, who made everything and therefore is Lord of everything. It is in his name – his revealed reputation because of his actions (and not in the church or whatever ministry we have benefited from over the years).
But it is also a shout together – it is our confidence; our help. We stand together with other Christians and encourage other Christians.