If is a powerful little word! The English language defines it as a conjunction that introduces a conditional thought. “If it had not been the LORD who was on our side” can bring to mind thoughts of death and destruction. Ultimately, though, this little if leads to wonderful verses of praise.
If allows us to examine what might have been without actually experiencing the pain. If allows us to think the worst without experiencing the worst. If might best be used at the front end of a decision. However, in this psalm, the writer uses if in hindsight. In looking back, the psalmist recognizes that the hand of God has been upon Israel for a long, long time.
This recollection carries power. The psalmist now can see clearly how God has guided Israel through everything from natural disasters to the threat of powerful armies. God has been and is now with us, guiding us, protecting us. And, the psalmist raises the question of what would have happened if not for God. The psalmist looks back into ancient history and perhaps also deals a bit with recent memories. And the “song” includes the joyful refrain, “Blessed be the LORD.”
The word if helps us connect our history with our reality. God is always active, always guiding. I shudder to think what would have happened to me if God had not been my protector, my shield, my shepherd, my guide. Thanks be to God; blessed be the Lord!
From what ifs has God protected you? As you look back, where do you see the hand of God in your life? As you look for- ward, what hope do you glimpse in God’s continued guidance in your life?
Thank you, God, for your ever-present protection and guid- ance. Thank you that the ifs in my life have not overtaken me. Blessed are you, O God! Amen.
All the texts bear witness to the rich and powerful sovereignty of God, who generously gives life. In the Exodus text, both the future of Israel and the future of God’s plans for all humanity are imperiled. At one level, the infant is saved only by the cunning of his mother and sister and by the compassion of the Egyptian princess; but, truthfully, Moses is saved only by the grace of God. Psalm 124 looks beyond the birth of Moses to the moment of the Exodus and celebrates with great joy God’s redemption of the people. Only by God’s help can humans nd life and freedom. In Romans 12 Paul calls for the transformation of the person through the power of God. We are to “be transformed,” thus placing primary emphasis on the activity of God in the life of the Christian. The Gospel reading is a confession of Jesus’ identity as the Messiah. Matthew emphasizes the rootedness of the church in the disciples’ recognition of Jesus’ messianic nature.
• Read Exodus 1:8–2:10. When have you had a scary experience that God’s “grand plan” made successful?
• Read Psalm 124. Looking back on your life, where can you see God’s hand guiding you through rough times?
• Read Romans 12:1-8. Take time to answer the writer’s ques- tion: “How are you using your gifts in your church and in your community?”
• Read Matthew 16:13-20. Who do you say Jesus is?
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