Whose side are you on?” My sister would ask me this when we got crossways with our brothers. While my sister and I were trying to do homework or get ready for a date, they were building go-carts and hiding our makeup. We would lay our case before our parents. As in any courtroom, it was important to know which side I represented.
The psalmist is clear: God is on Israel’s side. The enemy has not won; God has delivered Israel. “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side. . . . ” Israel would have been destroyed. These verses reverberate with relief. This song of God’s presence and mercy leads us to remember those times when we’ve been brought through deep waters.
What is it to know that God is with us, that God chooses us?
So often we subtly assume that because God chooses us, everyone else falls outside the privileged circle of divine protection. Our current social and political conversations are rife with this kind of assumption.
Yet the psalm doesn’t take us that far. This poem focuses our attention sharply on the moment of knowing we have come through something awful, through no action of our own. We survived a car wreck. We lived through a tornado. We are still standing after an earthquake. We escaped being blown up by a bomb. We emerged from battle alive.
And yet, we know others did not escape. We know others did not sense the relief that quivers in our limbs. We bow down. We worship. We give thanks and remember.
Loving God, help us to dwell within the mystery of your loving deliverance, giving thanks not only with our lips but with our lives. Amen.
The Jewish people have faced possible destruction numerous times. The story begins not with the Holocaust in Europe but far back in history during the time of Esther. The wicked Haman plots to wipe out God’s people, but God saves the people through Esther’s courage. The psalmist praises God for this kind of salvation from seemingly impossible circumstances. Although we may not face genocide, we have our own struggles. James encourages us to pray with faith, believing that God can and will answer. Our prayers are powerful, James assures us. Jesus teaches us the importance of letting nothing stand between God and us. Using vivid hyperbole, he admonishes us to put the pursuit of God above everything else and to support others in that same pursuit.
• Read Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22. What traditions extend your memory?
• Read Psalm 124. God created heaven and earth. How do you choose to be on God’s side, the side of creation?
• Read James 5:13-20. When has God’s abiding presence allowed you to experience some sense of cheer despite your suffering?
• Read Mark 9:38-50. Whoever is not against you is for you. How can you share God’s love with those outside your inner circle?
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