Sermon – Who is on your side? (Psalms 124:1 – 124:8) – Cornerstone Church Kingston
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Psalms: Songs of Ascent

This series takes us through the last few Psalms in the Bible, called the ‘Songs of Ascent’. They focus on the Psalmist crying out to the Lord in their distress, and also worshipping Him as they are helped & delivered by God.

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Sermon 3 of 14

Who is on your side?

Chris Tilley, Psalms 124:1 - 124:8, 9 April 2023

Chris continues our series in the Songs of Ascent (Psalms 120-150), preaching to us from Psalm 124:1-8. In this passage we see the psalmist acknowledging God’s role in their troublesome situation - and what it means for us today.

Psalms 124:1 - 124:8

124:1   If it had not been the LORD who was on our side—
    let Israel now say—
  if it had not been the LORD who was on our side
    when people rose up against us,
  then they would have swallowed us up alive,
    when their anger was kindled against us;
  then the flood would have swept us away,
    the torrent would have gone over us;
  then over us would have gone
    the raging waters.
  Blessed be the LORD,
    who has not given us
    as prey to their teeth!
  We have escaped like a bird
    from the snare of the fowlers;
  the snare is broken,
    and we have escaped!
  Our help is in the name of the LORD,
    who made heaven and earth.


Transcript (Auto-generated)

This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

Psalm hundred and 24, a song of a sense of David. If the Lord had not been on our side, let Israel say. If the Lord had not been on our side, when people attacked us, they would have swallowed us alive when their anger fled against us. Their blood would have engulfed us. The torrent sweat over us.

The raging waters would have swept us away. Praise be to the lord who has not left us be torn by their teeth. We have escaped like a bird from the foul of snare. The snare has been broken and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.

Good evening from me. Very warm welcome. My name is Chris. I'm 1 of the elders here at Cornerstone Church, especially if you're new here. This evening a very warm welcome.

I think this is the earliest I've ever been up and I've got half the amount of words that I normally have. So there's every chance this could be an astonishingly long sermon. So just settle in for the long haul. We'll we'll see what happens. Let me pray.

Father, please help us now. Set alice, quiet our hearts, open us up. Get us ready to to hear your words, to hear what you have to say to us, to feel your word. We're in the psalms. They're they're they come from places of deep emotion and praise and singing and joy but there's also hard emotions in there as well.

And so we pray that you would allow us to feel that and then hear your truth. Spoken into those things and balance all of them out within us. So we do pray that now on them. When life gets tough, when difficulties and trials come, how do you respond? That is what this Psalm is saying to us.

How do you respond? Many of you will probably already know this because you've probably heard speak about this a few times over the past week or 2. But 5 weeks ago, something happened. Something changed. Something difficult happened.

5 weeks ago, life was normal. Things were going to plan. I was on the youth weekend away. Things were fantastic. Couldn't be in a better place.

And then there's a phone call, a missed call from my mother. Another missed call from my mother. I thought that's fairly normal. She always calls at the weekends, so she probably just wants to chat. And then a text, Chris, I really need to talk to you.

Really need to talk to you. So I hop on the call, video call. She lives in Tasmania, so, you know, time difference and all of that. And what I'm confronted with is my mother in a hospital bed with tubes coming out of her and suddenly something's changed. Suddenly, you're confronted with something you did not expect.

You did not think was going to happen. Maybe in the future, but not now. You never expect it there. You never expect to receive that call. The day went on.

We didn't know what was going on. And there was hope, lots of prayer, pleading. What is this? Hopefully, it's nothing. It could be anything.

The next day, the diagnosis, lung cancer. Chris, I've got lung cancer. Next wave hits harder this time. Really, really big wave. How'd you deal with that?

So we hope. We don't know what stage it is. We don't know the prognosis. We have to wait a week and a half. The prognosis comes in, Chris.

It's stage 4. Why am I telling you this? Why am I putting myself in this position? That's a good question. I'm asking myself right now actually.

Where did this storm come from? Why are we suddenly being attacked? Why am I telling you this right at the start of this sermon? Please hear me. I'm not trying to make this all about me, but this psalm speaks into the hardest, darkest issues of our lives.

And this is how it's hitting me right now. And it will be hitting you in a variety of other ways, I'm sure. We all have tough things. I have no monopoly on suffering. We all suffer.

We all have things that are difficult. That this is coming from my heart into this song and this song into my heart and I hope that that's helpful for you. In some way, shape, performance, we as we go through this. It's also said that I don't get taken by surprise later on. I can maybe control it in some way as the emotions come out.

And also because we as preachers want you to know that we're not just talking to you on an intellectual level that we don't just understand these things that we are speaking on and we're speaking from some good theological standpoint and that's it, but that we feel them the same as you and that we go through the same things as anybody else. And it's important that you you know those things. Last week, Rory spoke about his dad and it was powerful. When we come to this Psalm, it speaks into the struggles of life and so How do you respond when life gets tough? How as we dream dreams and then have to say there goes that dream once again.

As futures we imagined disintegrate and fade as we deal with the ravages of illness and and death and have to say goodbye to loved ones. As we deal with betrayals and heartaches as we feel thoroughly fed up and exhausted by the mess of the world around us. And by the mess within us. What do you say when events conspire against you and threaten to swallow you alive when the floodwaters are rising around you and you feel as though you're about to be swept away by them. How do we navigate this cosmic battle of life and death that we find ourselves in?

What do you do with stage 4 lung cancer? You preach That's what you do. You preach to yourself and you preach to those around you. You preach the truth. And when you do that, it balances everything.

The emotions are 1 thing, of course, and they're good. It's fine to feel emotions. It's fine to cry. It's fine to feel despair and upset. Sometimes.

But you preach the truth into that and it limits it. It holds it back. It puts a rain on it and puts it in its right place because I tell you what, when you start going through God's word and preach that into the situation, it changes everything. Everything. And so we come to this song.

And the first thing that you need to preach to yourself, the very first thing is you need to say this. If the lord had not been on our side. That is well said. That is another way of saying god's people say, let us all say if the lord had not been on our side. Who side are you on?

Because God is on your side according to this? That is the first thing you preach. And David, the writer of this Psalm, knew this oh so well, didn't he? If anyone could say those words, It's David. David, as he was surrounded by enemies multiple times, found himself in life threatening situations time after time was cornered and trapped, was conspired against, was trapped by his own sin, led himself into into ridiculous situations, knew what it was like to watch loved ones die.

David can turn around and say if the lord had not been on our side. For the Christian, you preach that you are not going through this alone and you are anchored. You are deeply rooted. Yes. You get blown around, but you never get blown away.

You get blown around by the storms, but they never blow you away because you are anchored and rooted. Look at what the text says. I don't know if you noticed as you went through, but it said would have, would have, would have, but didn't. Would have been swallowed up alive, would have been engulfed, would have been swept over, would have swept us away. But it didn't.

It didn't. 1 of the most I think 1 of the things I find the most amazing about god, 1 of the most wondrous things about god and being his knowing him is is how he works in messy human situations. And brings good out of them. That blows me away so much. He's a god that springs victory from the jaws of defeat.

Who provides an who provides an arc to run through in the flood. So you're not swallowed up by the jaws of defeat. So you're not swept over by the flood. You have safety to run to. Rory was telling us about Romans 8 28 last week where he said all things work for the good.

All things work for the good, especially the hard things, and they don't swallow us up. They don't sweep us away. When when I was a little younger than I am now, probably about half the age that I am now actually thinking about it, my parents got divorced. And at the time, on the face of it, everyone would have said, well, this is just an awful situation. This is just rubbish.

What good comes out of this? What could possibly come from this? Now the thing is God didn't enjoy it. God wouldn't have wanted it even. God hates sin.

God is frustrated at the ridiculousness of humans and their decisions. He's holding his hands out to us all day long, and we're stiff necked and stubborn, and we do ridiculously idiotic things. What good could come out of that situation? Well, my mother stopped back sliding. I was rescued.

My sister was saved. And my dad was saved, and we all came to know the lord, isn't that fantastic? And so we can say And so we can say with Joseph in Genesis, we intended it for evil, but he intended it for good to save the lives of many. Isn't that a wonderful thing? We have a god who gets his hands dirty and brings good out of bad who flips everything on its head.

He flips the table and turns evil into something something else. And what is the alternative? Like, if that's not what you believe, if that's not what you want, then what is your alternative? That you go through these things without God? Because that's what that's what David's saying.

If the lord had not been on our side, imagine that for a second. Imagine that you have to go through these things without god. If the lord had not been on our side, how much worse would it be? I don't know how you do it actually. I cannot imagine the state I would be in right now.

If God was not on my side, I have no idea how you do that. Because if he's not, then life's trials swallow you up. They engulf you. They sweep you away. You're defenseless against those things.

There's nothing you can do or say. And not only does your suffering overcome you, but it has no meaning whatsoever. If there's no God, then it just means nothing. It's just meaningless suffering. And what could be worse and more pointless than meaningless suffering.

They're just random things that happen as you live, suffer, and die. But it meant nothing at all. I cannot believe that. I will not believe that because God tells me it's different. And he proves it's different to us.

Or you may get another reaction. People may blame God. They may blame God and call him cruel for allowing so many awful things to happen. It's not fair. She's too young.

Why would I be wanna be on the side of a a god like that who allows illness and death and horrendous things to happen every day around the world? Well, think of it this way. Just think of it on this level. How many billions of acts are committed against God every day? Every day and he's patient.

He doesn't wipe everyone out. He has the right to. We're the creative. He's the creator. Billions every day of simple acts against him.

Of people turning away from him. And then that's just 1 day. Billions upon billions upon billions upon billions go back through history. Billions upon trillions don't even know what comes off the trillions. Someone clever than me probably does.

But he bears with us. And he doesn't just bear with us. He works. These bad things too are good. In spite of us.

The truth is we're all terminally ill. None of us are getting out of this place alive. And life is short, but eternity is very, very long. And God isn't a God that deals in statistics or chance or probabilities. He deals in plans and surety, and therefore he has a plan for your life, and that is a comforting thought.

He is in control. He is not surprised by anything, and he is working them for our good all things whether we understand them or not for the good of his people. So if the lord had not been on your side, can you say that? Is that the first thing you can preach to yourself? Because believe me, It helps.

Can you preach that to yourself and to the world around you? The second thing, the next thing that you preach is to praise God. Praise me to the Lord. He's helped us escape. This is the next thing that you have to preach.

Praise to the Lord for the Christian in a sense You cannot lose. It doesn't matter what happens. You can't lose. There's only victory at the end. With God on our side, who can stand against this?

What can destroy us? Our God is a God that turns pain into praise. What pain in surprise? How'd you get there? That's a leap.

How's that possible? Well, look at verse 7. We have escaped like a bird from the Fowler's snare. The snare has been broken and we have escaped. Is that not just a beautiful verse?

We can praise God because he's done something that transcends. It transcends everything, it overalls, and it puts everything else into context. He zooms out if you like. He takes us up and out of our individual problems and and our individual suffering. And he looks at the root cause.

He looks at the thing that's going on, causing all of these things. Our problems are merely symptoms of the real disease. It's what's going on here. All of this hard stuff that we have to deal with are just symptomatic of the thing that's behind them. And the snare it's talking about here is sin.

Pure and simple sin, humans turning away from god and wanting to do it their own way. And making an absolute hash of it. Hebrews 12 talks about the sin that so easily in snare's Like a helpless Richard animal, we we allow ourselves to so easily become entangled in sin. It's a part of us. It's inside us.

It happens involuntarily without thought. I can't really stop it sometimes even though I know of it. Is frustrating. We easily live our lives for the good of ourselves. We're great at acquiring things that we want and need with little to no thought of what God once for or others or of the needs of others, that comes less naturally.

We're so easily ensnared. We are like the animal. We see something tempting. We see it there in the clearing. It's there.

It's tempting. We could have it. We think that would be nice. And so we creep forwards a little bit. And we're looking around thinking, well, this is probably dangerous.

But probably get away with it. Don't really care. Right. I'm gonna go for it. And you leap forward.

And before you know it, your legs trapped and you're dangling upside down an animal caught in a trap. Waiting to die. That's what sin is like. The sin enters into the world, so does death and every evil thing that associates with it. And in the end, we all die from sin.

That's the enemy. Sin and death No 1 ever died from anything else. No 1 ever died from lung cancer. They died from sin. The only reason lung cancer exists is because sin exists.

And death exists as a result. The reason we suffer in any way shape or form is because of sin. So praise be to god because the snare has been broken and we have escaped. Those are wonderful wonderful words. We should really feel the depth of those because they change everything.

They change everything. This is what Jesus achieved with his resurrection as he goes through death. And out the other side, as he allows himself to become ensnared and go to the cross, even though he had no sin, there was nothing wrong with him. He didn't need to die, but he allowed death to swallow him up, to engulf him to sweep him away, but death could not hold him. He has no sin.

And so death is put to death. Not him. Death is put to death. The snare is broken and we can sing. Whereo death is your victory?

Whereo death is your sting. The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is in the law which we all break. But thanks be to god he gives us the victory through our lord Jesus Christ. We can sing those words and we can mean them. We preach through pain and into praise.

Turning defeat into victory and what a witness that is to the world around us because we do not have to mourn like the world mourns. We do not mourn like those with no hope. We mourn for the separation for a time. But there is hope and it's not blind faith. It's sure.

You know, why I know it's sure? Because 3 days later, he was walking around again and everyone saw him and everyone praised him. We can bear even the hard things in the world knowing that. It doesn't make him easy, far from it. But we've got something even greater.

There is something even more powerful, something better, by far. And it's not a pithy little thing where people at my work have said, oh, well, I'm, you know, I'm glad your faith makes you feel bit better. So I don't think you understand. I don't think you understand what you're talking about at all. Because if you were in my shoes without the lord on your side, you would be in a far worse way.

And I pray that when that day comes, you might turn to the lord. And the final thing Gosh. This is gonna be short. The final thing that we preach, our help Our help is in the name of the lord. There's power in the name.

We preach verse 8. Our help is in the name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. Now the Lord if you noticed in the text here is is capitalized, l o r d, the lord. Meaning that the name of the lord is Yahweh. It's it's Yahoo!

Who introduces himself to Moses, all the way back in Exodus as I am. What is your name lord? I am. I am who I am Moses. And if you were around for the John series that we've just finished, preaching, then you'll be familiar with how Jesus refers to himself.

Won't you? 7 times Jesus says, guess what? I am. They're known as the 7 I ams of Jesus. I am the bread of life who sustains your soul.

I am the light of the world who illuminates the way so you can follow, I am the door by which you went to paradise. I am the good shepherd. Who tends to your needs and protects you from the wolves and the dangers of the world. I am the resurrection and the life death crumbles before me. I am the way the truth and the life.

Follow my way, listen to my words, live my life. I am the true vine. Everything is held together in me. All the branches, all the leaves, all the fruit. The lord, yahweh Jesus Christ.

The same 1 who rescued his people from Egypt after revealing himself to Moses is the same 1 who marches his people out of slavery to sin and death today. Nothing's changed in that respect. He does not change. His mission does not change. What he came to do still stands.

We preach that our help is in the name of the lord and his name is Jesus of Nazareth. He is our help to stand in the face of the trials in this life. Because we know that in the end, he's proved to us that he secured the victory. And look at who he is. Just look at who he is at the end, very end of the psalm.

The maker the maker of heaven and earth, the magnificent maker of heaven and earth is the 1 who is on your side, who is your help. Jesus who has been there for all eternity. Creating, if you remember very right at the back of the beginning of John, everything is made through him and for him. Everything that's ever been. Everything that's ever will be.

And he cares. He cares about everything. He cares about everything. I struggle to care about anything outside of myself half the time. He cares about everything that's ever been, every life.

And he's not just caring about it from a distance, but he's intimately involved in every detail. He cares about you more than anybody else ever has or ever will. Anybody He knows you better than you know yourself. Jesus is for you. So we can preach.

Our help is in the name of the lord. And here is the best part. Here is the icing on top. The the cherry 1 day will be with him. 1 day will be with him, and my goodness was a day.

On that day, everything will be different, very, very different. That is something to look forward to. That is a hope a sure hope that you can have if you believe in the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you've got your bibles open, just look with me at Psalm 126 because these are genuinely beautiful words. Psalm 126 says, When the lord restored the fortunes of zion, we were like those who dreamed our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy Then it was said among the nations, the lord has done great things for them.

The lord has done great things for us. And we are filled with joy. Defeat. Into victory, pain, into praise. There is a dream.

There is a dream where we will never have to say there goes that dream. There is a dream that's gonna become the ultimate reality for all of us and so. We can bear with the pain and the suffering of this life. If you haven't experienced it yet, I I'm sorry to say that you you will. At some point in some way to some level we all do.

That's what living in a broken world produces. But I hope that this has been helpful in some way because I know it's helpful for me. Let me pray. Further, we thank you that you do not abandon us, that you do not leave us on our own down here, that you you you don't just care, but you get involved. You get involved in the most loving ways.

And yes, we suffer, but you didn't shy away from it yourself. You suffered. You experienced what that was like. You were swallowed up by death. The lord of life, swallowed by death.

And so we can we can thank you. We can praise you. We can trust you. We can follow you. And we we pray that you would help us in all of these things.

We pray that in our pain and suffering, we would only draw closer to you, and that you would maybe use this to to help all of us maybe even to save someone here tonight. Almond?

Preached by Chris Tilley
Chris Tilley photo

Chris is an Elder at Cornerstone. He is married to Bernadette, who is part of our safeguarding team, and they live in New Malden.

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