Week of Nov. 22

Remembering God Our True Refuge

Read: Psalm 124; 2 Corinthians 11-13

“Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
Psalm 124:8, ESV


“We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction” (Harry Ironside). We need a praise leader to call our nation to thanksgiving! Regardless of life’s ups and downs, this person directs people to the ways that God has been near to his children despite their troubles. Psalm 124 provides us with an important pre-Thanksgiving reminder of the ways that God has delivered us. Let’s sing this song with all of the faithful.

A Biblical Lens

Israel’s “cantor,” or choir leader, begins Psalm 124 in a solo voice to call upon the people of Israel to join him (v. 1). He opens with an unusual style by using a “contrary to fact” condition (“If it had not been”; NIC). He will provide the answer in verses 3-5 and 6-7, but here he suggests that God has been their refuge (Psalm 46:1, NIC). He repeats the phrase in verse 2 which builds the dramatic effect. There was an enemy at some point that represented the type of overwhelming danger from which God had rescued the people (EBC). He describes it by using two metaphors in the following verses.

There are two clear ways that God has been Israel’s refuge. First, even when they were at the point of being devoured like prey (v. 3, 6-7), God saved them from the aggressor. King Nebuchadnezzar, for example, was pictured as an animal gulping down its prey when he destroyed Jerusalem (Jeremiah 51:34, NIC). Secondly, when it looked like a flood was about to roll over and drown them, God stepped in to give the people deliverance (v. 4-5). We know from previous studies in the psalms that creek beds may be dry, then become rushing torrents when rains come (Psalm 69:1-2). Unless God rescues the nation from life-threatening harm, they will be consumed. Much of our world lives with the daily threat of destruction. Our nation has experienced this type of travail throughout the year. God has brought us through. We could begin our thanksgiving this year with, “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side!”

God could be depended upon because of his character (Exodus 34:6-7). He does not change and, as a result, his actions do not change. He delivers his people. Furthermore, God made the beasts of the field and governs the mighty waters, so he can rescue his people from danger (cf. Luke 8:22-25; cf. Romans 8:37-39). Daniel Estes writes, “There is no problem too big for the Lord to master, even the chaotic forces that threaten destruction and death. There is no person too difficult for the Lord to handle. There is no pressure too intimidating for the Lord to counter” (NIC).

The psalm challenges us to walk forward by reflecting on our past. God has delivered us through a most trying year where a voracious disease and a riotous rage has threatened to consume our nation. And here we are on the doorstep of a national day set aside for giving God thanks. There is a moral challenge for us to remember.

A Moral Pathway

Pfizer has announced in recent days that they are drawing close to releasing a vaccine that has proven to be successful in combating the COVID-19 virus. The vaccine candidate has proven to be 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in participants without evidence of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection. The press release stated, “This is a great day for science and humanity.” I was thrilled to read the news, and I know you have been as well. Now, another phase of critical effort must begin. The great challenge will be distributing millions of doses of the vaccine to those who need it most. Patients must receive two injections across three weeks.

Oh! Individual states will have to make some tough moral choices regarding who initially will receive the drug. The company can produce about 50 million doses this year, with half going outside of the country. This means that 12.5 million people (2 does per person) will be able to receive the help. I do not know about you, but I will certainly give thanks to receive protection against the illness.

We may give thanks this year based upon remembrance. Psalm 124 reminds us that God is never stretched to the limit in resources, nor in his ability to guard his people. The nation of Israel had learned rightly how to express heartfelt gratitude to God based upon his past acts in expectation of his future care. “Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow” (Melody Beattie).

For Your Journaling

1. Sometimes we stare blankly into an empty cupboard when we are called upon to set a table of thanks. Follow Israel’s pattern of recalling previous years of blessings that came from God. Prepare your heart, the rest will follow.

2. Churches find themselves faced with a heightened level of division in this year, which could stifle thanksgiving. Furthermore, traditional Thanksgiving fellowship dinners will be canceled or will look much different than before due to the pandemic. May I suggest a path forward? Post a virtual wall on the church website and have members express their gratitude there. Perhaps ask members to text or email their Thanksgiving verses, then post them in some way during the virtual worship service.

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock