Matthew Henry Complete CommentaryPsalms 124
on the Whole Bible
David penned this psalm (we suppose) upon occasion of some great
deliverance which God wrought for him and his people from some very
threatening danger, which was likely to have involved them all in ruin,
whether by foreign invasion, or intestine insurrection, is not certain;
whatever it was he seems to have been himself much affected, and very
desirous to affect others, with the goodness of God, in making a way
for them to escape. To him he is careful to give all the glory, and
takes none to himself as conquerors usually do.
I. He here magnifies the greatness of the danger they were in, and of
the ruin they were at the brink of,
II. He gives God the glory of their escape,
compared with ver. 1, 2.
III. He takes encouragement thence to trust in God,
In singing this psalm, besides the application of it to any particular
deliverance wrought for us and our people, in our days and the days of
our fathers, we may have in our thoughts the great work of our
redemption by Jesus Christ, by which we were rescued from the powers of
|The Security of God's People.
A song of degrees of David.
1 If it had not been the LORD
who was on our side, now may Israel say;
2 If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when men
rose up against us:
3 Then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was
kindled against us:
4 Then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over
5 Then the proud waters had gone over our soul.
The people of God, being here called upon to praise God for their
deliverance, are to take notice,
I. Of the malice of men, by which they were reduced to the very brink
of ruin. Let Israel say that there was but a step between them and
death: the more desperate the disease appears to have been the more
does the skill of the Physician appear in the cure. Observe,
1. Whence the threatening danger came: Men rose up against us,
creatures of our own kind, and yet bent upon our ruin. Homo homini
lupus--Man is a wolf to man. No marvel that the red dragon, the
roaring lion, should seek to swallow us up; but that men should thirst
after the blood of men, Absalom after the blood of his own father, that
a woman should be drunk with the blood of saints, is what, with St.
John, we may wonder at with great admiration. From men we may expect
humanity, yet there are those whose tender mercies are cruel.
But what was the matter with these men? Why their wrath was kindled
something or other they were angry at, and then no less would serve
than the destruction of those they had conceived a displeasure against.
Wrath is cruel and anger is outrageous. Their wrath was kindled
as fire ready to consume us. They were proud; and the wicked in his
pride doth persecute the poor. They were daring in their attempt;
they rose up against us, rose in rebellion, with a resolution to
swallow us up alive.
2. How far it went, and how fatal it would have been if it had gone a
little further: "We should have been devoured as a lamb by a lion, not
only slain, but swallowed up, so that there would have been no
relics of us remaining, swallowed up with so much haste, ere we were
aware, that we should have gone down alive to the pit. We should have
been deluged as the low grounds by a land-flood or the sands by a high
spring-tide." This similitude he dwells upon, with the ascents which
bespeak this a song of degrees, or risings, like the rest. The
waters had overwhelmed us. What of us? Why the stream had gone
over our souls, our lives, our comforts, all that is dear to us.
What waters? Why the proud waters. God suffers the enemies of
his people sometimes to prevail very far against them, that his own
power may appear the more illustrious in their deliverance.
II. Of the goodness of God, by which they were rescued from the very
brink of ruin: "The Lord was on our side; and, if he had not
been so, we should have been undone."
1. "God was on our side; he took our part, espoused our cause, and
appeared for us. He was our helper, and a very present help, a help on
our side, nigh at hand. He was with us, not only for us, but among us,
and commander-in-chief of our forces."
2. That God was Jehovah; there the emphasis lies. "If it had not been
Jehovah himself, a God of infinite power and perfection, that had
undertaken our deliverance, our enemies would have overpowered us."
Happy the people, therefore, whose God is Jehovah, a God
all-sufficient. Let Israel say this, to his honour, and resolve never
to forsake him.
|The Security of God's People.
6 Blessed be the LORD, who hath not given us as a prey to
7 Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the
fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped.
8 Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and
Here the psalmist further magnifies the great deliverance God had
lately wrought for them.
I. That their hearts might be the more enlarged in thankfulness to him
Blessed be the Lord. God is the author of all our deliverances,
and therefore he must have the glory of them. We rob him of his due if
we do not return thanks to him. And we are the more obliged to praise
him because we had such a narrow escape. We were delivered,
1. Like a lamb out of the very jaws of a beast of prey: God has not
given us as a prey to their teeth, intimating that they had no
power over God's people but what was given them from above. They could
not be a prey to their teeth unless God gave them up, and
therefore they were rescued, because God would not suffer them
to be ruined.
2. Like a bird, a little bird (the word signifies a sparrow),
out of the snare of the fowler. The enemies are very subtle and
spiteful; they lay snares for God's people, to bring them into sin and
trouble, and to hold them there. Sometimes they seem to have prevailed
so far as to gain their point. God's people are taken in the snare,
and are as unable to help themselves out as any weak and silly bird is;
and then is God's time to appear for their relief, when all
other friends fail; then God breaks the snare, and turns the counsel of
the enemies into foolishness: The snare is broken and so we are
delivered. Isaac was saved when he lay ready to be sacrificed.
Jehovah-jireh--in the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.
II. That their hearts, and the hearts of others, might be the more
encouraged to trust in God in the like dangers
Our help is in the name of the Lord. David had directed us
to depend upon God for help as to our personal concerns--My help is
in the name of the Lord; here as to the concerns of the public--Our
help is so. It is a comfort to all that lay the interests of
God's Israel near their hearts that Israel's God is the same that made
the world, and therefore will have a church in the world, and can
secure that church in times of the greatest danger and distress. In him
therefore let the church's friends put their confidence, and they shall
not be put to confusion.