The Step of Declaration
Dr. Joe Temple

Review

Open your Bibles, please, to Psalm 124:

Psalms 124

1If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, now may Israel say;
2If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when men rose up against us:
3Then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us:
4Then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul:
5Then the proud waters had gone over our soul.
6Blessed be the LORD, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth.
7Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped.
8Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

By way of review, glance down at the psalm and notice under the number of the psalm the title, “A Song of degrees of David.” You recall that we have learned in our initial study in this series that the word “degree,” literally translated from the Hebrew word, means “going up.” It is translated in our Bibles by the word “ascent,” or by the word “stairs.” For that reason, this particular division of the book of Psalms has been referred to as the Pilgrim's Staircase, and we have selected it as the basis for a devotional study.

We have suggested that this Pilgrim's Staircase could be described in the words of a hymn that we often sing, “I'm pressing on the upward way, new heights I'm gaining everyday.” We emphasize that, because we would not want any of you to misinterpret our analogy and think that you can so climb your way to Heaven. Your entrance into Heaven is guaranteed by one thing only, and that is the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the Cross.

Though you can not climb to Heaven, you can grow spiritually. You can gain new spiritual heights and gain new spiritual victories. For that reason, we say that the Pilgrim's Staircase provides an excellent opportunity for us to discuss the new heights which we may gain in our spiritual experience.

We suggested to you that this series of psalms, beginning with Psalm 120 and concluding with Psalm 124, represents a flight of steps with a landing intersecting the flight. That is, you go up a few steps to a landing, and then you continue up another flight of steps.

An Illustration

You may not be familiar with staircases, because most of us have homes on the ground level in this part of the country, but I was reared in Pennsylvania, and we lived in homes that had two and three floors in them. I never think about this particular series of psalms without thinking about my precious mother. She was only tall enough to reach my shoulders. She was a stout, little lady and she found it difficult to breath most of the time.

I remember so often she would go up the first flight of stairs in our home to the landing. She had a little chair placed by the window there, and she would sit down on that chair and rest a bit. Sometimes I would notice here with a far away look in her eye, and I would ask her what she was thinking about. She would look down the flight of stairs and she would tell me that she was thinking about how she didn't have breath enough to make it up those stairs to the first flight. She would say that she was just wondering whether or not she would be able to make it on to the top of the stairs. That illustration comes to my mind every time I read this series of psalms.

Reaching the Landing

This staircase, I repeat, has a landing, and we have reached the landing in our discussion today. We began this staircase by standing on the Step of Distress as it is described in Psalm 120, recognizing our very great need and recognizing that nothing in all the world could help us. We joined the psalmist, in the words of Psalm 120, saying, “In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me.”

Then we stood upon the second step–the Step of Deliverance–as we realized that our help did not come from the hills, but our help came from the One who made the hills.

Then we stood on the third step–the Step of Delight–as it is described in Psalm 122 and Psalm 123. In Psalm 122 we enjoyed that delightful privilege with the psalmist of fellowshipping with the people of God. But recognizing that public worship is not enough for spiritual growth, we stood still on the Step of Delight and joined with the psalmist in the recognition of the fact that there must be private communion with the Lord as well as public worship. I would like to suggest to you, even at the risk of repetition, that I hope you will develop this art of meditation–the art of private devotion. I hope that you will develop the habit of lifting up your eyes unto the Lord.

We are now at the landing in our study. Permit my reference again to my precious mother. Often when she reached the landing, she looked back. That is what we do in Psalm 124. Remember that I also said that when she looked back, she looked up, and that is what we find in Psalm 125.

Declaration of Deliverance

Notice with me, please, Psalm 124 where the psalmist, looking back, makes a declaration. He says in verse 1:

Psalms 124

1If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, now may Israel say;
2If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when men rose up against us:

Permit me to paraphrase these verses: We simply would not have come as far as we have. Can you give that testimony? Look back over your spiritual experience. Can you stand on this Step of Declaration and say, “If it had not been for the Lord, I just simply could not have come this far.”

I wonder if you can say, “I remember one such experience. I remember how dreadful it was. I remember, if it had not been for the Lord, I could not have come through it. I would not have advanced very far.”

I'm sure that many of you, perhaps all of you, can give such a testimony as that. But I want to say to you that, if you are not familiar enough with my Lord so that you can give a testimony like this, I wish you would get to know Him that personally. I wish that you would learn to depend completely on Him.

Dangers David Faced From Men

Having looked at the declaration which David makes in verses 1 and 2, let me suggest that we look at a description of the dangers and deliverances which he describes in verses 3 through 7. Glance at verse 3 and recognize that one of the dangers that David faced were men who acted like wild beasts. In verse 3 he says:

Psalms 124

3Then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us:

Now, of course, David was speaking as king of Israel. He was speaking of national enemies that were ready to pounce upon the little nation of Israel and gobble it up at their first opportunity.

I am sure that you and I have not had a like experience. But, Friend, if you have never met an adversary you haven't gone very far. If you have not found someone who has withstood you, someone who has attempted to throw a stumbling block in your way, someone who has impeded your progress, then I don't think you have moved very far. I don't believe it is possible to move without Satan's putting someone in your way. Even Satan himself sometimes tries to withstand you.

David could say, “When these men like wild beasts stood in my way, the Lord stood by my side. If it had not been for the Lord, I would not have had the victory.”

Danger of Circumstances

Not only men stand in the way, but circumstances stand in the way. I suppose that we have as much trouble with circumstances as we have with people. The circumstances are described in verses 4 and 5, where we read:

Psalms 124

4Then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul:
5Then the proud waters had gone over our soul.

Do you see what David is saying in these verses? He is saying, “The waters had overwhelmed us.” Notice the word “stream,” and recognize that it is a translation of a word that means literally “a rushing torrent.” “A rushing torrent had gone over our souls.”

Because this is poetry, and Hebrew poetry emphasizes not rhyme but parrallelism of thought, there is suggested in verse 5 what might seem to you an empty repetition. However, it isn't. “Then the proud waters had gone over our soul.” The word “proud” means “strong water,” waters that no one could withstand.

You may be thinking, “Wait a minute. I thought you said something about circumstances? All I see in these verses is water. What has that to do with circumstances?”

Keep a marker in Psalm 124, and turn to Psalm 18, verse 6, for another testimony given by David. David says in verse 6:

Psalms 18

6In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.

Notice he says, “In my distress, trouble.” Now these are the circumstances–the problems, the hard places. “In my distress, I called.”

Now look at verse 16 in this same chapter where David, remembering the deliverance which God provided, says:

Psalms 18

16He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.

You see, David wasn't really in the water; he was in distress! But he describes his distress in the terms of water. We have a similar expression: Have you ever been in hot water? Sure you have. You have been in a circumstance that wasn't good. What did you do? Well, David said, “I cried to the Lord and He delivered me out of many waters.”

I would like to emphasize a familiar verse found in the book of Isaiah, chapter 43, verse 2:

Isaiah 43

2When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee…..

Now, isn't that what David is saying in Psalm 124? He says that if God had not been on his side when he passed through the waters he wouldn't have made it.

Isaiah said one day, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” And someone may say, “I don't understand that. I don't understand how you can be in the waters and still not have something bad happen to you. I don't understand how you can be in the water and not get wet.”

God's Presence In Distress

Look at verse 16 of Isaiah, chapter 43:

Isaiah 43

16Thus saith the LORD, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters;

You see, God doesn't ever promise that you will never be in distress. He does not promise that you will never be in danger, but He does say that He will be with you. The waters will not overflow you, because God says that He will make a path through the water.

Delivered From Testing of the Enemy

In Psalm 124, verses 6 and 7, there are two descriptions of deliverances. We find David saying in verse 6:

Psalms 124

6Blessed be the LORD, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth.

Here he describes God's deliverances as being like something snatched from the teeth of wild beasts.

I would not like to dwell on any undue unpleasantness here, but you remember in Yellowstone Park sometime ago, a young lady was a prey to the teeth of a bear. I understand they captured the bear and killed it, and found two-thirds of here in the bear. “A prey to the teeth.”

Yes, it was a terrible thing, but recognize what David is saying. What those boys who tried to save the girl were not able to do, God is able to do for you. Just as the beast, be it any kind of enemy, is ready to put his teeth in you and you are a prey to his teeth, God is able to deliver you as a prey from the teeth of the enemy.

Beloved, we are living in a dangerous world. Two of my girls drove 1,500 miles by themselves the other day. The only way that I was able to have any sense of security was to commit them to the Lord, to commit them to the Lord and ask Him to deliver them as a prey from the enemy. He did deliver them, and they could say, too, “If it had not been for the Lord who was on our side..” Many will be the circumstances and events when you will be able to give just such a testimony.

Snare is Broken

Notice verse 7 for a description of another kind of deliverance. In verse 7 we read:

Psalms 124

7Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped.

Sometime, when you have time, read what the wise man, Solomon, has to say in the book of Proverbs about a snare; and you will see why David is giving you this description here. Solomon suggests that a snare is so attractively baited that the bird, even against it's will, is drawn toward the snare.

Beloved, the same thing is true of believers. If you have come very far with the Lord, you can look back over your life and realize how many times you have been caught in a snare. It wasn't intentional. Sometimes when you were caught as the prey in the teeth of an animal, it was due to your own foolishness. Many of us become the prey of the animal's teeth because we are too careless. Even then, God delivers.

When you are caught in the snare of the fowlers, if God did not come to your rescue, if He did not come to your deliverance, you wouldn't be able to carry on. So the psalmist says, “Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers.” And the other thing that is a great encouragement to my own heart is that “the snare is broken and we are escaped.”

Habits as Snares

Some of the areas which entrap believers are habits which bring about their downfall–the ruin of both body and spirit. Many, many times they escape from the snare, but they fall right back into it again.

In our praying for those who need deliverance, we need to pray not only for the deliverance, but for the snare to be broken. I wonder if we don't stop too soon.

Foundation for Second Flight

The psalmist closes his psalm with another declaration as he glances up the second flight of steps and says, “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

Notice what he thinks about as he glances up the second flight of steps in Psalm 125:

Psalms 125

1They that trust in the LORD shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever.
2As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.
3For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous; lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity.
4Do good, O LORD, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in their hearts.
5As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the LORD shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity: but peace shall be upon Israel.

Established In the Lord

What is it that he is saying as he looks up that second flight of stairs? He is saying, “I have a good foundation for my climb; I have a good foundation for the continuation of my experience. My foundation rests in my position.” And what is that? It is described in verse 1 in terms of mount Zion. “They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be moved.”

I suggest to you that the position you have in the Lord Jesus Christ is as firm as mount Zion. It is only one of the mountains mentioned in the Bible as never being removed. And this is what God says about us. Our position, in Him, is as firm as that. We are established in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our position in the Lord Jesus Christ is not only characterized by the word “established,” but it can also be characterized by the word “enclosed.” We read in verse 2:

Psalms 125

2As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.

Picture the little city of Jerusalem encircled by the mountains. God says to keep that in mind as you go up the second flight of steps. You are established and you are encircled. God says, “Just because you have come thus far up the flight, and you have reached its temporary resting place where you can look back and say that the Lord is good, don't think for a moment that there won't be some difficult places in the second flight of steps.” As you come to those difficult places, remember that God has established and encircled you and nothing can harm you.

Importance of Separation

Then he gives a bit of advice in verses 3 and 4. In verse 3 he says:

Psalms 125

3For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous; lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity.

What this verse is really saying is that God will not let the enemy have control of the land of Israel for too long a period of time, because if He does the Israelites might pick up some of the evil habits of the enemy who has occupied the land.

We are reminded that one of the things God gives to us by way of advice is that if we are going to continue up the second flight of stairs we must maintain our separation, remembering that evil communication corrupts good manners. If we come out from among them which are not going the same direction we are going, though we will miss their fellowship, we will enjoy our fellowship with God.

Promise of Blessing

That promise is accompanied by a provision, described in verse 4:

Psalms 125

4Do good, O LORD, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in their hearts.

We are reminded that there is a precious provision in that verse. David expresses it another way in Psalm 84:11:

Psalms 84

11…….. no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.

As you pause on the landing of your spiritual experience, can you look back and give the testimony that the Lord is on your side? As you look at what lies ahead, because it will be difficult, can you rest upon the promise that He has established you and encircled you so that no evil can get to you? Remember, “No good thing will He withhold from them who walk uprightly.”


Home Contact Us Bible Studies Books King James
Abilene Bible Church Living Bible Studies
Dr. Daiqing Yuan Tim Temple Dr. Joe Temple
Some icons on this site used courtesy FatCow Web Hosting

www.livingbiblestudies.org