Psalm 124: If God Had Not Been on Our Side

A lot of music ministers lament the never-ending grind of planning worship services, week after week, without a break. Yeah, it’s easy to get a little jealous of school teachers with their summer breaks, but frankly I like the challenge each week brings. I enjoy digging into the service’s scriptures, teasing out themes in the music. I especially savor the search for settings of the lectionary Psalm that will fit both the congregation and the day’s music ensemble.*

Which brings us to today’s post. The lectionary called for Psalm 124 in yesterday’s service. You would think that Reformed folk would have lots of songs based on this one, because the Psalm includes the words that often begin Reformed worship: “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

Alas! There are a few songs based on those words, a few metrical Psalms, and my octavo for choir and narrator. But nothing that fit the Guitarchestra. So I wrote a new one to fit the occasion. The lyrics are below and the PDF leadsheet is downloadable. In some ways this follows the lead of my recent setting of Psalm 137, using the basic themes and images of the Psalm as clay that is then molded into a somewhat different shape. Still faithful to the Psalm, but taking some creative license.

1. If God had not been on our side, When cornered by our foes;
When there was no place left to hide, To whom could we have gone?
If God had not been on our side, When anger flared like fire;
They would have swallowed us alive, If God had not been on our side.

2. If God had not been on our side, When troubles surged like floods;
We would have watched the water rise, And waves mount up like walls.
If God had not been on our side, We would have had no hope,
been swept away in deadly tides If God had not been on our side.

3. If God had not been on our side, When hunters laid their snares;
Their steely teeth would snap us tight, We wouldn’t have a prayer.
If God had not been on our side, We wouldn’t have escaped;
But our God made the earth and sky, our help is only in his name.

*I know this makes me sound super holy. Don’t feel bad. I get tired of the weekly grind, too.

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