Pilgrim Psalms: Our Help (Psalm 124)

I’ve actually set Psalm 124 to music twice before. The first time was “If the Lord Had Not Been on Our Side,” a Gospel-style choral anthem with narrator that is now published by GIA. The second time was “If God Had Not Been on Our Side,” a congregational song that is one of my proudest moments as a composer of psalmody.

I didn’t feel the need to plow this ground again, but I did want to write something on Psalm 124 that would fit into the larger Pilgrim Psalms series. I decided to write a song that could stand on its own or act as a “bookend” for “If God Had Not Been on Our Side.” “Our Help” is a simple 8 measure chorus that can be chanted at the beginning and or end of “If God Had Not Been on Our Side”; the key and meter are coordinated for that very purpose.

But let me suggest another purpose: “Our Help” is based on the words that traditionally begin Reformed worship services: Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Why not sing those words? “Our Help” is easy to pick up by ear and is the kind of song that can be sung multiple times while people gather and focus for worship. It could also segue into an opening song like Ron Rienstra’s “The Lord Be with You.” (Or pretty much any song in the key of G or E minor, for that matter.)

Our help is in God’s strong name;
the same God who made earth and heaven.

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