The “What If” Psalm

     Dr. Hassel Bullock was a  stereotypical “old school” professor at Wheaton College.  There was nothing “cool” about him.  His clothes were very traditional and his glasses were a decade out of date.  He had thinning hair and a moustache and he spoke in soft tones.  He reminded me of old library books, that smelled of dust but were also reliable.  Dr. Bullock was reliable if not trendy.  Unfortunately, soft-spoken and stuffy was not a good combination for an 8:00am class.  It seemed appropriate that he was teaching the Book of Psalms, the longest book in the Old Testament.
     As a person, Dr. Bullock was one of my favorite instructors.  Any negative assessment of him speaks more to my sophomoric approach to learning at the time, rather than any deficiency on his part.   He was knowledgeable about the subject matter and seemed to genuinely care about his students.  For 8:00am, however, he was painfully dry.  Until one morning when we learned we were going to be covering Psalm 124.  “Today class,” he said with eyes that were welling with emotion, “we are going to talk about the ‘what if’ Psalm.”
    In what seemed like a few moments, for the next hour he unpacked this eight verse Psalm for us.

Psalm 124 A song of ascents. Of David

1 If the Lord had not been on our side—     let Israel say — 2 if the Lord had not been on our side     when people attacked us, 3 they would have swallowed us alive     when their anger flared against us; 4 the flood   would have engulfed us,     the torrent   would have swept over us, 5 the raging waters     would have swept us away.6 Praise be to the Lord,     who has not let us be torn by their teeth. 7 We have escaped like a bird     from the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken,     and we have escaped. 8 Our help is in the name   of the Lord,     the Maker of heaven   and earth.

Dr. Bullock told us that this Psalm of David recounted the time in Israel’s history when they had been attacked  they passed through the Red Sea.  David asks the question?  What if the Lord had not been with us?  The enemy would have defeated Israel and they would have been swallowed up by the Sea.   Our wise professor, quickly turned from explanation to application.  He recounted times in his own life when he would not have made it if the Lord had not been on his side.

I found my mind wandering.  Not, because he had lost my attention, but because I was remembering times when I wouldn’t have made it, if the Lord had not been on my side.  I remembered averted tragedies, times of peril in my spiritual walk, attacks from people who did not seek my good.  And in spite of it all, I was sitting in a Bible class at Wheaton College and I was not destroyed.  Tears fell freely from my eyes as I recounted the goodness of God.

It’s been twenty-five years since I sat in that class and more tragedies have been averted and more attacks have been thwarted and more seas of improbable opportunities  have opened when situations seemed impossible.  It’s a Psalm that reminds me to be grateful that in spite of all of the challenges of life.  Because of God, I’m still standing.

What about you?  What if the Lord had not been on your side?


About drphilipnordstrom

I am the Lead Pastor of Bethesda Christian Fellowship which is a dynamic growing congregation in Knoxville, Tennessee. I have an amazing wife, Melanie, two daughters, Natalie, and Kristiana, and a son, Noah. Nordstroms are passionate world changing Christ followers. We are educated with a Christian world view. We make godly decisions regarding friendships and marriage. We seek God's guidance for our life work and ministry. View all posts by drphilipnordstrom

One response to “The “What If” Psalm

  • mikj45

    I’ve got a few yrs on you Phil, so my list of possible tragedies, near tragedies and major slipups along with bad calls is a little longer than yours, but the results and wrong and right decisions are still with me to help remind me from where my strength comes. And it sure isn’t from me.

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