THE BROKEN SNARE.
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
3 Then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against
4 Then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul:
5 Then the proud waters had gone over our soul.
6 Blessed be the Lord, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth.
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 earth.
It is a precious thought that in these Psalms 'of Degrees' we have the guidance of the Holy Spirit Himself, who indited them, to help us in their spiritual understanding. Tracing the successive steps of ascent, we can kneel at each, and make each a spiritual resting-place. Thus the Lord opens to us the riches and the beauty of His precious Word, and enables us to go 'from strength unto strength.' The slight irregularity in the repetition of the words ' of degrees' in vers. 6, 8, is sufficiently explained by the outburst of thanksgiving called forth by the signal deliverance experienced. Besides, this seeming irregularity exists only so far as the words are concerned; the idea of ver. 5 being taken up in ver. 6, and that of ver. 7 in ver. 8.
Before the spiritual vision of the inspired singer, the dealings of God in grace unfold, and they carry to his heart, the sweet consolation of perfect assurance of safety. The song opens with a record of the fundamental fact in grace: 'Had it not been Jehovah who was on our side', which is repeated in ver. 2. What an if here, on which all depends !' Bless Jehovah, O my soul.' Had it been othenvise, 'then—ver. 3. What awful sequences are implied in the little word 'then' in that connexion is further illustrated in ver. 4. This word 'then implied no less than spiritual destruction: 'the proudwaters had gone over our souls' (ver. 5). But it is only a hypothetical case, 'blessed be Jehovah' (ver. 6). We look back to mark the greatness of our deliverance and its completeness, for He ' hath not given us a prey to their teeth.' Accordingly, the next step or degree is: 'our soul is escaped out of the snare' , which is repeated with some enlargement of idea in the next clause (ver. 7). And so closes the Psalm with praise to our God and Father in Christ. Or, to sum up this outline in the words which mark the degree's: If Jehovah had not been for us—then—waters had overwhelmed us—(blessed be Jehovah!)—escaped from the snare—snare broken and we escaped (all help henceforth and for ever in the revelation in grace of Jehovah our Almighty Creator and ever present Redeemer)!
The subject of this song, therefore, is the gracious deliverance of the soul from the power of the enemy; its translation from death to life, and from darkness into light. It is remarkable with what intensity of feeling the soul ever reverts to spiritual deliverances. Religion is never felt to be so precious as when its reality has been put to the test. While frames and feelings give way, the power and grace of our God remain. Generally, the greatness of the danger is only seen when it is past. Mercifully a full view of it had been withheld, while we were in the midst thereof. So it is in the history of the individual, and in that of the Church. But when emerging on the other side of the sea, which has engulfed the hosts of Egypt, our rapturous song bursts forth, to the praise of Him who clave its waters. These truths constitute the burden of our thanksgiving: the extremity of our danger now past; our utter helplessness in meeting it in our own strength; the special interposing power of Jehovah; and the completeness of our safety. On these grounds, the soul now resolves to place itself, and that for ever, under the guardianship of God in Christ. Most true it is, my soul, that if the Lord had not been on thy side, thou wouldest have been swallowed up, and that quickly, by the wrath of man and malice of devils. Between thee and utter despair, or entire failure, nothing interposed. What plea couldest thou have urged against the accuser, what answer given to the charges brought against thee, or what defence raised against assaults? But He that said, 'Fear not, little flock,' has made it good in thy experience, far beyond thy fears. Oh, jubilee! the Lord has been on thy side. One look of His gracious countenance, and thy guilty fears fled; one word of His mouth, and the storm was hushed into a calm; one motion of His hand, and the enemies were dispersed. When we thought not of Him, He remembered us; when we sought Him not, He came to us; and when we cried for Him, He made haste to help. After this, surely, we can never despair. If at first it was guilt, now it is sin which threatens to 'overwhelm' us, and to 'go over our soul.' But from both dangers we are now completely safe and free. Truly these two things are most marvellous to us—how that from which we might naturally have expected help failed ; and how He who was unseen proved nigh, even at our side. What thanksgiving, then, becomes us to Him who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver! If but one such instance were on record, it would prove a door of hope in the valley of Achor. But consider that the whole history of God's covenant people, from first to last, is a history of God's dealings, and that all these dealings are in the way of deliverance. From Adam, the first sinner, to Paul, the injurious blasphemer, God has showed mercy, 'for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting.' 'If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, now may Israel say' (the whole Israel of God). We greatly mistake the purport of Scripture history and sacred biography, when we read it as the record of men's lives, instead of that of God's manifestations. Why should I seek to vindicate Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, or Peter? They were but men, compassed with the same infirmities as we are. These histories are so glorious and so precious—not because they relate what is past, nor merely for the promises which they contain, but because they are the record of God's dealings, and the revelation of His character. They show us not only what He has done, but what He is—the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. And if Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been almost overwhelmed by the waters, ' the Lord is known by the deliverance which He has wrought. Higgaion, Selah.' And now 'the snare is broken ;' the prey is taken from the mighty, and gladsome our soul has escaped to the shelter of His wings. However cunningly the snare had been laid, and however helpless the bird seemed in the hands of the fowler, greater is He that is" for us than all that can be against us. My joy can know no bounds, when I realize my complete and perfect salvation through Christ, and my entire and absolute safety in God. Blessed, and ever blessed be the Lord, who hath not dealt with us according to our deserts, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 'We walk at large, and praise the hand to which we freedom owe.'
But let me endeavour to understand still more fully the precious import of the fact, 'Our soul is escaped.' Surely this refers to my full acceptance in Christ, and to my standing in the covenant of grace; not merely to the past, but also to the present and to the future. To the praise of His redeeming love, I am not only pardoned, but accepted; not merely allowed entrance, but have a dwelling-place; not only justified, but for ever sanctified. The snare no longer exists for me; it is broken. / stand; not indeed in mine own strength, but 'our help' (our real, not merely our anticipated and hoped-for help) 'is in the name of Jehovah.' The awakened soul alone knows with what dread sin is contemplated, and its indwelling power apprehended. But let me also realize the liberty wherewith Christ has made me free. Why should I be either cast down or discouraged? The snare is broken ; we are escaped ; and our help is in the name of the Lord. Out of myself, then, and to Him, with my newly acquired freedom—like a bird, winging its way upward! Once more, then, by faith and prayer, followers of them 'who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens;' followers also of them 'who through faith and patience inherit the promises.' Day by day, while I live, and work, and strive, and pray, I will say to myself, ' Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.' And oh, what a song will this be for the Israel of God, when the number of the elect is completed, and a second time the Redeemer shall come to Zion, ' without sin, unto salvation!' What an exact record this of the experience of the Church in all ages, and against all enemies, temporal and spiritual!
1. These three things will I bear on my heart, O Lord: 'The Lord iuas on our side,' this for the past; 'The snare is broken,' for the present; 'Our help is in the name of the Lord,' this for the future. I will not and I can not be fainthearted, whether in my contest with Satan, in my intercourse with the world, or in the upheavings of my wicked heart, so long as I hold this 'threefold cord' in my hand, or rather, am held by it.
2. What deliverances have / to record before the Lord? Let me review my past history, let me survey my present position, let me look forwards and upwards. Nothing but grace meets me everywhere; and wherever I be, Thou art still on my side, near me ; the snare is broken, Christ died, and rose again. Our help is in His name. Only let me cry, and He is at hand.
3. I cannot fail, I cannot fall. O grace, grace, grace—precious, free, sovereign, undeserved grace, to me, the vilest of sinners—what a debtor am I to thee, and what an almighty Helper art Thou, O Lord, to me!
The winds were howling o'er the deep,
Each wave a watery hill;
The Saviour waken'd from His sleep;
He spake, and all was still.
He call'd me in the time of dread,
When death was full in view;
I trembled on my feverish bed,
And rose to sin anew.
Yet, could I hear Him once again,
As I have heard of old,
Methinks He should not call in vain
His wanderer to the fold.
O Thou! that every thought canst know,
And answer every prayer,
O give me sickness, want, or woe;
But snatch me from despair!
My struggling will by grace control!
Renew my broken vow!
What blessed light breaks on my soul?
My God! I hear Thee now!