This psalm was written by David to celebrate a communal deliverance rather than a personal one. There are several lessons that can be taken from this psalm as we consider the state of God’s cause today.
Firstly, we should realise the fierceness of the enemies of God’s people. David gives vivid descriptions of his foes: wild animals, overwhelming storms, raging torrents. These descriptions illustrate what these enemies want – the utter destruction of the church. We are not facing enemies that are going to show compassion because we are weak. This is a reminder of the reality of spiritual warfare. God has given us armour to wear for our protection (Eph. 6:11-20), and if we don’t have it on, we will be wounded.
Secondly, we should not judge a situation by appearances. It is common for us to hear and say that the church is weak today, with the impression being given that in the past it was not weak. But the church has always been weak; the difference between the church of the past and the church of today is that God came and delivered his church in the past and he has not yet come and delivered today’s church. As we look at the situation today, we are to view it in the light of God’s character, particularly his promises to bless sinners, and of his power.
Thirdly, the psalm shows that deliverance from God may not come until we are at our wit’s end. The Israelites were facing imminent destruction in the face; they had no way of escape. Today in our country the church is facing a struggle for existence. Yet there is little evidence of desperation among Christians, a desperation that would cause them to wrestle with God to come and give prosperity to his church. It is a healthy spiritual sign when believers are at their wit’s end because then they will be forced to their knees.
Fourthly, the psalm tells us that during the onslaught we have to remain at our posts and not run away. David and his men lined up for the battle even although the enemy looked more powerful than they. The same is required of us. We have to make it clear that we are on the Lord’s side.
Fifthly, when deliverance comes, God should get all the glory. In the psalm, he is praised for setting the people free. It was not David’s military skills that brought it about (although the Lord may have used him in the process of deliverance), and he is careful to say that the glory should be given to God. The Lord alone is their help and in his name is all their confidence.
Sixthly, when God delivers, he often delivers completely. This is depicted in the illustration of the bird escaping from a trap. Their release was one that both showed their weakness and the Lord’s power. They were unable to contribute anything to their rescue, it was all the Lord’s doing. But it was an effective deliverance. They were given total freedom from these enemies.
Until that happens, we should imitate these pilgrims and continue to gather in our Jerusalem. We should not dishonour the church of Christ just because it seems to be weak. Nor should we dishonour the God who has the power and wisdom to being about miraculous change.