Eugene Peterson on Psalm 124

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“If it had not been the LORD who was on our side— let Israel now say— if it had not been the LORD who was on our side when people rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us; then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us; then over us would have gone the raging waters. Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth! We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped! Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”
(Psalm 124, ESV)

There is no literature in all the world that is more true to life and more honest than Psalms, for here we have warts-and-all religion. Every skeptical thought, every disappointing venture, every pain, every despair that we can face is lived through and integrated into a personal, saving relationship with God–a relationship that also has in it acts of praise, blessing, peace, security, trust and love.

Good poetry survives not when it is pretty or beautiful or nice but when it is true: accurate and honest. The psalms are great poetry and have lasted not because they appeal to our fantasies and our wishes but because they are confirmed in the intensities of honest and hazardous living. Psalm 124 is not a selected witness, inserted like a commercial into our lives to testify that life goes better with God; it is not part of a media blitz to convince us that God is superior to all the other gods on the market. It is not a press release. It is honest prayer.

– Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society (InterVarsity Press, 2000). 75.

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