What if? These two words can prove exciting or frightening, depending on their context, what follows, and our reaction to those words. What if Hitler had not invaded the Soviet Union? What if someone else won the election of ________? What if modern medicine had not existed for that surgery? What if I had bought stock in Apple in 1997? What if? It can change everything. Sometimes we consider this and grow melancholy while contemplating missed opportunities. At other times we might realize just how blessed our lives have been. However, far too rarely do we consider this question spiritually. Among the section in Psalms containing a series known as Songs of Ascents, Psalm 124 draws attention to this very question.
If we accept the attribution of the psalm to David, the circumstance most likely in view occurred early during that great king’s reign when the Philistines were still Israel’s major nemesis. After the end of the civil war and the consolidation of the tribes into a united kingdom, David took Jerusalem and established himself in what became known as the City of David (2 Sam. 5:1-12). The Philistines recognized the danger of their position with their most formidable foe in power and deployed an army in the Valley of Rephaim (2 Sam. 5:18). David asked the LORD what to do, and the LORD promised to deliver them into his hand which He subsequently did (2 Sam. 5:19-25). But that brings us back to the psalm which begins, “‘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 men rose up against us…’” (Psa. 124:1-2). What if? What if the LORD had not been on their side? That is the point of the psalm as the verses that follow make clear. The outcome would have been completely different. They would have lost the battle. They would have been overwhelmed by water. They would have died as in a flood (Psa. 124:3-5; 2 Sam. 5:20). But the LORD provided protection from the enemy, escape from the clutches of a dangerous foe (Psa. 124:6-7). The Creator of the universe made Himself available to help those who served Him (Psa. 124:8). The sublime beauty described by such care astounds. And it once more causes us to consider the opening thought: What if?
What if God did not care for mankind to the extent He has demonstrated from the time of creation? What if God had never communicated His will to His creation? What if God left man to fight Satan on his own? What if God never sent His Son to die on the cross? What if? God has proven Himself so consistent in providing for man’s most important and desperate needs that men take them for granted. As a result, they only tend to question God when they encounter some problem for which they wish God’s intervention instead of appreciating all that He has already done and promised to do. So, what if we spent less time complaining and more time giving thanks? What if we opposed God less and obeyed God more? What if we valued our own opinions less and God’s Word more? What if we dropped our pride completely and embraced truth entirely? What if? It is amazing how different life is depending on whether you seek God’s will first or try to live life on your own. How good could your life be if you just followed God’s will? What if?