This is an excerpt from my book Napping In Delilah’s Nap – The Pandemic of Pornography in the Pew and the Pulpit, to be released March 2021. Be warned that it connotes graphic, potentially disturbing contents of sexual and other abuse. Reader discretion advised. Post may refer to unfamiliar terms developed elsewhere in the book.
For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth.
From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
I will ever praise you.
I have become a sign to many; you are my strong refuge.
My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long.
In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me; turn your ear to me and save me
(Psalm 71:5-8, 1).
Why did you survive the adversity you lived through? How did you do it? Psalm 124 peels back the curtain and shows you a classified behind-the-scenes look. Be warned that this is a sensitive chapter that may evoke visceral reactions in the reader by revisiting trauma. I’ll hold your hand through it but it is imperative that you read through this prayerfully. In the scripture below, we will dig through the meaning of words that may astound you. Take a deep breath and come with me.
A song of ascents. Of David.
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,
Then they would have swallowed us alive, when their wrath was kindled against us;
Then the waters would have overwhelmed us, the stream would have gone over our soul;
Then the swollen waters would have gone over our soul.”
Blessed be the Lord, who has not given us as prey to their teeth.
Our soul has escaped as 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
There are fifteen songs of ascent – Psalms 120-134. They are a collection of short, pithy psalms, fraught with repeated formulaic phrases that make them rhythmic and memorable. They employ a literary technic called anaphora whereby phrases are repeated, as we shall study. They were sung or recited during an ascension and indicate a change in elevation, a journey to a higher place. They may have been used by pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem or may have been chanted by worshippers ascending the fifteen steps to the Temple in Jerusalem. Biblically, the number fifteen is symbolic of healing, rest, and restoration after deliverance. “This number symbolizes acts wrought by the energy of divine grace.”1
The subjects of Psalm 124 had survived a significant assault. They were commiserating about it and marveling at God’s role in their survival. Jehovah was at their side through their experience. In your case, it may be childhood or adulthood trauma. It may be past or ongoing. As he was with them, Jehovah was and is at your side during every moment of your traumatic experience. Moreover, not only was he at their side, he was on their side. He had to choose sides and he sided with them. In the same way, God was not only at your side, be he chose to be on your side. Jehovah was with them and today he is Emmanuel, God with us.
Verse two identifies some entity who “rose up” against you. That term paints a scenario of someone coming on the scene, and making a stand against you. This may have been someone who should have stood up for you and defended you. Yet he or she chose to satisfy his or her selfish desires before considering you and your needs. This person or system gained and maintained power over you in an imposing way. In the previous chapter we studied Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) which include neglect (emotional and physical); abuse (psychological, physical, and sexual); and household dysfunction (children growing up in a home where there is mental illness, violence against the mother, separation/divorce, incarceration, and substance abuse).
We will explore several lies that traumatic experiences can cement in the victim’s mind. One has to do with time. Verse one above says, “Let Israel now say,” whereas verses three, four, and five begin with the word then, a classic example of anaphora. Here, scripture makes a distinction in time. We know that in the spirit realm time and space are immaterial. Nevertheless, adverse experiences occur in real space and in real time. Many victims of trauma get stuck in the place and time of their trauma. No matter how much time has passed, their current speech, demeanor, outlook, and behavior betray that they are still very present in the moment of assault.
Note that as long as one remains ensnared in past trauma, the perpetrator remains successful in his or her goals. Three times, Emmanuel is inviting you to distinguish between then and now, Christian. Ask for his help in moving forward away from that space and time. Hear this: healing entails experiencing a separation between the then and the now. It entails a change in elevation from that miry bog to the solid ground of a sound, restored mind. May your life resonate with the songs of ascension as you ascend to a place that is higher than that valley of death.
A second lie the enemy tells is that the intentions of the offender became our reality. It is imperative that we identify and distinguish between two important factors: the intention of the offender versus what actually happened. Failure to do so results in muddying the waters of our thinking and also results in one remaining stuck in the trauma. See Table iv. below.
Table iv. Intentions vs. Reality
|To “swallow you alive.”|
For the waters to overwhelm you/ For the stream or proud/swollen waters to “go over” our soul
|They “rose up” against you. Their “wrath” was “kindled” against you|
Let’s break down the intentions of the enemy. To “swallow one alive” (Hebrew bala)2 is to eat up, to devour, to destroy them. It is to spend, to squander, and to use them up. The devil’s intention is that when this offender (whether an individual, an institution, or a way of thinking) was done with you, you would only be good for garbage pickup. The psalm says the “waters” would have “overwhelmed” you. This scene is pumping with adrenaline and rife with real threats.
“Waters” (Hebrew mayim) are symbolic of danger and violence. They refer to a body of water that bursts its banks and causes destruction. Note the tie in with the entity which “rose up” against you – they overflowed their prescribed capacity. They overstepped their bounds. They did not confine themselves to their defined path but instead used their power inappropriately, to your detriment. The “proud” (Hebrew zeydon) waters indicate churning, raging, turbulence, and insolence. They are out of control and wreaking havoc in their wake. To bring it home painfully for some of you, precious readers, biblically, “waters” also refer to the bodily fluids of urine or semen.
To “overwhelm” (Hebrew shataph) means to engulf, overflow, wash off, gush, or inundate. By analogy, they aimed to conquer you, drown you, to wash you away. In order for them to “rise up,” they had to have come from a place lower in elevation. They come up, snatch you, and take you back down to the depths with them. The goal would be to suck you under and cause you to disappear from the face of the earth. The stream would have “gone over” (Hebrew abar) meaning to pass over or through you, engulfing you. The theme of abuse in general, and sexual abuse in particular, continues here as, figuratively in the Hebrew, this term means to cover in copulation, to impregnate.
Your offender came at you with his or her wrath kindled against you to consume you. The word “wrath” (Hebrew aph) is a picture of impassioned, rapid breathing. “Kindled” (Heb. charah) means to be hot, furious, incensed, burning. Figuratively, it entails blazing or flaring up against you. Visualize flames rising and licking the meat on your BBQ. These flames can impregnate the meat with a charred taste and even ruin the cut. You were to be charred, disfigured, ruined, left as a pile of ashes.
My heart goes out in anguish to every single person that has had the body of another smother them sexually in the graphic ways described by these words. Please hear and believe that this horrific act was not your fault. There is absolutely no reason for a human being to impose him or herself on another in this way. This also applies to you being forced to do perform sexual acts against your will, even if the person did not touch you physically. God carefully chose the graphic words used here to describe the atrocities done because that’s how seriously he sees them. He doesn’t downplay what happened to you.
The psalm identifies where the punch is taken – the soul. The impact of these forms of adversity can span the spectrum from, at the very least, slightly charring the soul, as a flame-licked piece of meat; to, at the worst, destroying it. Your soul (Hebrew nephesh) is the core of who you are, your living, breathing self. It is your inner being. I remember it by the acronym A.M.P.E.D with a W thrown in at the beginning – WAMPED. It is the center of, or entails the activity of your: Will, Appetites, Mind, Passions, Emotions, and Desires. Note how closely intertwined it is with the heart, as we studied in the previous chapter. Needless to say, different people emerge from the storm in various stages of damage to these six aspects that comprise the soul – some just wet, and others a moldy, damaged mess.
The Psalm calls us to bless (Hebrew barak) Jehovah. This is an invitation to acknowledge him. We are to thank and praise him because had he not risen up for us, the enemy’s intentions would have become our reality. Many people ask, “Where was God when xyz happened to me?” He was right there. Had he not been on our side, you and I would have been utterly destroyed. Had he not been at your side, we would not be here having this conversation. He has not “given us” (Hebrew Nathan) over to the intentions of the enemy. He didn’t deliver us up or permit the destroyer to have his way with us, despite how far the latter went. The enemy did not have permission to do what he did and his intentions were cut short.
Have you any idea how many snares have been set for your soul that you weren’t even aware of? I attended Catholic school and was taught that in heaven we will review our lives as on a video. I hope that’s true. If so, it’ll blow our minds to see what we were saved from when the fowler (Hebrew yaqosh) lured, set a snare or devised plans against us! As for the traps and plots that we did get caught in, because Jehovah was on our side, we escaped (Hebrew malat). That simple word means that we slipped away and were delivered, saved, released, rescued. We got to leap out and be preserved speedily and surely. Here is the exciting part, this wasn’t a quiet, simple escape.
The psalmist says the snare has been broken (Hebrew shabar). Hear this – anyone coming upon the snare would be gob-smacked and gasp, “What happened here?” That’s because that mangled mess was unidentifiable. This reminds me of an exciting day in our boys’ lives when a microwave we owned finally died and they asked permission to beat it up. To my dismay and their utter surprise, my husband allowed them to. They looked at each other in slow motion with huge eyes and jaws dropping in testosterone-driven anticipation. They were allowed to use whatever they wanted on it. By the time I walked up to its sorry remains at the end of their barrage, all I could say was, “What happened here?” What Shabar actually means is that your God went ballistic on that trap. He rent it violently. He wrecked, crushed, and maimed it. He shattered it in pieces and destroyed it beyond recognition. Hallelujah!
“They have greatly oppressed me from my youth,”
let Israel say;
“they have greatly oppressed me from my youth,
but they have not gained the victory over me”
(Psalm 129:1,2, emphasis added).
Indeed, you are victorious because God is your help (Hebrew ezer). He is your aid and your succor. Remember the word beset which means to enfold? Ezer is synonymous. It means he surrounds you. Earlier, I explained that the number fifteen symbolizes acts wrought by the energy of divine grace. His grace is a SWAT team that hems you in as it comes to rescue you. SWAT stands for Special Weapons and Tactics. This branch of law enforcement is unleashed to combat critical incidents that pose a threat to safety and that supersede the capacity of regular police forces. They are specially trained and equipped to use high-powered armor and other specialized equipment my boys would like to get their hands on and use against a dead microwave.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it
(Psalm 139:5, NKJV).
Because of what God has done, I can sing a song of ascents as I journey to a higher place.
Arise, my soul, and sing his praises!
(Psalm 108:2, TPT)
Take new joy in the words of the hymn Amazing Grace and bless him as you sing,
Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come.
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.3
Image retrieved 1/25/2021, from https://th.bing.com/th/id/OIP.xm-MLY9t9ADx3aPZgmy05wHaE8?w=219&h=180&c=7&o=5&dpr=1.5&pid=1.7