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 our enemies attacked us, then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us;
Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
(Psalm 124:1-3, 8)
The Power of a Lie
The chaos in our nation’s capital yesterday once again revealed the power of a lie. Thousands of rioters—motivated by unsubstantiated claims that our election had been stolen, and urged along by the incendiary words and wishes of a man they chose to trust—descended upon our capital building with the goal of undermining the Electoral College vote process. The fact that they did not succeed—the fact that the mayhem was brought under control and order was restored—does not diminish the severity or symbolism of their lawlessness. Lies have power.
According to researchers at MIT, lies might have even seem to have more power that the truth! Their research shows that false information spreads faster and is more quickly believed than truth. But even more unsettling, studies also show that lies can be more motivating. Part of the power of a lie is that it can move people to action—even actions that they might not otherwise take.
Psalm 124 is a song that celebrates truth. At first glance, it might look like another victory celebration, but it’s really a song of deliverance. What’s the difference, you ask? Well, there is no indication that the enemy here was actually defeated, and certainly no suggestion that God’s people had accomplished anything. In fact, God’s people barely escaped with their lives, “Like a bird from the snare of the fowler” (vs. 7). Instead of claiming victory over his enemies, the psalmist acknowledges that the threat remains; instead of proudly crowing about his accomplishments, he humbly regards his own weakness. And above all, in light of that dark reality, he gives all the honor and glory to God, “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (vs. 8).
The songwriter celebrates the truth. It is the Lord who delivers us—and it is ONLY the Lord who can. While some English translations of this psalm render the first verse, “If the Lord had not been on our side,” it is more accurately translated, “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side.” Did you catch the subtle difference in emphasis? The Lord was on our side, yes, but if it had been anyone or anything else…we would have been swallowed up alive.
Not only is it true that we can we put our trust in this great God who saves, but it is equally true that we cannot place our trust in anything else—not our kings or armies…not our eloquence or wisdom…not our wealth or power. Ultimately, it matters little which alternate Savior we might choose to trust. A demagogue in the White House is not able to deliver us, but neither is a Constitutional process on Capitol Hill. Our only help, and hope, is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
When Jesus walked this earth, he never once encouraged violence, rebellion or insurrection. And we should denounce and distance ourselves from those things as well. The idea that our elections are rigged and our institutions and elected officials are engaged in some grand conspiracy to cover it up is a lie. Don’t believe it for a minute…and certainly don’t let it dominate your thoughts or motivate your actions. But the other lie is equally dangerous. Don’t believe that even the best government, laws or policies can ultimately bring real deliverance to the world. Instead, pursue justice and peace, and put your trust and hope in the only real Truth (John 14:6). Believe in Him, spread that Truth, let Him motivate you into actions you never dreamed possible.
Yes, truth is more powerful than lies. And real Truth has a name—Jesus. Don’t be distracted, don’t be deceived. And always stay thirsty for him!