If It Had Not Been for the Lord!





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Published on Jul 8, 2012

The Pilgrim Psalms (5): If It Had Not Been for the Lord! (Psalm 124) by Rev. Angus Stewart
I. The Meaning
II. The Worship
John Calvin on Psalm 124:6-8 "... the faithful, purged from all false confidence, may betake themselves exclusively to his succour, and depending upon it, may fearlessly despise whatever Satan and the world may plot against them. The name of God is nothing else than God himself; yet it tacitly conveys a significant idea, implying that as he has disclosed to us his grace by his word, we have ready access to him, so that in seeking him we need not go to a distance, or follow long circuitous paths. Nor is it without cause that the Psalmist again honours God with the title of Creator. We know with what disquietude our minds are agitated till they have raised the power of God to its appropriate elevation, that, the whole world being put under, it alone may be pre-eminent; which cannot be the case unless we are persuaded that all things are subject to his will."
Our Order of Worship by Prof. Herman C. Hanko (Standard Bearer, vol. 61, issue 9)
With the many changes which are taking place in the worship services these days, the votum has been all but lost. Greater efforts are being made, in the interests of novelty and innovation, to make the worship services more informal ... The result is that many times worship services are begun in ways which seem strange and foreign, if not downright profane. Upon ascending the pulpit, the minister may greet the congregation with some such words as: "Good morning, everyone," to which the congregation responds. Or: "Good morning, God," with which greeting the congregation joins. Or: "Will everyone shake the hand of his neighbour?" followed by a lot of noise in the auditorium. What is forgotten is that the worship service is a solemn assembly in which the church of our Lord Jesus Christ meets with her God in the worship of covenant fellowship. It is not an informal gathering of people; it is not a picnic where people who know each other gather for some festivities; it is not even a business meeting or convocation of people who have come to discuss matters of mutual interest. The church gathers with her God in worship. And the solemnity and wonder of it ought to be retained ...
The salutation, at least in our circles, is usually the words, "Beloved in our Lord Jesus Christ," or "Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ." The votum usually used is: "Our help is in the name of the Lord Who made heaven and earth." The benediction follows upon this. The word "votum" comes from the Latin voveo, which means, "to vow, to pray to God for something." Apparently, the idea is not so much ... to consecrate or devote; rather the idea is to express dependence upon God at the very beginning of the worship.
This votum took on different forms in the history of the churches of the Reformation. Luther, in Germany, made no use of a votum at all. He usually began the worship services by announcing the singing of a song. A Lasco did the same. At Strassburg, where Calvin spent a few years between his two stays in Geneva, the German congregation began its services with the words, "In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen." Calvin, in the French church, used the same votum as we use. Although the Synod of Dordrecht in 1574 ruled that the votum used by Calvin ought to be used in the churches, this was not commonly done. Many different forms were used to begin the service. Sometimes the old formulas used in the Romish church prior to the Reformation were kept: the minister would begin with the words, "Peace be with you," to which the congregation would respond, "And with thy spirit." But gradually, in the Dutch churches, the form used by Calvin was more and more accepted, and that has remained true till today within those churches which have their roots in the Netherlands Reformation ...
The votum in use among us—"Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth"—is the last verse of Psalm 124 ... This "votum" in use in the churches must be taken in connection with the entire Psalm. Evidently, when Calvin introduced this in the French church in Strassburg, this meant a great deal more to the church then than it does to us now. The Reformation faced foes on every side: the pope with his armies of priests and prelates who hated the Reformed people with a single-minded passion; the armies of hostile world powers in Germany and France; the people, who, moved by Rome and their clerics, often took delight in doing what damage they could to the Reformation. The whole movement was in constant jeopardy from a human point of view. How significant it then was that the congregation, when it would come together, would confess before God that, though great and terrible dangers surrounded them, the Lord was on their side; they were escaped once again as a bird out of the snare; their help was in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

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