Weds 9 June - Psalm 129
1 ‘They have greatly oppressed me from my youth,’
let Israel say;
2 ‘they have greatly oppressed me from my youth,
but they have not gained the victory over me.
3 Ploughmen have ploughed my back
and made their furrows long.
4 But the Lord is righteous;
he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked.’
5 May all who hate Zion
be turned back in shame.
6 May they be like grass on the roof,
which withers before it can grow;
7 a reaper cannot fill his hands with it,
nor one who gathers fill his arms.
8 May those who pass by not say to them,
‘The blessing of the Lord be on you;
we bless you in the name of the Lord.’
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Meditation on Psalm 129
Each of these ‘songs of ascents’ begins with a prayer that reminds the Israelites of being a long way from home but each song ends with an encouragement to trust God and, ultimately to praise Him.
Derek Kidner comments: ‘whereas most nations tend to look back on what they have achieved, Israel reflects on what she has survived. It could be a disheartening exercise, for Zion still has its ill-wishers. But the singers take courage from the past, facing God with gratitude and their enemies with defiance.’
OPPRESSED BUT NOT BEATEN Verses 1-4
The Psalmist, speaking on behalf of the Israelites, uses the singular pronoun ‘me’, reminding us that they collectively were under attack.
There were times when the attacks they faced were because of their own sin and this was a pattern seen over their long history – ‘from my youth’
- Jeremiah 2:2-3 and then Verse 13. What happened? God’s people had gone their own way – just as we do.
The Psalmist uses the plural ‘they’ when referring to the nations who have oppressed them.
A quick run through history tells us that the Israelites were under fire from the Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, Syrians, Assyrians and Babylonians and they survived to tell the tale.
Later, the Jews have been under fire from the Greeks, Romans, the kings of Europe, Muslims, the Czars and Nazis and they still survive to tell the tale.
This is how the Psalmist describes the survival of the Israelites: ‘But they (the nations) have not gained the victory over me (the Israelites).’
Boice describes it as: ‘the Jews are the longest-enduring distinct ethnic group on the planet. They have been slandered, hated, persecuted, expelled, pursued and murdered throughout their long existence but they have survived intact.’
Isn’t this the same for the Church today? The people of God are under attack around the world. Whilst in the UK, persecution is not as severe as in other parts, yet, when our brothers and sisters suffer, we suffer. Bringing our Psalm into today, verse 1 could read, ‘they (the persecutors) oppressed ME (the people of God)’
But Jesus reminds us that He is building His Church and “the gates of hell will not overcome it.”
The oppression and afflictions suffered by the Israelites are likened to the pain of having a plough dragged across their backs, leaving deep furrows as evidence.
BUT… the LORD’s righteousness is steeped in His faithfulness towards His people and He will do what is right and He has and He will deliver us as He delivered the Israelites.
PRAYING AGAINST THE ATTACKERS Verses 5-8
Some great picture language in these verses - e.g. ‘like grass on the roof…’ speaks of grass on a sun baked roof which has no roots and therefore no harvest and, therefore, no more hatred against the people of God.
Some may read these prayers of anger and retribution as unbecoming.
Two commentators help us.
Boice: ‘It is striking how mild these prayers are. The Psalmist is not asking that those who have harmed Israel will be sent to hell, or even that they experience the same sufferings they have inflicted on others. He asks only that they and their designs might not prosper.
Spurgeon: ‘This contains within it no trace of personal ill-will. We desire their welfare as men, their downfall as traitors. Let their conspiracies be confounded, their policies turned back. How can we wish prosperity to those who would destroy that which is dearest to our hearts?’
Remember this: GOD IS STILL ON THE THRONE – Hallelujah!
Thursday 10 June - Psalm 130
Friday 11 June - Psalm 131
Saturday 12 June - Psalm 132
Sunday 13 June - Psalm 133
Monday 14 June - Psalm 134
Tuesday 15 June - Psalm 135