Opposed but still going
Psalm 129 (NIV)
1 A song of ascents.
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 with it the reaper cannot fill his hands, nor the one who gathers fill his arms. 8 May those who pass by not say, “The blessing of the LORD be upon you; we bless you in the name of the LORD.”
Psalm 129 – Opposed but still going
(Verses 1-3) Israel suffered much at the hands of other nations. This included their slavery in Egypt during four hundred years there, and seventy years of captivity in Babylon. At other times they were often attacked and oppressed by other nations. The long furrows on their ploughed back, may point to the flogging some received, as Jesus did before He was crucified. Israel demonstrates how God acts and applies His principles in changed situations. Israel nationally also pictures spiritually an individual Christian. A Christian is a child of God who also has trials and temptations. He loses some and wins others, depending on how close he lives to Christ and the truths of the Bible. But just as Israel can say, ‘they have not prevailed against me’, because God is on their side, so each Christian can say that Christ enables him to stand in temptation and persecution. Paul said, ‘I can do everything through Him [Jesus] who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13). All this is possible only by God’s grace and strength. We can never succeed spiritually unless we keep ‘short accounts’ with God over our sins. That means we confess and forsake our sins as soon as we are aware of them. We also must cultivate our relationship with Christ daily through personal Bible study, prayer, fellowship regularly with other Christians, and each Sunday keeping the Lord’s Day to worship Him and hear His word preached.
(Verse 4) When Israel was bound, enslaved and in captivity, God got them out! They did not stay in Egypt as slaves. In their exodus from Egypt, God’s almighty hand delivered them with great power. They did return from Babylonian captivity, even if in three waves. They did resist, overcome, or recover from others’ attacks. So today, God’s promises to Christians include Romans 6:14, ‘For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace’, and 1 Corinthians 10:13, ‘No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it’. God will, either keep you out of temptation or give you the strength to overcome it.
(Verses 5-8) The psalmist’s prayer for God to deal physically with its physical enemies who hate Zion and God’s worshippers there, has three parts to it: first, may they ‘be turned back in shame’; second, may they be unproductive and unsuccessful (grass growing on a roof cannot be compared with crops growing in a field, and there can be no reaping or harvest there); and third, may they know what it feels like to have no blessing from God and no-one to wish it upon them. At harvest there was a regular greeting of blessing between people, as you can see between Boaz and his workers in Ruth 2:4. No harvest means no harvest blessing. But we should pray to seek God’s mercy and grace on those who oppose us, so that they will be converted to Christ. It could well be that they have first to taste some negatives, like the three in the prayer we looked at, before they will call on the Lord to save them. Meanwhile, pray for them.