A devotional of Psalm 129
1 “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth”— let Israel now say—
2 “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me.
What a statement of valor. It is one thing to acknowledge what others have malevolently done to you and quite another to finish the sentence triumphantly by stating that they have not prevailed against you. In our study of Psalm 124 we saw that the overpowering party had numerous plans for your destruction but with the Lord’s protection, no matter what they did to you, they did not consume and destroy you. Reread that passage if you missed that crucial point.
Israel’s experience in Egypt is called “her youth.” Yet it is safe to say that even before that nation came about she was threatened with non-existence as shown in her delay in being birthed – in Abraham’s story. Once born, Guzik notes that “the Canaanites, the Philistines, the Syrians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Roman Catholics, the kings of Europe, the Muslims, the Czars, and the Nazis all have done their best to wipe out the Jews. Yet they remain.”
In poetic repetition, the psalmist masterfully stresses the duress that this small nation of survivors has endured. My good friend Spurgeon says, “she makes a sonnet out of her sorrows, music out of her miseries.” We saw this melodious repetition in Psalm 124:1, 2, “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 people rose up against us…” Many nations boast of great conquests, but this little band is marked by the miracle of her very survival. That ought to bring music to our lips and dance to our step
Theologian Maclaren teaches, “The right use of retrospect is to make it the ground of hope.” What fertile seed is affliction for showing us that when we walk in the shadow of the valley, we have a mighty deliverer. That feeds our memory bank so that next time we encounter adversity, we know that he has a record of coming through for his beloved. In the words of John Newton, “through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come. Tis’ grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” Hallel Jah!
3 The plowers plowed upon my back; they made long their furrows.”
What dread to be splayed out while laid low? What harrowing dismay to experience the unforgiving plow digging up the flesh from one end to the other with the brutal lash of the whip? It is reminiscent of Jesus’ passion experience.
4 The Lord is righteous; he has cut the cords of the wicked.
God is righteous and man is not. God is right and correct and man is not. So, Paul can say with authority, “Let God be true, and every human being a liar. As it is written: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge,” Romans 3:4. Cords were various branches intertwined to strengthen them, so they held fast. The cords of the wicked he will merely run through the chopper. They will be as effective as unplugging a machine in the middle of a job.
5 May all who hate Zion be put to shame and turned backward!
Theologian Morgan taught, “To hate Zion is to hate God. To tolerate those who do so, is to be confederate with their wickedness.” To which Spurgeon adds, this is “…a proper wish, and 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 be turned back.
6 Let them be like the grass on the housetops, which withers before it grows up,
7 with which the reaper does not fill his hand nor the binder of sheaves his arms,
Despite the deep furrows they dug in Israel’s back, her enemies have shallow roots which though the current season is lush and accommodating, the very next will burn them up and they’ll have nothing to show for all their furor. They will come to nothing. They will soon be a memory that even their place will not remember.
8 nor do those who pass by say, “The blessing of the Lord be upon you! We bless you in the name of the Lord!”
This is the richest wealth you can impart upon anyone. May it continuously flow from your mouth towards those that love the Lord and those that do not. Be a blesser and not a cursor. Use these words repeatedly today, tomorrow, and henceforth.