Psalms – Prayers of Honesty and Praise
Psalm 129, The Message
A Pilgrim Song
1-4 “They’ve kicked me around ever since I was young”
—this is how Israel tells it—
“They’ve kicked me around ever since I was young,
but they never could keep me down.
Their plowmen plowed long furrows
up and down my back;
Then God ripped the harnesses
of the evil plowmen to shreds.”
5-8 Oh, let all those who hate Zion
grovel in humiliation;
Let them be like grass in shallow ground
that withers before the harvest,
Before the farmhands can gather it in,
the harvesters get in the crop,
Before the neighbors have a chance to call out,
“Congratulations on your wonderful crop!
We bless you in God’s name!”
What We Need to Know…(Commentary, Warren Wiersbe)
The destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians was described by the prophets as “plowing” (vv. 3-4; Isa. 51:23; Mic. 3:12; Jer. 26:17-18), so this psalm was probably written after the exiles returned to the land. There they were surrounded by enemy peoples who hated them, so the theme was appropriate.
The psalmist speaks for the nation and states that, no matter how severe the persecution, nothing can destroy the people of Israel. But God’s church has also suffered severe persecution throughout the centuries, and faithful individual Christians face personal hostility. “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12 nkjv). The psalm gives three instructions that we should follow when we find ourselves suffering for Jesus Christ.
ACCEPT IT (vv. 1-2)
Israel has suffered more than any nation in history, yet Israel has not been destroyed!
Egypt tried to drown the Jews (Ex. 1:15-22), but the Lord drowned Egypt’s crack troops (Ex. 14:19-31). The Assyrians tried to starve them into surrender, but God wiped out the Assyrian army (Isa. 37–38). Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of Babylon, tried to burn them up, but the Lord delivered them (Dan. 3). Belshazzar blasphemed the God of Israel and defiled the holy vessels of the temple, but that very night, the Medes and Persians killed him. The Persian soothsayers tried to throw Daniel to the lions, but God rescued him, and the beasts killed the soothsayers instead (Dan. 6).
Hitler killed over six million Jews in his gas chambers, but he was soundly defeated, and the nation of Israel was born a few years later. The church of Jesus Christ has experienced persecution, but it still stands and will stand until Jesus returns (Matt. 16:18). Every true believer can identify with Paul’s testimony in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12. When it comes to suffering for the sake of the Lord, we must first of all accept it.
BENEFIT FROM IT (vv. 3-4)
As you read these verses, you can almost feel the sharp cutting edges of the plow. Their enemies treated Israel like dirt and walked on them! (See Josh. 10:24; Isa. 51:23.) Some students see in the plowing image a picture of prisoners being whipped, leaving long, deep gashes on their backs. If that is a part of the picture, then our Lord endured the same suffering–and yet His stripes bring spiritual healing to those who trust Him (Isa. 50:6; 53:5)!
The nation of Israel has been plowed long, deep, and often, but what a harvest of blessing it has brought to the world! The day came when God cut the cords that tied the oxen to the plow, and then Israel was free (see 124:7). The exiles returned to their homes wiser and better people because they had felt the pain of the plow. Instead of blaming God for their suffering, they confessed, “The Lord is righteous.”
The plowing image is a good one for believers today, for it reminds us that there can be a glorious harvest, but it depends on the seeds that we plant. Of itself, suffering does not produce blessing. If we plant seeds of hatred and resentment, then suffering will produce bitterness. But if we plant faith, hope, love, and the precious promises of the Word, then the harvest will bless us and help others, and it will bring glory to God. (See 1 Peter 4:12-19.) God permits people to treat us like dirt, and we must accept it, but we have the privilege of transforming it by the grace of God into character that honors the Lord.
COMMIT TO THE LORD (vv. 5-8)
The harvest image continues, but moves from the fields to the housetops. Roofs were flat and usually composed of a mixture of mud and mortar, wood, and thatching. It would be easy for wind-blown seeds to settle on the roofs, take root in the shallow soil, grow quickly, but not last. Jesus used this image in His parable about the sower (Matt. 13:5-6, 20-21). Where there has been no plowing, you will not get much of a harvest.
The psalmist prayed that those who hated Zion would perish quickly like the useless grass on the roof. But why would anybody want to hate the Jews? Is this hatred born of envy? The most logical answer is that Satan hates Israel and has always been at war with her (see Rev. 12). Satan is also at war with the church (John 15:18-25; 17:14; 1 John 3:13).
Jewish harvesters often blessed one another as they worked in the fields (Ruth 2:4), but no blessing would be given to Israel’s enemies, for they were rebelling against the God of Israel. First, these enemies would be turned back in disgrace because they could not eradicate Israel, then they would wither away, and finally they would be mowed down and used for fuel. But the people of Israel can always say to the world, “We bless you in the name of the Lord,” because Israel has brought to the world the knowledge of the true and living God, the Scriptures, and the Savior. “Salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22).
When people treat you like dirt because you belong to Jesus, remember the ABCs of this psalm: accept it, benefit from it, commit it to the Lord.
FROM THE HEART…
How hard is it to bless those who persecute us? How should believers respond to unbelievers’ taunts?
How can we benefit from suffering?
Dear Heavenly Father,
We love you with all our heart, mind and soul. We know many do not love you back as you love us. Lord, it’s hard to love and bless our enemies. We realize our true enemy is satan who seeks to destroy our relationship with You. We will be on guard for this evil. With your help we will stay true to You and what we know to be Truth. Our benefit in suffering is knowing you more and more while feeling your Presence with us and knowing the suffering will only last for a little while until you come for us all on that glorious day. In the meantime, I’m yours, Lord. I’ll go where You lead.
In Jesus Name, Amen