A song of ascents.
‘They have greatly oppressed me from my youth,’
let Israel say;
‘they have greatly oppressed me from my youth,
but they have not gained the victory over me.
Ploughmen have ploughed my back
and made their furrows long.
But the Lord is righteous;
he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked.’
May all who hate Zion(Ps. 129:1-8 NIV)
be turned back in shame.
May they be like grass on the roof,
which withers before it can grow;
a reaper cannot fill his hands with it,
nor one who gathers fill his arms.
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.’
Most people tend to look back on what they have achieved, but the OT church reflects here on what they have survived. It could be a disheartening exercise, for the church still has those who would do them harm. But the worshippers take courage from the past, they worship God with gratitude and their enemies with defiance.
The church has been greatly oppressed but not destroyed. From youth, at the time of the Exodus, they had been oppressed, but the final victory remained with the Lord’s people. Now, at this time, the church can say that many times they have been oppressed but the enemies have never gained the victory over God’s people.
The enemy has always been on the backs of the people like ploughmen ploughing long furrows.
The psalmist presented this as the testimony of God’s people. The covenant descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have endured unique and evil affliction throughout their history. The number of times that they have been oppressed, and the names of the oppressors, have not been given, because there have been so many times and so many enemies.
The chief accomplishment of the OT people of God has been survival. They have been preserved by God because from the tribe of Judah the Saviour was to come. The enemies have not prevailed against the church because the line of the descent of Christ would be maintained by the covenant keeping God. Satan did his best to disrupt the family line because he knew that defeat lay up ahead when the seed of the woman would come to crush his head. (Gen 3:15)
Looking backwards into history can be a ground of hope. Those who have passed unscathed through such oppressions can know that any tomorrow shall be as the yesterdays were, and that all future assaults will fail as all past ones have failed. In a New Covenant context, we can be confident in Jesus’ promise that the strategies of hell will never prevail against His church (Matthew 16:18). The Church is invincible, the Church shall stand firm, because it is founded on the Rock of Ages.
The ploughers ploughing is a vivid picture of suffering and subjugation, being utterly laid low before one’s foes. The afflicted people of God were lashed by their enemies so cruelly that each blow left its mark, or perhaps a bleeding wound, upon their back and shoulders, comparable to a furrow which tears up the ground from one end of the field to the other.
The covenant LORD is righteous and He has cut His people free from the cords of the wicked. The LORD is righteous and has promised to preserve His covenant people, and His faithfulness in delivering them is a demonstration of His righteousness. The fact that the LORD is righteous means He has and will keep His promises.
A time of judgement is coming for the enemies of the Lord’s people. The Psalmist prays in that judgement as we do today when we pray ‘Your Kingdom come.’ The Psalmist prayed that not only would the Israelites be delivered from their enemies, but that God would also apply His righteousness to their enemies. They should be shamed and turned back. There burns a divine anger with all that is opposed to the purpose and plan of God. To hate the church is to hate God. To tolerate those who do so, is to be confederate with their wickedness.
The wicked were to be like grass planted on the roof. It produces no harvest. It appears and threatens for a little while but then it is gone. Today God’s people are rooted and grounded in Christ, but her enemies have no foundation at all.
The Psalmist prayed that these enemies would not enjoy the blessing of the LORD upon them. He prayed that the harvest work would never be completed for these enemies.
The blessing of God is the greatest thing any human life can enjoy, giving goodness to every aspect of life. The Psalmist prayed that none of this goodness would be given to those who hated God’s people.
Lord we thank You that the church in the OT was preserved, and that through that OT church You brought forth Jesus Christ. We thank You that You continue to preserve Your people and that Christ has promised to build the church. Lord we pray Your Kingdom come. Bring in that Kingdom through the works of our hands as we look to Christ to give us strength. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.