Psalm 129 A song of ascents. (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) Plowmen have plowed 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." NIV
Psalm 129 is the tenth of fifteen psalms referred to as Song of Ascents (or Pilgrim Psalms, Song of Degrees, Song of Steps, Gradual Psalms). The Song of Ascents were traditionally sung by Jewish pilgrims as they made their way into Jerusalem for the three annual festivals as required by God in the Old Testament:
Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles. No one should appear before the LORD empty-handed. Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you. Deuteronomy 16:16-17 NIV
The Festival of Unleavened Bread is the week of Passover and celebrates the Israelite’s freedom from slavery in Egypt. The Festival of Weeks or Shavout is a celebration of the grain harvest or first fruits, and then later, Pentecost. The Festival of Tabernacles or also called the Festival of Booths, Sukkot, is a remembrance of the forty years of wandering in the wilderness (and living in “booths”), a festival of gratitude and thanks.
Psalm 129 is titled Song of Victory over Zion’s Enemies. Song of Ascents (NKJV); They Have Afflicted Me from My Youth. A Song of Ascents (ESV); Prayer for the Overthrow of Zion’s Enemies. A Song of Ascents (NASB); and A Prayer Against the Enemies. A song for going up to worship (ICB), among others.
From my earliest youth my enemies have persecuted me. Let all Israel repeat this: from my earliest youth my enemies have persecuted me, but they have never defeated me. My back is covered with cuts, as if a farmer had plowed long furrows. But the LORD is good; he has cut me free from the ropes of the ungodly. Psalm 129:1-4 NLT "Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth," Let Israel now say- "Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth; yet they have not prevailed against me. The plowers plowed on my back; they made their furrows long." The LORD is righteous; He has cut in pieces the cords of the wicked. Psalm 129:1-4 NKJV
Many a time from my earliest youth they have afflicted me. Bible scholars believe “from my youth” refers to the time of captivity in Egypt, a time when the nation of Israel was young, just beginning to develop into the people group that we know have now stood the test of time. The psalmist’s voice speaks “I” and “me” speaking as the Israelite people as a whole. He calls to remembrance persecution, captivity, and slavery throughout the peoples’ history.
There is something amazing about God’s faithfulness and the remembrance thereof. When we find ourselves worried or uncertain, the best thing to do is to remember God’s faithfulness. If He was faithful before, why wouldn’t He be again? God walks with His children throughout time. It’s proven. He is reliable, steadfast, and always, always good. The Bible is filled with these stories.
There is a reason God tells His children to “remember” and to “tell your children and grandchildren.” Remembering God’s faithfulness brings us hope, security, and peace.
In Psalm 129, the author does the same. Many times our enemies afflicted us, BUT they have not prevailed.
We may have “furrows” on our back/scars from beatings in our skin, but God has always rescued us.
In her [Israel’s] present hour of trial she may remember her former afflictions and speak of them for her comfort, drawing from them the assurance that he who has been with her for so long will not desert her in the end.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
The statement is repeated twice for emphasis, and rightfully so. Th Egyptians, 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.Pastor David Guzik, http://www.enduringword.com
But the LORD is good (NLT). But the LORD is righteous (NIV). But the LORD does what is right (ICB).
Praise the Lord for His faithfulness. Praise the Lord for His goodness, throughout time and even now. God was faithful. He is faithful. He will be faithful.
May all who hate Jerusalem be turned back in shameful defeat. May they be as useless as grass on a rooftop, turning yellow when only half grown, ignored by the harvester, despised by the binder. And may those who pass by refuse to them this blessing: The LORD bless you; we bless you in the LORD's name." Psalm 129:5-8 NLT Let those who hate Jerusalem be turned back in shame. Let them be like the grass on the roof. It dries up before it has grown. There is not enough of it to fill a man's hand or to make into a bundle to fill his arms. Let those who pass by them not say, "May the Lord bless you. We bless you by the power of the Lord." Psalm 129:5-8 ICB
Many, throughout time and even now, seek the destruction of the church and of God’s children. Even today. And not just in Jerusalem. We see this today as Christians. That all we believe is under attack. Satan would see the complete destruction of all that God is and loves. But he will not win.
We know how God’s story ends. What a wonderful heavenly Father we have that He would tell us the ending of the story so that we always have the hope of it to hold on to.
Even then, the psalmist prayed for the same. That all who seek to destroy Jerusalem be defeated, shamed, despised, and refused.
The Lord is righteous: God promised to preserve His covenant people of Israel, 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 to Israel.Pastor David Guzik, http://www.enduringword.com
The psalmist ends Psalm 129 with the prayer that those who pass by the wicked will not say, “it was the Lord that blessed you” or “may the Lord bless you.” In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus said similar words when sending the Twelve out into the world to spread His Good News:
Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Matthew 10:11-14 NIV
But the Good News is truly that for believers, God’s face is upon us. His blessings rain down. His goodness lasts forever. And that despite the evil in the world, God is good. God is faithful.
And He has told us the end to this story. Hope.
The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26 NIV
Father in heaven, thank you for your Word. Thank you that it is filled with your love and faithfulness. Give us strength to face the day. Give us love for our families and our neighbors. Help us to shake the dust off our feet if needed today. We love you and we praise you today. Amen.