Have patience

Psalm 129 is another of the Song of Ascents (Psalms 120-134) sung by pilgrims on their journey to Jerusalem.

Israel was a nation familiar with oppression. This Psalm looks back with thankfulness to the way God had delivered both they and their fathers out of the many distresses they had been in (v. 1-4). Hundreds of years of the bitter suffering experienced by the nation are condensed into these four verses.

Israel had been downtrodden from its youth beneath the feet of Egyptians, Moabites, Mesopotamians, Canaanites, Ammonites, Philistines, Syrians, Assyrians, and Babylonians. The violence perpetrated against Israel is projected in the metaphor of furrows of the ploughman on the backs of the nation (v3).

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The secret of how the nation could endure suffering and ridicule without rebelling against it is found in the principle expressed in verse 4 – the “LORD is righteous”.  Because He is, he identifies with those who are righteous: that is, His people. Therefore those who hate Zion (God’s people, who represent God’s purposes in the world and hence God Himself) are actually hating God. Because the LORD is righteous, the wicked must ultimately be “cut off” and the righteous vindicated. God cannot allow wrong to triumph forever, nor can He allow the righteous to suffer indefinitely.

The fate of those who oppose — who hate Zion is illustrated in verses 5-8.  They are like the grass which springs up on the clay-coated roofs of the Palestinian home after a rain: short-rooted and short-lived, lasting only until the blistering sun withers it away. It is worthless, never harvested by the reaper for it never bears fruit.

The righteous have this assurance of ultimate vindication and because they do, they can afford to wait: i.e., to have patience. The secret of the believer’s patience and even joy in the face of persecution — so puzzling to the world — is simply faith: faith in the Lord, in His righteousness and in His assurance that ultimately — though not immediately — all things will be put right and we will be shown to have been right. Because this vindication of our righteousness is ultimate and not immediate, we must have patience.

In an ultimate sense, this song of ascents looks forward to the return of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, when Israel-meaning both God’s physical nation and His spiritual people, the Church-are delivered from their bondage in this world, their oppressors being both human and, primarily, demonic. The cords of Satan and sin will be broken, God’s people will at last be set free, and Satan and his followers will be brought to shame.

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