I am going to be really honest with you here and hope you find it encouraging. I read through this Psalm today and thought to myself, “What am I going to write about that? I barely know what it is talking about.” I had to research this one a bit.
First of all, the superscription says that it is “A song of ascents.” This refers to the Psalms from 120 through 134 that were sung by pilgrim worshippers as they came to Jerusalem for various feasts (ascending to the city which sits high from any direction and approach).
In broad terms there are two main ideas: First, the writer declares that God has saved Israel from various oppressors, and secondly, he prays that those who persecuted the nation would be put to shame.
Let’s look at the first section:
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.”
There are some people that I know who have had sorrows and challenges throughout their lives. And Israel as a nation is personified in the opening verses in such a way. There was never a time where they were not pursued and afflicted by nations around them. From the exodus out of Egypt, to the conquest of the Promised Land, to the ongoing battles with the Philistines and all the “-ites” around them … Israel was continuously pressed. BUT, God had not allowed any of those nations to fully conquer them or have a victory over them.
The picture in verses three and four appears to be of a person who has been flogged with cords upon the back … a person who has been beaten and scourged, but not killed. And indeed, the righteous God had set them free from this ill treatment.
And now comes a prayer …
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.”
The writer asks God (verse 5) to turn to shame all those who hate Zion – the city of God.
The visual in verses 6-7 is a picture as to how seeds blown through the air would find root and begin to grow on the roofs of ancient houses. However, in this setting there would be no depth of soil and the plant would wither and die before it was of any value for reaping. And so the prayer was that those who hated Zion would find that their efforts were short-lived and fruitless.
The final verse speaks of how those who hate Zion and the Lord’s people were not worthy of the customary greeting of a blessing upon them in the name of the Lord. In Eastern cultures, even to this day, it is rather rude to not greet someone with a blessing; but these enemies deserved to be ignored because of their hatred.
By way of application for us today, there is the broad, overarching truth that God is faithful to His own people in any era or dispensation; and God will not allow injustice to prevail ultimately. Though there may be suffering along the way, in the end God and His people triumph.
But beyond this, the reading and understanding of this Psalm makes me reflect upon much that is happening in the geo-political world today. Israel has been much in the news in the past week, often being condemned and criticized for their aggressive responses to attacks upon the Jewish State.
I believe that an accurate understanding of the Scriptures teaches that God has a future for the nation of Israel in the end times. As a country and a people, there is nothing like it in all the world in terms of endurance over centuries and millennia. Other nations and ethnicities have come and gone, but Israel remains, and so it shall because of God’s promises that date back to even Abraham—4,000 years ago.
A prominent American figure in political dialogue (who shares our biblical worldview and Scriptural interpretation) spoke of the difficulties facing Israel, saying this past week:
This week, Israel finally had enough of the terrorist strikes against their civilian population and launched a ground campaign into Gaza, the hell hole of Hamas. Twice Hamas violated a cease fire agreement and continued to launch rockets over 80% of the Israeli population. … Hamas is a terrorist organization, not a legitimate government.
Israeli PM Netanyahu bluntly explained the difference between the so-called “2 sides.” It is indeed a tragedy that several hundred residents of Gaza have been killed. It’s an even greater tragedy that the savages who operate Hamas use innocent people as human shields to protect their weapons. None of those Palestinians would have died if Hamas didn’t insist on acting like vicious mad dogs intent on making mayhem.
And please don’t buy the lie that if Israel would give up some more land, it would be okay. Israel lives on 1/6 of 1% of the amount of land possessed by Arabs and Muslims. There are 300 million Middle Eastern Muslims and Arabs to only 5.5 million Israeli Jews. The idiotic proposal to give away more Israeli land is to assume that if you let the mad dog get closer to your face, the less likely they are to bite.
Israel has a legitimate right to the land and a legitimate right to defend itself. It is the only Middle Eastern country that gives women full rights; the only one who outlaws honor killings of women; it’s built 6 universities, 20 community colleges, and 166 clinics for Palestinians between 1979 and 2006. Israel accommodates 15 different religions. How many Christians, Hindus, or Buddhists are free to worship in Pakistan, Iran or Iraq, Saudi Arabia or Gaza?
The entire content of this piece may be found HERE.
God’s people in the world – be it his covenant people, or the people of the new covenant – are going to be hated and persecuted. But God will never allow evil to prevail in the end.