Psalm 129 (NIV)
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.”
–Sing this psalm with the Seedbed Psalter today! Visit the resource here.
Similar to Psalm 124, the psalmist here opens with a call upon the community of pilgrims to join him in communal singing. Only this time, it is not a statement of affirming that the Lord has been on our side and has rescued us from certain destruction. No, this time it is a statement of the reality of oppression: “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” (vv. 1–2). This defines the real battle in which God’s people have always found themselves.
The world stands (and has always stood) opposed to God’s ways. Thus, to walk in God’s ways means that we will be at odds with the world. Furthermore, the enemy of our souls, Satan himself, stands opposed to God’s ways, and so we find ourselves at odds with the powers of darkness as well. Even if our backs are plowed with furrows long (v. 3), we must always remember that Christ “made [his] back like the ground, like a street to be walked over” (Isa. 51:23), and that “by his [stripes] we are healed” (Isa. 53:5). Because of Christ, we can sing verse 4 of Psalm 129 with even greater joy than the psalmist: “But the Lord is righteous; he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked.”
The psalmist concludes with four verses that pray for God to deal with those who are opposed to God; and by praying, he is trusting that God will take care of them. The psalmist is doing, through prayer, what we do when we trust in Christ—putting retribution into the hands of God. As Christians, we might express it differently, but the transference is the same:
“Our Lord took on a furrowed back: God’s greatest love revealed.
The pow’rs of darkness, He turned back; and by His stripes we’re healed.”