Scriptures

Psalm 129

Introduction

In this psalm, the psalmist appears to be speaking on behalf of the nation of Israel. They speak of the oppression Israel which God allowed them to face because of their disobedience to God, however, the good news, is that God eventually delivered them from the hands of their enemy.

Heading

‘A song of ascents.’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding of the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

The heading tells us this is a song of ascents. Psalms 120-134 all have the same heading.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Several theories of why this group of psalms is so named are available. The Jewish explanation is that there were fifteen steps from the Court of the Women to the Court of the Men in the Temple, and that each of these psalms was sung in succession on those steps. Another view is that these songs were sung in successive phases of the Jews’ return from captivity. Apparently the true explanation is that these psalms were written for the pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem for the great annual feasts, Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. ‘It seems most probable that these songs form a collection for the use of pilgrims who came up to Jerusalem at the great feasts.’

‘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 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.” Psalm 129:1-8

The psalmist begins by telling us that they, that is Israel, were greatly oppressed from their youth, this refers to the time when Israel was in Egypt, Jeremiah 2:2 / Ezekiel 23:3 / Hosea 2:15. From the time Israel was a young nation, oppression was brought on the people because of their rebellious apostasy.

The psalmist now encourages all of Israel to say they have greatly oppressed me from my youth, but the good news is their enemies didn’t gain a victory over Israel. In other words, God didn’t allow them to go out of existence.

The psalmist uses a metaphor to describe the oppression they faced, ‘ploughmen have ploughed my back and made their furrows long’. This is a description of the suffering and the domination they faced, Exodus 35:33 / Jeremiah 17:1 / Isaiah 53:5.

The good news is that the righteous LORD, the one who keeps His promises, cut the cords of bondage, and they were delivered from their enemies, Jeremiah 30:8.

The psalmist requests that all who hate Zion be shamed and forced to turn back and they request that they become like grass that would spring up on the roof of a house but quickly dries up when scorched by the sun before it gets a chance to grow, Isaiah 37:27.

In other words, they are asking that their enemies be short-lived. They want their enemies to become like grass which is useless for the reaper and useless for those who gather grain.

The psalmist doesn’t want Israel’s enemies to receive the blessed greeting when they pass by, they didn’t want them to say the words which Boaz said to his harvesters, ‘the LORD be with you!” “The LORD bless you!” they answered,’ Ruth 2:4.

In other words, the psalmist doesn’t want anyone who hated Zion, that is Jerusalem and God’s people to benefit from any of the blessings which God showed His city and people.

Conclusion

The psalmist ended by speaking about the blessed greeting which was said when the Jews met each other. Today, as Christians we don’t really greet one another with the words, ‘the LORD be with you!’ and if we do, we don’t hear the words, ‘the LORD bless you!’ in return, Ruth 2:4.

In most places we don’t even greet one another with a holy kiss, Romans 16:16 / 1 Corinthians 16:20 / 2 Corinthians 13:12 / 1 Thessalonians 5:26 / 1 Peter 5:14. But what is it that these verses teach?

1. We must remember that throughout Bible times this was the customary, familiar mode of greeting, Genesis 27:27 / Genesis 31:28.

2. Outside of the family relationship, it was the way in which men greeted men and women greeted women, 1 Samuel 10:1 / 1 Samuel 20:41 / 2 Samuel 19:39 / Ruth 1:9.

3. But this ancient, familiar custom could hold hidden dangers, as we see in the account of the treachery of Joab, David’s uncle, 2 Samuel 20:9.

4. The kiss was also a familiar mode of greeting in New Testament times, Matthew 26:48-49 / Luke 15:20 / Luke 22:48.

5. Furthermore this was the expected mode of greeting in the days of Jesus, Luke 7:44-45.

6. In those days it was not the custom to shake hands in greeting or parting, it would have been better for Amasa if they had! Instead, the use of the kiss followed rules which had been set by custom.

7. The holy kiss and the church.

The kiss was given during the service, it before the celebration of the Lord’s Supper and it was intended to show that those who met at the Lord’s Table, met in harmony and love.

Today we normally ‘greet each other with a warm handshake’ and just as it takes two to kiss, it takes two to be friendly. Fellowship is not a one-way street. As congregations, we need to make a greater effort to show ourselves interested in people. When visitors, and strangers, attend our services, what do we do?

Do we sit or stand around speaking to our special friends? Or do we realize that, as members of the Lord’s Body, it is both our responsibility and privilege to extend a welcoming hand to someone who may be finding it both unfamiliar and strange to be in our service?

I am thankful that there are many friendly people in our congregations, but, if it were to be left to others, visitors may well form a poor opinion of us! Be friendly! Make an effort.

Just remember that if at some time, someone had not made an effort to speak to you, you probably would not be in the church today.

Go To Psalm 130

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