Theme: The pilgrim life is not a weak life; it takes strength, but also gives strength. This song declares that transaction of strength.
1 Honesty: It will be painful (129:1-3)
1 “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth”— let Israel now say— 2 “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me. 3 The plowers plowed upon my back; they made long their furrows.”
The community had been afflicted. How so?
- Greatly: The affliction was great, massive, large.
- From my youth: Earliest memories — persecution.
The plowers plowed upon my back: Imagery.
Appropriate — Jesus!
- Isaiah 50:6 (ESV)—6 I gave my back to those who strike…
- Isaiah 53:5 (ESV)—5 …with his stripes we are healed.
- Matthew 27:26 (ESV)—26 …and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
- And His church has always suffered with Him — this is the fellowship of His sufferings (Philippians 3:10).
Plowed upon my back: my back is the field.
Made long their furrows: they dig deep and just keep on going (thorough, the whole field).
Honesty: It will be painful.
2 Introspection: But the pain has not prevailed (129:2)
2 “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me.
They look back and realize that — even though it’s been tough — the afflicters didn’t prevail.
One of God’s greatest revelations is His people (and other nations in relationship to His people).
- Other nations’ history, to be sure: Egypt / Assyria / Babylon / Medo-Persia / Greece / Rome
- But Israel’s history:
- Their mere existence (as they’ve been perpetually hated).
- The revelation they received (so contradictory to their times)
- And Israel’s relationship with Him:
- His discipline, His judgements, and His faithfulness to them.
But the pain has not prevailed.
- Think about it — the painful affliction never totally wins.
- 2 Corinthians 4:7–18 (ESV)—7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
- Even Abel — who was killed — won (righteous Abel, Matthew 23:35).
3 Rejoicing: Because God delivers (129:4)
4 The LORD is righteous; he has cut the cords of the wicked.
Why hasn’t our affliction prevailed? The LORD!
- Isaiah 43:2 (ESV)—2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
4 He has cut the cords of the wicked:
- This is a comical.
- The plow has been disconnected. The wicked keep going. But it does nothing. That’s why the affliction has not prevailed. The whip is a foot too short. The handcuffs are not secured. The plow just sits there. The pain is gone.
Rejoicing: Because God delivers.
- Romans 6:6–7 (ESV)—6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.
- Romans 6:13 (ESV)—13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
4 Wish: For the deeper life (129:5-8)
5 May all who hate Zion be put to shame and turned backward! 6 Let them be like the grass on the housetops, which withers before it grows up, 7 with which the reaper does not fill his hand nor the binder of sheaves his arms, 8 nor do those who pass by say, “The blessing of the LORD be upon you! We bless you in the name of the LORD!”
Maybe this is harsh. Maybe it is a little unloving. But there is something beautiful in it — the hatred of that way of life. The pilgrim understands the shallow nature of his afflicter’s life.
Irony — they tried to plow up the believers, but their own field is pretty sad.
The pilgrim understands just how shallow that life is.
- Wish: to avoid the shallow life
- Or positively — Wish: For the deeper life.
Deepest of loves! Community! Personal transformation! Mission! Adventure! Peace!
Mystery — Colossians 1:26–27 (ESV)—26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Hebrews 4:11 (ESV)—11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.