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  • Writer's picturePastor Mike

February 06 2024


Tuesday February 6

“By His Stripes We Are Healed”

 

Psalm 129:1-8  A Song of Ascents.

1 "Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth," Let Israel now say--

2 "Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth; Yet they have not prevailed against me.

3 The plowers plowed on my back; They made their furrows long."

4 The LORD is righteous; He has cut in pieces the cords of the wicked.

5 Let all those who hate Zion Be put to shame and turned back.

6 Let them be as the grass on the housetops, Which withers before it grows up,

7 With which the reaper does not fill his hand, Nor he who binds sheaves, his arms.

8 Neither let those who pass by them say, "The blessing of the LORD be upon you; We bless you in the name of the LORD!"

 

Psalm 129 is the tenth of the “Ascent Songs” or “Pilgrim Psalms”. The destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians was described by the prophets as "plowing" (vv. 3-4; Isa. 51:23; Mic. 3:12; Jer. 26:17-18), so this psalm was probably written after the exiles returned to the land. There they were surrounded by enemy people who hated them, so the theme was appropriate. The psalmist speaks for the nation and states that, no matter how severe the persecution, nothing can destroy the people of Israel. But God's church has also suffered severe persecution throughout the centuries, and faithful individual Christians face personal hostility. "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12). How should we respond to suffering?

 

First, we must accept the reality of suffering in this world (vv. 1-2). Persecution is not something "strange" in the life of either Israel or the church (1 Peter 4:12). When the Lord called Abraham, He revealed that some would bless the Jews and others curse them (Gen. 12:1-3). Isaac was persecuted by Ishmael (Gen. 21:8-21; Gal. 4:21-31), and the Jews were terribly oppressed in Egypt (Hos. 11:1). However, the more they were persecuted, the more they increased (Ex. 1:9-14), and there the family of Jacob was molded into the nation of Israel. Israel has suffered more than any nation in history, yet Israel has not been destroyed!

 

God has always taken care of His people. Egypt tried to drown the Jews (Ex. 1:15-22), but the Lord drowned Egypt's crack troops (Ex. 14:19-31). The Assyrians tried to starve them into surrender, but God wiped out the Assyrian army (Isa. 37-38). Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of Babylon, tried to burn them up, but the Lord delivered them (Dan. 3). Belshazzar blasphemed the God of Israel and defiled the holy vessels of the temple, but that very night, the Medes and Persians killed him. The Persian soothsayers tried to throw Daniel to the lions, but God rescued him, and the beasts killed the soothsayers instead (Dan. 6). Hitler killed over six million Jews in his gas chambers, but he was soundly defeated, and the nation of Israel was born a few years later. The church of Jesus Christ has experienced persecution, but it still stands and will stand until Jesus returns (Matt. 16:18). Every true believer can identify with Paul's testimony in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12.

 

Secondly, we cannot avoid suffering, but we can benefit from it (vv. 3-4). As you read these verses, you can almost feel the sharp cutting edges of the plow. Their enemies treated Israel like dirt and walked on them! Some students see in the plowing image a picture of prisoners being whipped, leaving long deep gashes on their backs. If that is a part of the picture, then our Lord endured the same suffering. Isaiah 53:5 prophesied specifically about Christ suffering: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.”  The nation of Israel has been plowed long, deep, and often, but what a harvest of blessing it has brought to the world! The day came when God cut the cords that tied the oxen to the plow, and then Israel was free (see 124:7). The exiles returned to their homes wiser and better people because they had felt the pain of the plow. Instead of blaming God for their suffering, they confessed, "The Lord is righteous" (v. 4).

 

The plowing image is a good one for believers today, for it reminds us that there can be a glorious harvest, but it depends on the seeds that we plant. Of itself, suffering does not produce blessing. If we plant seeds of hatred and resentment, then suffering will produce bitterness. But if we plant faith, hope, love, and the precious promises of the Word, then the harvest will bless us and help others, and it will bring glory to God. (See 1 Peter 4:12-19.) God permits people to treat us like dirt, and we must accept it, but we have the privilege of transforming it by the grace of God into character that honors the Lord.

 

Finally, in verses 5-8, we learn from Israel to commit our suffering to the LORD. The psalmist prayed that those who hated Zion would perish quickly like the useless grass on the roof. But why would anybody want to hate the Jews? The most logical answer is that Satan hates Israel and has always been at war with her (see Rev. 12). Satan is also at war with the church (John 15:18-25; 17:14; 1 John 3:13). But God has always proven to preserve His people and when no one would say blessings upon Israel they could still say; "We bless you in the name of the Lord" (v. 8), because Israel has brought to the world the knowledge of the true and living God, the Scriptures, and the Savior. "Salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22).

 

Remember it is our suffering that gives us the greatest opportunities to “manifest the life of Christ in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:7-18).

 

God bless!

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