Scripture reading – Psalms 129-130

Today’s Bible study consists of two brief psalms titled “A Song of Degrees.” As noted on prior devotions, Psalms 129 and 130 were the songs of pilgrims and priests ascending the road and stairs to the Temple Mount. I have amplified some words in today’s text to give insight into word meanings [Bracketed words in italics are those of this author.]

Psalm 129 – Israel’s Reflections on Her Persecutions and Her Prayer for Justice

As with an earlier Psalm, I believe the song leaders introduced the theme of Psalm 129 in the first verse, and the congregation echoed the words in the second verse, adding the triumphant phrase, “Yet they [Israel’s enemies]have not prevailed [have power; overcome] against me” (129:2).

Gratitude for Past Deliverances (Psalm 129:1-4)

Psalm 129:1–2 – 1Many a time have they [the enemy] afflicted [treated harshly or with hostility] me from my youth, May Israel now say: 2Many a time have they afflicted me from my youth: Yet they have not prevailed against me.

Today, as in ancient times, Israel is surrounded by enemy nations who have sworn to its destruction. The psalmist acknowledged the perpetual presence of her enemies and rejoiced that they had “not prevailed” against the nation (129:2).

Psalm 129:3–43The plowers [i.e., to engrave, scratch, inscribe] plowed upon my back: They made long their furrows. 4The Lord is righteous: He hath cut asunder the cords of the wicked.

Drawing upon the agricultural backdrop of the nation, the psalmist identified the scars left by their enemies with the furrows left in the soil by a farmer’s plow. Whether physical scars from beatings with a whip or emotional scars left by harsh criticisms and accusations, the psalmist declared the LORD, in His mercy and righteousness (i.e., justice), had delivered Israel and “cut asunder the cords [ropes; bindings] of the wicked” (129:4).

Justice: The Prospect of an Enemies’ Destruction (129:5-8)

Here the psalm takes on an imprecatory tone towards the enemies of Israel (129:5-6).

Psalm 129:5–6 – 5Let them all [the enemies] be confounded [put to shame] and turned back that hate Zion [the Temple mount]. 6Let them be as the grass upon the housetops [the Middle East had flat roofs], Which withereth [dries up in the heat of the sun] afore it groweth up [removed; i.e., taken up]:

The psalmist prayed for Israel’s enemies to be put to shame and wither as grass under the judgment of God (129:6).

Psalm 129:7–8 – 7Wherewith the mower [gatherer of grain] filleth not his hand; Nor he that bindeth sheaves his bosom [garment; possibly the picture of carrying grain in the folds of one’s robe]. 8Neither do they which go by say, The blessing [wishing or pronouncing a blessing] of the Lord be upon you: We bless [praise] you in the name of the Lord.

The psalmist desired that the mowers or reapers (a portrayal of an enemy) might fail in their design to harm Israel and that their plans of destruction might not come to fruition. Unlike the greeting of a friend who bids his neighbor God’s blessings, the psalmist prayed that the objectives of Israel’s enemy would fail (129:8).

Closing thoughts:

Notice that the writer of Psalm 129 did not believe that he might make a friend of God’s enemy. The apostle John warned believers of the first century against trifling with or befriending those who are false teachers. John wrote: “10If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 10–11).

I fear some believers give comfort and blessing to a foe, encouraging them in their sin. May you and I not be guilty of the same.

Psalm 130 – The Cry of a Penitent Sinner

Psalm 130 is also numbered among the psalms titled “A Song of Degrees” and expresses the sincere humility of a sinner coming to worship the LORD.

A Petition for Forgiveness (130:1-4)

The words of a penitent sinner are found in the opening verses of Psalm 130.

Psalm 130:1–2 – 1Out of the depths [a deep place] have I cried unto thee, O Lord. 2Lord, hear [listen; heed] my voice: Let thine ears be attentive [listen] to the voice of my supplications [plea for mercy].

In his guilt and despair, the psalmist confessed his sin and pled for the LORD to hear his prayer and show him mercy (130:1-2).

Psalm 130:3-4 – “3If thou, Lord, shouldest mark [keep watch; guard; preserve] iniquities [sin; guilt], O Lord, who shall stand? 4But there is forgiveness [pardon] with thee, That thou mayest be feared. [fear; be afraid of God]

The psalmist acknowledged that no sinner can stand or enter the presence of the LORD, who is holy. Yet, he was confident that the nature of God is to forgive the sins of a repentant sinner so that he might enter into His presence and worship Him.

An Anticipation of Forgiveness and Restoration (Psalm 130:5-8)

Psalm 130:5–8 – 5I wait for [hope for] the Lord, my soul doth wait [hope for], And in his word do I hope. [have cause for hope]

6My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch [keeps watch] for the morning [the sunrise; morning light]: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.

7Let Israel hope [have cause to hope] in the Lord: For with the Lord there is mercy [kindness; goodness], And with him [the LORD] is plenteous [much] redemption. [paying debt]

8And he [the LORD] shall redeem [buy out; liberate; pay] Israel from all his [i.e., the Twelve Tribes] iniquities. [sins; guilt]

Confident in the LORD’s mercy and forgiveness (130:4), the psalmist awaited the LORD and His redemption (130:4-8).

Closing thoughts:

Why should a sinner hope in the LORD? Because He is merciful and compassionate and promised to redeem all who come to Him.

1 John 1:9-109If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation [atonement] for our sins.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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