Psalm 129 begins with the nation of Israel rehearsing its history as a person would speak of their life. From its youth, it had been “greatly oppressed” (repeated for emphasis – v. 1-2). This could be an illusion to Egypt and the travails the fledgling nation experienced there or perhaps it is a reference to the difficult times chronicled in Judges. Or maybe both. The point is, the nation had known tough times from its early days. However, there’s more to the story.
“But they have not gained victory over me” (v. 2).
A simple but powerful statement and certainly one worth reflecting on. How is that Israel existed in the psalmist’s time? Who could have predicted it? They arose centuries before from an old man and woman (who was also barren to boot). They survived a famine by moving to Egypt. They survived Egypt by crossing the Red Sea, a 40-year wilderness, and then displacing the Canaanites. Then there was the instability during the period of judges. Better times came with the monarchy but then there were the captivities. “Plowmen have plowed my back and made their furrows long” (v. 3). Ouch! Though much of their suffering and pain were self-imposed, the nation had known their share of grief from others as well. But back to our question, how could you explain their survival when so many other nations were absorbed or brought down to ashes never to be heard from again?
“But the Lord is righteous; He has cut me free from the cords of the wicked” (v. 4).
The psalmist returns to God because He is the answer. John Newton wrote, “Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come. ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far and grace will bring me home.” Their continued existence was due to the Lord.
Are you in the midst of difficult times? The pandemic has brought sickness, isolation, loneliness, and many other things. But it will not gain victory over us because God will see us through.
Say it with a heart full of hope and assurance, say it loud and proud:
“THEY HAVE NOT GAINED VICTORY!”