Psalm 129 Reading

Psalm 129

A SONG OF ASCENTS.
“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.” 4 The LORD is righteous; he has cut the cords of the wicked. 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!”

A few thoughts for meditation:

1) One scholar summarized the theme of this psalm in this way: “Whereas most nations tend to look back on what they have achieved, Israel reflects here on what she has survived.” Despite the hardships the people of God suffer, they still sing in gratitude to God. For this psalmist, the endurance has been long, “from my youth”. The faithful in Israel faced such challenges many times in her history, suffering for years under foreign oppressors or wicked kings, and this psalm could easily fit with all of them. But for those who know God, they can also say, “yet they have not prevailed against me.” The suffering described is graphic, plowing great furrows in your back. They wicked are perhaps trying to sow and reap a harvest of wickedness on the backs of the oppressed people of God, leaving deep scars. But God enables his people to endure. The North Country here is known for it’s rocky soil, and the frequent harvesting of stones needed before you can plant your crops. That is a good picture of the long resistance God’s people offer to the wicked here. She refuses to be easily plowed and subdued to the plans and demands of the wicked.

2) Then a single line of praise to God erupts in vs. 4. ” The LORD is righteous; he has cut the cords of the wicked.” Because the Lord is righteous, he will not let the wicked endure forever against his people. They will not always prevail. God will eventually cut the cords of bondage and set the captives free. This universe created by God is a moral universe, where the wheels of God’s justice grind out slowly and methodically according to his good wisdom and plan, while simultaneously building up his Church. The power of the crucified and risen Christ sustains the life of his persevering Church. The plans of the wicked may seem to prevail for a day, but God’s plan for his Church prevails in the end.

3) After reflecting on the suffering of God’s people, the righteousness of God, and the inevitable salvation that will come, the worshiper turned this theology into a prayer for salvation. He prayed God would cause the plans of the wicked to fail and force them to retreat. He prayed they would wither like grass on poor soil in the dessert heat, before it could ripen and be harvested. And this should be a frequent prayer of God’s people not only for the Church but for the communities around her, that the plans of wickedness sown all around her would whither and die before they come to fruition and “bless” the wicked with satisfaction in their sin. By rejecting Zion, the place of God’s throne and people, the wicked set themselves on the course of self-destruction. And God chooses to use our prayers as a means to bring that destruction about while at the same time saving those who repent and trust in him.

These promises are grounded in the death and resurrection of Christ. His back was plowed over deeply by his enemies, but he endured it in order to save us from our sins. They intended to kill him, but he intended to turn that death into salvation for his people, and ultimately defeat his enemies. And he calls us to endure like he did, enduring suffering, faithfully serving and praying, while looking forward to our inevitable deliverance in glory. By reflecting on the work of Christ, and the long perseverance of the Church throughout world history, we can find hope to endure in the Lord ourselves.

Psalm 128 Reading

Psalm 128

A SONG OF ASCENTS.
Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways! 2 You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. 3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. 4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD. 5 The LORD bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life! 6 May you see your children’s children! Peace be upon Israel!

A few thoughts for meditation:

1) This song has some parallel themes to the previous psalm (Ps. 127). It began with the individual man and his relationship to God. Where is a man to find true blessedness or happiness? It begins with fearing the Lord. To fear the Lord means you hold the Lord in reverence and honor. You worship him and live for him. He is the sun around which the rest of your life orbits, and the chief love and commitment of your heart. This fear shows itself by obedience; you “walk in his ways”. God gave instructions in his Word for how he designed us to live. Only by following that path will you know true joy and flourishing with Him, even in a fallen world. Once that commitment is set, then you will enjoy fruitful labor from your hands. Again, we hear the echoes of Eden, with Adam working and keeping that which God had put into his care.

2) The song then moved from the blessed man to his family. When a man is living in faithful communion with God, he will properly nurture his wife and children. The wife becomes a “fruitful vine”, a source of true abundance, joy, and beauty in the home. The children are described like olive shoots. They are tender and require careful nurture so that they will grow up into fruitful plants themselves in the days to come. The picture again is one of fruitful labor and care, multiplying and spreading throughout generations. It’s similar to what God called Adam and Eve to do themselves, to be fruitful and multiply, to fulfill the earth and subdue it with more worshipers and caretakers like themselves. This focus upon fearing the Lord, and laboring fruitfully for him in our work and families, runs counter to the spirit of our age which focuses primarily upon the expression and fulfillment of the individual, even if you must free yourself from God and family to get it. Using the pictures here, such a person is really just amputating themselves from the source of true life and blessedness and withering away.

3) The song naturally progressed from the family to the family of God. True blessedness exists not just with a right relationship to God and your family but to God’s redeemed people. God is creating a new community, family, and a holy nation through the work of Christ. God pours out his blessings to God-fearing individuals and families through his Church. The family garden is really a subsection of the larger garden of God. The Church is that spiritual greenhouse where we, our children, and grandchildren will truly flourish and grow in the Lord and experience true blessedness and peace with God. Again, this runs counter to the values of the culture now and even of some professing Christians, who neglect or reject the importance of the Church, especially a local church. Such an idea would have been unthinkable to the faithful in both the Old and New Testaments. Praying for the peace of Israel (or the Church) was a frequent prayer because that is where the Lord is feared, his Word is proclaimed, and the Spirit brings life to his people. They understood their organic connection to the larger body. If you want to enjoy true blessedness from God, then examine yourself in these three areas. Do you fear the Lord? Are you nurturing your family in that fear? Have you firmly planted and integrated yourself into the local church who fears the Lord?

Psalm 127 Reading

Psalm 127

A SONG OF ASCENTS. OF SOLOMON.
Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. 2 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. 3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. 5 Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

A few thoughts for meditation:

1) In this song, King Solomon reflected over the vanity of building without the Lord’s help. And you can hear the echoes of Ecclesiastes here. Without the Lord’s blessing, all efforts are “vain”. “Vain” is repeated three times for emphasis. It is vain to build a house or city or any other labor intensive work unless the Lord is with you. In the end, it will perish into dust. Solomon here stressed that the ultimate hope and goal of man should be to orient all his life around knowing and serving the Lord. Like Adam in the garden, he is called to work and to keep whatever the Lord has put into his care as an act of devotion to God. Serving the Lord and laboring for his kingdom is what makes all our labor worth it in the end. For even after we have died and our houses crumble to dust, if we have done all for the glory of God, then we will have laid up even more important treasures in heaven.

2) With this reminder of how dependent we are upon the Lord for any success, Solomon also reminded us about the gift of sleep. Sleep reminds us every night that we are not God, and that all our efforts are vain unless he blesses them. Without that assurance, you will be tempted to grow anxious and hyper-vigilant in building and protecting your little kingdom, making an idol out of your work or money. It is a weary work and that exhaustion and fear can rob you of enjoying the fruits of your labor that God has provided. Faith works hard during the day, but entrusts all to God’s hands at night and goes to sleep in peace. It’s a lifelong lesson in humility that we must spend a third of our lives in bed in order to be fruitful for the Lord. Even Jesus, while performing the most important mission of the kingdom of God, found time to sleep, even if it meant sleeping in a boat during a storm. Yes, we must labor and toil as good stewards of whatever God has given us, but we do so in dependence upon God’s power and wisdom, and within the limitations he has placed upon us as human beings. Only God can keep watch and build 24 hours a day without rest.

3) Solomon then shifted from building to growing, specifically growing a family. It is interesting that Solomon shifted from property to people. This is another wisdom theme throughout Proverbs. Good relationships are more important than big estates. In this case, our heritage from the Lord in this life is not the house or city we build but the family we nurture. Children are the “fruit” of the womb. They require a lot of nurture and care, a lot of investment, before we see the good God may do through them. We see a similar comparison in Genesis 11. It began with men laboring to build the tower of Babel and rule the world in place of God. But the chapter ended with an account of Terah’s family and his son Abraham. The tower crumbled to dust. But the family of Abraham endured, even though they lived like strangers and exiles, numbering more than the stars in the sky. What was the difference? The blessing and grace of God upon that family. Ultimately, God blessed Abraham’s family with THE Child, the promised Savior, who would inherit all things for his people through his work of redemption. And our children will have a more profound influence over time than our building projects. We shoot them like “arrows” into the world, and we do not know what God will do with them. But it’s clear here, that a strong family will endure the evils of this life far better than a strong house or stock portfolio. That is not to say those things are evil in themselves. But we must recognize that God does his most profound kingdom building work as his Word is lived out through the ordinary life of families, and more broadly the family of God, his Church.

Psalm 126 Reading

Psalm 126:1-6

A SONG OF ASCENTS.
When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. 2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” 3 The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad. 4 Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negeb! 5 Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! 6 He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

A few thoughts for meditation:

1) In this psalm, the worshiper remembered how God delivered Israel in the past from a serious danger. Perhaps it was a foreign invasion, plague, or famine. Whatever it was, their deliverance from it was unexpected and surprising like a “dream”. When things appeared darkest, they were surprised by joy and gladness when God acted for them. We see this pattern often in biblical history. Israel is brought to a low point and then God acts to save them. It is a common pattern in church history as well. And perhaps you have experienced this at points in your life too. Dark times gave way to moments of joy and gladness. But the point of remembering past deliverance provided the theological foundation for the present crisis.

2) The psalmist applied the reality of God’s acts in the past, and asked for God to do it again. “Restore our fortunes”. Israel was in another dark situation and only God could help them. And he used two pictures to describe what he was looking for from God. The first was “like streams in the Negeb”. The Negeb was the arid wilderness in southern Israel. It was usually dry and barren. But for a short time in the rainy season, it was transformed into an abundant grassland. That is the kind of deliverance the worshiper asked for, complete transformation of his dark circumstances from dry and barren to lush and fruitful. The second picture is one of sowing and harvesting. The worshiper was sowing with tears. It was hard labor. But the abundant crop at the end brought joy and the realization that all the toil was not in vain. This was the encouragement the worshiper offered to Israel as they labored and toiled faithfully under their dark trial. Eventually their work would be rewarded with abundant joy. That is often the case in the Christian life. We must endure hard work or difficult trials before we enjoy the fruits and rewards of those labors. And this is the ultimate fulfillment we look forward to in heaven after all labor and tears are done. Christ will say “well done good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of your master.” (Mt 25:21).

It is likely that many of you may be entering into some of those dark toilsome times again given our current circumstances from this pandemic. But this psalm can help fortify our faith in preparation for that time. God has delivered his people through such hard times before. And he will do it again. Press on in the duties God lays before you now, faithfully plod on in the dark, knowing that you will have an abundant harvest of joy later.

Psalm 125 Reading

Psalm 125:1-5

A SONG OF ASCENTS.
Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. 2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore. 3 For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous, lest the righteous stretch out their hands to do wrong. 4 Do good, O LORD, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts! 5 But those who turn aside to their crooked ways the LORD will lead away with evildoers! Peace be upon Israel!

A few thoughts for meditation:

1) As the worshiper enjoys his time at the feast in Jerusalem we can imagine him reflecting upon the important symbols of the context. In this case, he looks around at the city of Jerusalem surrounded by mountains. The mountains contributed to the defense and security of the city. The city sat on the high ground, which always provides a military advantage to the defenders. This picture gave the worshiper an image of how God protects his people. He surrounds them like the mountains, making it much harder for the wicked to achieve their purpose at corrupting or oppressing the people of God.

2) From this point he reflects on the inability of the wicked to completely conquer the people of God. “The scepter of wicked shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous”. The specific situation in mind is not clear. It may refer to a foreign invasion. Or it may refer to a corrupt king within Israel. The wicked may try to prevail and do a lot of damage in the process, but ultimately God will protect and preserve his people, and bring the wicked to justice. This judgment is not only an act of protection, but it is also helps deter God’s people from following the example of the wicked. People often interpret a delay in judgment as a sign that judgment will never come against sin. The righteous must never be deceived by that foolish notion.

3) Finally, the psalmist called upon God to bless and protect those who strive to be faithful under those difficult influences. And he also warned the people that if they give in to the temptations of the wicked, they would eventually perish with them when the day of deliverance comes. This prayer culminated in a final petition, “Peace be upon Israel”. The community of God’s people was suppose to be a place of refuge for the righteous not a place of oppression. And in time, God would indeed purify his people and remove the oppressive elements from within them. So there is a parallel call to action here; first a call to personal faithfulness even when it is not easy, and second a call to pray for peace within God’s people. We must always labor for the purity and peace of the church, but do so knowing that ultimately God is the one who ensures our labors for these things are not in vain.

Weekly Devotional Guide (May 11-16)

Memory Verse for the Week:

Ephesians 4:7, But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Daily Scripture Readings

  • Day 1 Psalm 125
  • Day 2 Psalm 126
  • Day 3 Psalm 127
  • Day 4 Psalm 128
  • Day 5 Psalm 129

Hymns of the Week

  • His Mercy is More

(Verse 1)

What love could remember no wrongs we have done

Omniscient, all knowing, He counts not their sum

Thrown into a sea without bottom or shore

Our sins they are many, His mercy is more

(Chorus) Praise the Lord, His mercy is more

Stronger than darkness, new every morn

Our sins they are many, His mercy is more

(Verse 2)

What patience would wait as we constantly roam

What Father, so tender, is calling us home

He welcomes the weakest, the vilest, the poor

Our sins they are many, His mercy is more

(Verse 3)

What riches of kindness he lavished on us

His blood was the payment, His life was the cost

We stood ‘neath a debt we could never afford

Our sins they are many, His mercy is more

  • Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

1. Come, Thou fount of every blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace,

Streams of mercy, never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise.

Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above,

praise the mount I’m fixed upon it, mount of thy redeeming love

2. Here I raise my Ebenezer, Hither by Thy help I’ve come,

And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger, Wandering from the fold of God,

He, to rescue me from danger, Interposed His precious blood.

3. Oh, to grace how great a debtor Daily I’m constrained to be,

Let thy goodness like a fetter Bind my wandering heart to Thee:

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.

Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.

Christ Gave Gifts

Speaker: Patrick Severson
Series: Quarantine 2020
Sermon Info:
This is an online devotional service offered during the corona virus quarantine, since we cannot gather for public worship. There are three Scripture readings; Psalm 47:1-2, Psalm 68, and Philippians 2:1-11. The sermon is based upon Ephesians 4:7-12, looking at how the risen and reigning Christ gives gifts to his Church to help them grow in unity and maturity.