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Psalm 129 - Perseverance

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We’re continuing on in the Psalms of Ascent.
This is the spotify playlist of ancient Israel as Pilgrims would make their journey to Jerusalem to worship.
Today we come to a Psalm that at first glance seems a bit intense.
But this morning we will see this is really a Psalm about Perseverance.
Eugene Peterson says it is a Psalm about stick to itiveness
Now something about me.
I can be the kind of person that gets really into things and then lets them fade.
When I was doing College Ministry I remember thinking one way I could really connect with folks was through longboarding.
Sure enough after saving and buying an expensive board I went only a handful of times.
Or there’s the time I thought I’d get in to discgolf.
I thought it’d be a great way to get me outside and active.
Instead I just amassed a bunch of discgolf discs I’m no good at throwing.
There’s also the time I thought I’d get into mountain biking.
Everything from my helmet to fingerless gloves and a giant waterbottle.
I was accessorized out and while my bike was stolen I think we have already seen my stick to itveness isn't the best so.
But this Psalm is saying that our God is just the opposite.
He finishes what he starts
This psalm reminds us of the need to stick to it, to persevere in the midst of persecution and adversity.
The idea we are going to see today is:
God enables the perseverance of his people.
The reason we keep going isn't based on grit or determination, it is because the Lord is with us.
All boasting goes only to him who is on the side of his people.
We persevere because of his grace
This Psalm is divided in to two parts it starts retrospectively looking at the affliction and pain God’s people have endured and then moves forward looking at a gut-wrenchingly honest prayer.
Let’s go to this psalm and see first
I. The Affliction of God’s People
Psalm 129:1–4 (ESV)
“Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth”—
let Israel now say—
“Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth,
yet they have not prevailed against me.
The plowers plowed upon my back;
they made long their furrows.”
The Lord is righteous;
he has cut the cords of the wicked.
This Psalm is starts by looking back at the past.
It is a call and response of the difficult moments of Israel’s past.
This liturgical response is a call to a communal confidence in God.
Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth.
Looking back on Israel’s past we see that from bondage in Egypt to Captivity in Babylon God’s people have endured various trials and afflictions in a broken world.
Even though affliction has come, Israel still stands.
This a moment where God’s people are singing about their affliction.
They know God has walked with them in the midst of hard moments, he has met them and is walking with them still.
The Lord doesn't want them to forget their history nor to despair and quit when faced with present affliction.
The Psalm confesses, “I have been afflicted, but I can have comfort and hope.”
Now when we read this we see that we as part of the people of God can join in this song.
The Christian church was born in affliction, look at the book of acts and see that it isn't long before beatings and martyrdom happens.
Even now the church is persecuted through out the world.
Consider Paul’s words to the church in Corinth:
2 Corinthians 4:8–10 (ESV)
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
This Psalm speaks a truth the reverberates among his people, he enables us to perserver.
Paul realizes that suffering is not senseless.
Affliction and suffering, carrying about in our bodies the death of Jesus, have the divinely ordained purpose of showing to others the power of the resurrected life of Christ.
Every time you suffer persecution, indignity, and pain, it is an opportunity to show to everyone that Christ has been raised from the dead,
because it is the opportunity to seek the grace of God in Christ to restrain your pain and trouble and bring you through it with victory.
God allows affliction in your life because he wants to show the world the power of the resurrection at work in you.
When you realize that, it will give you an entirely different approach to and outlook on every difficulty you face.
A LITTLE boy’s legs were not developing as they ought.
The pediatrician told his parents that their son needed to wear a leg brace, which would help to position the legs and feet to grow properly. The parents wanted to do the right thing for their son but were miserable following the doctor’s orders.
The bar held the little boy’s feet and legs completely straight and unbendable. Each night when his parents would put the brace on and put him to bed, he would cry from discomfort and from his dislike of it.
The little boy was sure to have felt hurt that his parents would treat him wrongly and possibly he even doubted their love for him.
The mother was at times tempted to take off the bar but resisted because she felt in her heart that she was doing the right thing for her son.
As difficult as this time was, the doctor, the mother, and the father did what they did because of their concern and their thought for his future wellbeing years down the road.
Years later reflecting on that pain the little boy was grateful that his legs were added in their development.
All because his parents were willing to sacrifice convenience now for a better life later
God cares for His children.
Right now He might use means of restraint and discomfort to achieve His desired result but He operates out of the love He has for us.
He is working resurrection in our lives.
Your trials are no longer something to be endured with your teeth gritted and your heart heavy.
They are opportunities to say to the whole world, Jesus lives!
What makes this psalm beautiful starts with a little three letter word, Yet.
Matthew 16:18 (ESV)
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Jesus has always been about the preservation of His people the church.
He is at work in you even in the most difficult moments.
As Israel was born into suffering in Egypt, so God's one true Son went into Egypt in suffering also. He would then leave Egypt, return to his people, live in suffering, and then die in suffering.
Why? Because Jesus is the fulfillment of all the Suffering Servant songs of the Old Testament _Ligon Duncan
We’ve said that the Psalms of Ascent are the songs of Jesus and this is no exception.
Look again at verse 3.
Psalm 129:3 (ESV)
The plowers plowed upon my back;
they made long their furrows.”
Israel remembers the sting of the whip from their oppressors.
But as Jesus grew singing this Psalm he knew that one day the Roman soldiers would truly plow His back with horrible wounds
He was familiar with the suffering servant songs of Isaiah
Isaiah 50:6 (ESV)
I gave my back to those who strike,
and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face
from disgrace and spitting.
Jesus was afflicted for us and yet in it all, God was righteous, carrying out His plan for the salvation of His church, the exaltation of His Son, and the destruction of His enemies.
Here's the hope for dark moments: we can endure affliction with great hope because Jesus Christ has already suffered the ultimate affliction on our behalf.
Isaiah says that Jesus was "struck down by God, and afflicted (53:4); he "was oppressed and afflicted" as he
offered up his body and blood on behalf of sinners..
Because of Jesus's atoning death and glorious resurrection, any suffering we face on this earth is short-lived.
We will prevail over the grave because Jesus has prevailed.
And any suffering we face in this short life, we can find grace through Christ to endure it.
Therefore Coram Deo, let's labor with humble, Christ-centered confidence.
He will cause us to preserver.
The Lord is our Preserver
Psalm 129:4 (ESV)
The Lord is righteous;
he has cut the cords of the wicked.
Despite the affliction the psalmist says that the Lord, the righteous one has intervened.
He has preserved his people.
He is faithful to his promises.
He hears the cries of his people in distress.
In pointing the people to the character of God, the psalmist teaches us a great lesson.
In seasons of trials, dwell on the Lord's attributes.
Dwell on his work in history.
Dwell on his promises.
There are approximately 8,810 promises in the entire Bible.
In the Old Testament there are 7,706 and in the New Testament there are 1,104 wonderful promises.
Deuteronomy 28 has 133 promises, which is more than any other chapter in the Bible.
It’s been said “We’re sitting on the premises when we ought to be standing on the promises!”
Coram Deo Stand on The Promises that find their yes and Amen in Jesus!
He is righteous.
He is a rescuer.
Let hope arise as you ponder his ways.
You will need good theology in dark moments.
Now we come to the second part of this Psalm
II. A Prayer of God’s People
Psalm 129:5–8 (ESV)
May all who hate Zion
be put to shame and turned backward!
Let them be like the grass on the housetops,
which withers before it grows up,
with which the reaper does not fill his hand
nor the binder of sheaves his arms,
nor do those who pass by say,
“The blessing of the Lord be upon you!
We bless you in the name of the Lord!”
This is where we see an imprecatory prayer in this Psalm
In view of the seriousness of opposing God's people, the people call down destruction on the enemies of God with three curses.
First they plead for those who "hate Zion" (i.e., those who hate God's peopIe) to be shamed by defeat and turned back in retreat.
Israel will be victorious.
Second, they plead for those who afflict God's people to be useless, "like grass on the rooftops"
(v. 6).
Roofs were flat during this time, and the grass might sprout for a season in the shallow dirt.
But it would soon wither because of the beating sun.
The grass would grow but would be useless.
The reaper wouldn't even have to cut it down or bind it into sheaves (v. 7).
The psalmist, then, is praying for the enemies to be scorched and fruitless--for the enemies to harm God's people no longer.
Finally, they plead for the enemies to remain unblessed (v. 8).
This may seem harsh at first reading.
Are we supposed to pray curses on others?
A better way to understand this Psalm is to see what the goal of this prayer is.
This is a prayer that is focusing on the triumph of God’s name.
Consider Ephesians 6 and it’s call for us to go to war
Ephesians 6:12 (ESV)
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Psalm 129 pits the kingdom of God against the kingdom of darkness.
We are praying ultimately for the destruction of enemy and his minions.
Jesus taught us to pray your kingdom come.
To pray this necessarily implies praying for the destruction of the kingdom of darkness.
This is a Psalm asking God to be God.
To bring an end to evil.
To not let it flourish.
To preserve and care for his people.
It is an honest Psalm.
Coram Deo is this your prayer?
Do you pray that evil would be undone?
Do you pray for the flourishing of the Kingdom?
Do you pray for those who are afflicted in their faith?
Have you lost confidence in God?
In seeing all your afflictions are you missing the redemptions?
Are you seeing evil abound and losing heart?
Several years ago in Texas, a pilot left the motor running on a plane and somehow through auto pilot the plane engaged itself.
It was without a pilot and took off.
It was flying on its own.
It stayed in the air for over ninety minutes.
Then, the inevitable happened: it ran out of gas, crashed, and was totally destroyed.
For a while, you can fly on your own.
For a while, you can take off and be somebody.
For a while, you can act like God does not exist.
For a while, you can play a little religion, but not be serious about submitting yourself to the Lord.
And for a while, you can fly.
I know there are atheists, and they look like they’re flying.
I know, sometimes you look at evil people and you say, How come they can be so evil and can fly so high?
I know sometimes you are jealous when you look at folk who have no respect for God and seem to be flying high.
Keep watching, because sooner or later, they will run out of gas, crash, and be destroyed.
When you fly your life without God in the pilot’s seat of your life, that’s what happens.
That’s why the Bible says don’t be envious of the evildoers.
Just because they are making money and getting ahead by doing wrong, don’t get jealous of them.
One can only fly high on their own for a while, but there will come a point where they will run out of gas and will discover in an abrupt way there is a God who is Lord over the universe.
The depth and beauty of this Psalm is the steadfastness of God.
I love how Eugene Peterson paraphrases verse 4 of this Psalm
But God wouldn’t put up with it, he sticks with us. -Psalm 129:4 (The Message)
In reflecting on this Psalm Peterson says simply:
Perseverance is not the result of our determination, it is the result of God’s faithfulness
We survive in the way of faith not because we have extraordinary stamina but be cause God is righteous, because God sticks with us.
Christian discipleship is a process of paying more and more attention to God's righteousness and less and less attention to our own. _Eugene Peterson
He is the God who holds us.
He is the God who keeps us.
No matter what afflictions we may face we know that the gospel causes them to work for our good.
Consider Hebrews
Hebrews 12:1–4 (ESV)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
The author of Hebrews calls us to set our perspective in place.
Consider those who have gone before us, but more than that consider Jesus.
Yes we have endured struggles but nothing compared to martyrs and yet still nothing compared to what Christ endured that we would have a hope beyond hope.
I shared this quote a few weeks ago and it kept coming back to mind reading through Psalm 129
“More than anything else could ever do, the gospel enables me to embrace my tribulations and thereby position myself to gain full benefit from them. For the gospel is the one great permanent circumstance in which I live and move; and every hardship in my life is allowed by God only because it serves His gospel purposes in me. When I view my circumstances in this light, I realize that the gospel is not just one piece of good news that fits into my life somewhere among all the bad. I realize instead that the gospel makes genuinely good news out of every other aspect of my life, including my severest trials. The good news about my trials is that God is forcing them to bow to His gospel purposes and do good unto me by improving my character and making me more conformed to the image of Christ.” ~Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer
As we face the trials of life we must keep our faces turned towards Christ and his Gospel truths, so that we can keep in the forefront of our minds what the purpose of these trials are.
Ultimately, trials are for our good.
How so? Because through our trials we are being conformed to the image of Christ.
This is why Jesus teaches us to pray for the provision and protection of the Lord.
IF YOU go to the gym and lift weights, you are experiencing a burden with purpose.
If you work out with a partner or a trainer, their purpose in placing weight on you to lift is to develop you.
The purpose of lifting weights is to build muscle. Now, if someone took that same weight and threw it at you, the purpose would be to harm you.
The same weight causes pain but not for the same reason. One pain is to develop you. Another pain is to harm you.
God allows trials or in the life of the believer to develop them.
Satan brings trials or temptations into the life of the believer to destroy them.
Sometimes they are the same event.
When you understand what God is doing and when you understand what the Enemy is doing, then you understand the prayer for protection.
If you are learning how to drive and the man next to you grabs the wheel, that’s to help you stay straight.
When you get in the car with someone who wants to hurt you, who jerks the wheel, that’s to cause damage or danger.
So when Jesus says to pray for protection, He is saying to pray that God leads you into those things that are only for your development, and never let Satan get ahold of you for those things that are for your destruction.
That’s the prayer.
Lead me not into anything that will tear me down.
Only lead me into those things that will build me up.
Deliver me from evil.
I cannot emphasize this enough.
The enemy wants to take all of the affliction and pain you have felt and to take your eyes off of Jesus the founder of our faith.
He wants you to wallow in despair and have no hope.
He wants to break you down.
He wants to undone do you.
Yet....he will not prevail against you!
Lean on the Lord. He will cause you to preserver!
Let’s pray
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