I'm Greatly Oppressed -Psalm 129
In the “For Pilgrims” article last week I remarked how God blessed four individuals whose memorials we held in the previous week. However, an honest recollection of memories will include not only when a person is blessed and all seems to be pleasant, but also difficult, discouraging times, and even times of oppression. To illustrate this we need only read the history of God’s people - a summary is in Hebrews 11.
The Bible records two seemingly opposite experiences of God’s people: First: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.” Psalm 90:1, 2 Second: “They have greatly oppressed me from my youth - let Israel say.” Psalm 129:1. “O LORD, remember David and all the hardships he endured.” Psalm 131:1. How do we want to remember our past? How do we remember God in our past?
The psalmists looked back and saw both:
- from everlasting to everlasting God is God.
- from his youth he was greatly oppressed.
When we visit a museum of a city, province or country, what do we look for? Whereas most cities and nations look back and remember what they have achieved, Israel looked back on what she had survived. The psalmist in Psalm 129 calls us to a God-perspective that is more in line with the experience of those who follow God than what we want to admit to. We may believe that when we follow God he owes us a calm, prosperous and blessed life - as Psalm 128 presents. But this is the furthest from biblical teaching. The Power of Positive thinking may be popular American and even Canadian evangelical Christian thinking. Yes, we visited the Crystal Cathedral in Anaheim. I have been inspired by the books written by Robert Schuller. But we need to ask whether his emphasis lines up with the comprehensive teaching of the Bible. On closer examination, the history of God’s people is more in line with what is portrayed in John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.
Yet the word of hope in the recollection of martyred worshippers of God, beginning with Abel, throughout all history, and even today, is the declaration, “But the LORD is righteous.” (Psalm 129:4). We may be “greatly oppressed” – just as the psalmist was. The Apostle Paul’s life bounced from adversity to persecution and back to adversity. His account in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 fits with the believers in Hebrews 11:32–40, and the writer of Psalm 129. But God sticks with his people. He is righteous and therefore he will redress wrong. This gives hope to persevere – to keep meeting together and looking to Jesus. (Hebrews 10:19-25; 13:1-3; 12:1-12).