Bible Book: Psalms  129 : 1-8
Subject: Opposition; Enemies; Trials
Series: Psalms

Opposition is a fact of life for God’s people, whether Israel or the Church. Rev. Matthew Henry (1662-1714) writes, “The enemies of God’s people have very barbarously endeavoured to wear out the saints of the Most High. But the church has been always graciously delivered. Christ has built his church upon a rock. And the Lord has many ways of disabling wicked men from doing the mischief they design against his church. The Lord is righteous in not suffering Israel to be ruined; he has promised to preserve a people to himself.”[1]

The apostle Peter writes to those in the Church in 1 Peter 2:9-10, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” Therefore, we know Psalm 129 has an application to Israel and the Church as God’s people. Psalm 129:1-8 reads, “‘Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth,’ Let Israel now say—‘Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth; Yet they have not prevailed against me. The plowers plowed on my back; They made their furrows long.’ The Lord is righteous; He has cut in pieces the cords of the wicked. Let all those who hate Zion Be put to shame and turned back. Let them be as the grass on the housetops, Which withers before it grows up, With which the reaper does not fill his hand, Nor he who binds sheaves, his arms. Neither let those who pass by them say, ‘The blessing of the Lord be upon you; We bless you in the name of the Lord!”

This psalm offers three instructions when we find ourselves suffering opposition.

I. Prepare for it! (vv. 1-2)

As the psalmist looks back, he writes, “Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth,” (Psalm 129:1, 2a). Further note the frequency and fervency of opposition in the following Davidic Psalms: First, in Psalm 3:1, “Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me.” Second, in Psalm 7:1-2, “O Lord my God, in You I put my trust; Save me from all those who persecute me; And deliver me, Lest they tear me like a lion, Rending me in pieces, while there is none to deliver.” Third, in Psalm 56:1-2, “Be merciful to me, O God, for man would swallow me up; Fighting all day he oppresses me. My enemies would hound me all day, For there are many who fight against me, O Most High.”

Remember the account of Noah building the ark of safety and the account of Nehemiah building the walls of security. Both obediently fulfilled the will of God in the face of fierce opposition. Dr. Joseph Parker (1830-1902) observes, “The numbers of a man’s enemies may be a tribute to the very greatness which they desire to modify or over-throw.”[2] Someone said, “The door of opportunity swings on the hinges of opposition.” Paul the apostle writes, “For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 16:9). Dr. Julian C. McPheeters (1889-1983), former president of Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky, writes, “Wherever the door is open there stands the enemy. The greater the door, the greater the adversary.”[3] Advances in the will of God will be opposed by adversaries under the sway of the world system, the weakness of the flesh, and /or the wiles of Devil. Whoever does the will of God will encounter opposition, it is inevitable!

Perusing the pages of history you will find God’s people have always been opposed. Jesus said in John 15:18-25, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’” In addition, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Paul the apostle writes in 2 Corinthians 1:8-10, “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us.”

He writes in 2 Corinthians 4:7–10, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”

Later, Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:10-13, “But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” Don’t be caught off guard when opposition comes. Some people run at the first sign of opposition. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

The psalmist also recalls the failure of those who oppose him in Psalm 129:2b, “Yet they have not prevailed against me.” In addition, he knows the future of those who oppose him, unless they confess and forsake their sin. God declares through Isaiah 54:17, “‘No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their righteousness is from Me,’ Says the Lord.”

II. Profit by it! (vv. 3-4)

John Neal (1793-1876) writes, “A certain amount of opposition is a great help to a man. Kites rise against, not with the wind. Even a head-wind is better than none. No man ever worked his passage anywhere in a dead calm. Let no man wax pale, therefore, because of opposition.”[4] We could further illustrate this point with a sailboat and a surfboard. The sailor catches the winds of opposition and the surfer catches the waves of opposition.

Psalm 129:3 reads, “The plowers plowed on my back; They made their furrows long.” This speaks of the persecution God allows. Verse 4 reads, “The Lord is righteous; He has cut in pieces the cords of the wicked.” This speaks of the preservation God accomplishes.

There are some beneficial by-products of opposition. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary the term “by-product” means, “something that happens as a result of something else.”[5]

Through opposition in the form of persecution we are purified. Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) shared the following comment related to the church in Scotland and persecution: “Yes, the Church of God has often been preserved by persecution; she was never purer, she was never holier, she was never truer, and she never lived nearer to God and more like her Saviour, than when she was persecuted. I venture to say of the Church of Scotland that she was never grander than in the Covenanting times, when they met among the glens, and up in the lone places, and sat on the heather watching lest Claverhouse’s dragoons should be nigh. I think, of late years, she was never nobler than in Disruption times, and I believe she will never again be so good and great unless she is persecuted.”

Dr. G. Campbell Morgan (1863-1945) writes, “The Church persecuted has always been the Church pure, and therefore the Church powerful. The Church patronized has always been the Church in peril, and very often the Church paralyzed.”[6] May I add, what is true of the Church in this case is also true of the Christian.

Through opposition in the form of persecution we are fortified. Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon comments on Psalm 105:18, “Whose feet they hurt with fetters. From this we learn a little more of Joseph's sufferings than we find in the book of Genesis: inspiration had not ceased, and David was as accurate an historian as Moses, for the same Spirit guided his pen.

He was laid in iron, or ‘into iron came his soul.’ The prayer book version, ‘the iron entered into his soul,’ is ungrammatical, but probably expresses much the same truth. His fetters hurt his mind as well as his body, and well did Jacob say, ‘The archers shot at him, and sorely grieved him.’ Under the cruelly false accusation, which he could not disprove, his mind was, as it were, belted and bolted around with iron, and had not the Lord been with him he might have sunk under his sufferings. In all this, and a thousand things besides, he was an admirable type of him who in the highest sense is ‘the Shepherd, the stone of Israel.’ The iron fetters were preparing him to wear chains of gold, and making his feet ready to stand on high places. It is even so with all the Lord's afflicted ones, they too shall one day step from their prisons to their thrones.”[7]

Through opposition in the form of persecution we are identified. Jesus said in John 15:18-21, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.” Matthew 16:24-27 reads, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.’” Jesus said, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).

Dr. F. F. Bruce (1910-1990) explains, “We are refugees from the sinking ship of this present world order, so soon to disappear; our hope is fixed in the eternal order, where the promises of God are made good to his people in perpetuity.”[8]

III. Pray about it! (vv. 5-8)

The psalmist reveals his desire in Psalm 129:5-8, “Let all those who hate Zion Be put to shame and turned back. Let them be as the grass on the housetops, Which withers before it grows up, With which the reaper does not fill his hand, Nor he who binds sheaves, his arms. Neither let those who pass by them say, ‘The blessing of the Lord be upon you; We bless you in the name of the Lord!”

He desires the Lord’s repayment with justice. Remember the futility of opposition and the future of opponents. Don’t take revenge. Paul the apostle writes in Romans 12:17-21, “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1:19-20, “This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” In addition, he writes in 2 Timothy 4:14-15, “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words.”

Dr. F. B. Meyer (1847-1929) comments, “Therefore faith concludes that, however proudly the enemy may bear himself, God will certainly visit him with utter ruin (Psalm 129:5-8).” Rev. Matthew Henry writes, “No wise man will pray God to bless the mowers or reapers, v. 8. Observe, 1. It has been an ancient and laudable custom not only to salute and wish a good day to strangers and travellers, but particularly to pray for the prosperity of harvest-labourers. Thus Boas prayed for his reapers. Ruth 2:4, The Lord be with you. We must thus acknowledge God's providence, testify our good-will to our neighbours, and commend their industry, and it will be accepted of God as a pious ejaculation if it come from a devout and upright heart. 2. Religious expressions, being sacred things, must never be made use of in light and ludicrous actions. Mowing the grass on the house-top would be a jest, and therefore those that have a reverence for the name of God will not prostitute to it the usual forms of salutation, which savoured of devotion; for holy things must not be jested with. 3. It is a dangerous thing to let the church's enemies have our good wishes in their designs against the church. If we wish them God speed, we are partakers of their evil deeds, 2 John 1:11. When it is said, None will bless them, and show them respect, more is implied, namely, that all wise and good people will cry out shame on them, and beg of God to defeat them; and woe to those that have the prayers of the saints against them. I cursed his habitation, Job 5:3.”[9]

Rev. Malcolm Mclean explains, “Many find fault with this kind of prayer, even although they are common in the Psalter (about 36 psalms come into this category, known as the imprecatory psalms because in them the authors call down divine judgement on their enemies). Critics suggest that they lack the spirit of love that was exemplified by Jesus when he instructed his disciples to love their enemies (Matt. 5:44-45).

Of course, such sentiments are not confined to the Old Testament. Note Paul’s words in 2 Thessalonians 1:5-8: ‘This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering – since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are
afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.’

In Psalm 129, the writer prays that the influence of evil people would be brief. He likens them to seeds of grass that are blown on to a flat rooftop and somehow take root in the small amount of ground that may also have been blown there. Fortunately for the householder, such grass soon withered away.

The people the psalmist is praying against hate Zion (v. 5) and are determined to destroy her. If God does not stop them, they will destroy Zion. It is preferable that Zion be preserved and her enemies removed. The reason why they are going to be destroyed is not because they are sinners in general but because they sin in a specific way. If they left Zion alone, then this prayer would not have been offered. The psalmist does not want anyone to wish success to such persons (v. 8).

We see similar attempts made today by the enemies of the church (Zion). As we pray about the situation, we only have two choices: one is that God would convert them; the other is that, in one way or another, God would cause their enmity against his kingdom to cease. We should pray that their influence would be as minimal as grass growing on a housetop. When we pray earnestly for this, it is evidence that we love Zion.”[10]

The psalmist desires the Lord’s relief in mercy. It is only natural to desire relief from opposition, as it was for Paul, when he prayed for the removal of his thorn in the flesh. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Like Paul, we pray for mercy and receive the Lord’s resources through grace. Grace and mercy go together. From Hebrews 4:16 we read, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Dr. Steven J. Lawson shares the following in the Holman Old Testament Commentary: “How do God-fearing believers survive the many persecutions they face in a Christ-rejecting world? The God who stood with his people, Israel, through many wars and conflicts, is the same God who will stand today beside his saints through the spiritual opposition they face. In the face of such turbulence, Christ has promised that he will never fail us or forsake us. In such trials, the Lord grants grace to his people, enabling them to persevere, even in the face of defeat. ‘But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ’ (2 Cor. 2:14). No matter how fierce spiritual warfare is, Christians are always led victoriously by God.”[11] Dr. Joseph Stowell writes, “I think of David Livingstone, the pioneer missionary to Africa, who walked over 29,000 miles. His wife died early in their ministry and he faced stiff opposition from his Scottish brethren. He ministered half blind. His kind of perseverance spurs me on. As I run, I remember the words in his diary: Send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. Sever me from any tie but the tie that binds me to Your service and to Your heart.”[12]

Dr. Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910) writes, “The root of all steadfastness is in consecration to God.” This is the stated desire of Fanny J. Crosby (1820-1915):

Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord,
By the power of grace divine;
Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope,
And my will be lost in Thine.[13]


Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932) shares the following poetic expression:

Though waves and billows o’er me pass

In whelming floods of ill,

Within the haven of GOD's love

My soul is anchored still;

For though the stress and strain of life

My thread of faith may break,

The cable of His faithfulness

No storm can ever shake.[14]

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther (1403-1546), penned the following words in “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” in 1529:

Let goods and kindred go,

this mortal life also;

The body they may kill:

God’s truth abideth still,

His kingdom is forever.[15]

Remember, this too shall pass, as you think of opposition.

[1]Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, “Thankful for Former Deliverances,” (Psalm 129:1-4), Database © 2011 WORDsearch Corp.

[2]The Biblical Illustrator, ed. Joseph S. Exell, Psalms, vol. 1, (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company,1887), 49.

[3]Julian C. McPheeters, Proclaiming the New Testament: The Epistles to the Corinthians, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1964), 76.

[4]Elon Foster, New Cyclopaedia of Prose Illustrations, “Help of Opposition,” #4254, (New York, NY: W. C. Palmer, Jr., & Co., 1875), 485

[5]By-product, Accessed: 02/14/14, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/by-product

[6]G. Campbell Morgan, The Acts of the Apostles, (New York, NY: Fleming H. Revell, 1924), 465.

[7]Charles H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Psalm 105:18, Book 4, Database © 2013 WORDsearch.

[8]F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Epistle to the Hebrews, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990), 154

[9]Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, “Look Forward with a Believing Prayer for and a Prospect of the Destruction of All the Enemies of Zion” (Psalm 129:5-8), 738, Database © 2014 WORDsearch.

[10]Malcolm Mclean, “Looking Back and Looking Up,” Sermon Notes, (Psalm 129), Sunday, October 31, 2010, Accessed: 02/14/14,


[11]Holman Old Testament Commentary - Psalms 76-150, ed. Max Anders, Steven J. Lawson, (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006), 295, Database © 2013 WORDsearch.

[12]Joseph Stowell, Through The Fire, (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1988), 150.

[13]Fanny J. Crosby, “I am Thine O, Lord,” or “Draw Me Nearer,” Bright­est and Best (New York: Big­low & Main, 1875).

[14]Annie Johnson Flint, “The Thread and the Cable”

[15]Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” (1529)

By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527

Author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice Available on Amazon.com and WORDsearchbible.com



http://www.webspawner.com/users/franklinlkirksey / fkirksey@bellsouth.net / (251) 626-6210

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