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Prayer, worship and Bible meditation are all expressions of the church. We are never on our own as we participate with God’s people.

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Bible passage Psalm 129

Psalm 129

A song of ascents.
 1 They have greatly oppressed me from my youth—
       let Israel say-

 2 they have greatly oppressed me from my youth,
       but they have not gained the victory over me.

 3 Plowmen have plowed my back
       and made their furrows long.

 4 But the LORD is righteous;
       he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked.

 5 May all who hate Zion
       be turned back in shame.

 6 May they be like grass on the roof,
       which withers before it can grow;

 7 with it the reaper cannot fill his hands,
       nor the one who gathers fill his arms.

 8 May those who pass by not say,
       "The blessing of the LORD be upon you;
       we bless you in the name of the LORD."

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Explore the Bible

Sharing stories
I once had the privilege of attending a rabbi’s training college. Along with aspiring church ministers, mullahs and rabbis, we gathered to hear what other religious traditions believed about rites of passage (birth, marriage and death). It was fascinating and memorable.

The sessions were led by male and female rabbis who were part of the college’s teaching staff. And whenever they narrated the great stories of Judaism and the Old Testament in particular, they used words like ‘us’ and ‘we’. These were their stories; they were fully identified.

Making it personal
This psalm articulates the experience of being a faith community under attack. It was probably sung on the way to the temple in Jerusalem during one of the major festivals. The first verse starts in the first person (‘Often they attacked me…’) and then follows a kind of stage direction (‘let Israel now say…’). In other words, ‘I’ becomes ‘we’. The group owns and expresses a deeply felt and personal sense of pain and shame before God.

We too may be familiar with this approach. Many modern worship songs are written in the first person but sung by congregations. But how many carry the emotional force of this psalm? When was the last time we voiced together the darker sides of discipleship?


Remember in prayer your brothers and sisters in the Lord who are suffering for Jesus.

Gethin Russell-Jones

Deeper Bible study

‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Today’s psalm stands in contrast to the previous song, which heralded God’s blessing. This psalm heralds the sorrows and pains of oppression. The two often belong together in the life of the believer. In 2 Corinthians, Paul spoke of the paradox by which God’s grace and power are to be found in the midst of weakness and suffering. He knew something of what Psalm 129 describes: they have oppressed me, ‘but they have not gained the victory over me’ (v 2).

The psalmist uses a graphic image for the suffering the believer endures: ‘Ploughmen have ploughed my back’ (v 3). This immediately brings to mind how the Servant of the Lord experienced the oppression of the wicked. Isaiah records, ‘I offered my back to those who beat me’ and he reminds us that ‘he was pierced for our transgressions … and by his wounds we are healed’ (Isaiah 50:6; 53:5). It was Christ who willingly endured such suffering and by doing so secured the victory over our enemies (Colossians 2:15). This psalm, along with Isaiah’s Servant Songs and 2 Corinthians, points us to the calling of God’s people who must walk the same pathway. In fact, the victory of the gospel, expressed in this psalm as well as in 2 Corinthians, is heightened with the statement that the oppressor himself will be turned back in shame (v 5). The psalmist uses an illustration that makes the point: grass growing on flat roofs was common enough but, with little soil and the heat of the day, it would soon wither and die (vs 6,7).

Today, some 200 million evangelicals in 35 countries suffer direct and hostile persecution. However, we can be sure that the victory belongs not to the oppressor but to the righteous Lord (v 4).

Jonathan Lamb

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year.

Ezekiel 38,39

2 Peter 3

Let Israel say

Audio reading of passage.

Cut free!

Use this image as a visual reminder of what God has done for you.

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God in my living (Everything)
Tim Hughes
Copyright © 2005 Thankyou Music
Buy this and other great worship songs at

Because of your love
Brenton Brown/Paul Baloche Copyright © 2006 Thankyou Music & Integrity's Hosanna! Music/Sovereign Music UK
Buy this and other great worship songs at

  • Rachael Hampton | Saturday, 18 November 2017

    Derek, I'm sure you would come up with a hymn of lament for us. I pray for you and hope you are OK. Many are concerned and missing you. It is good and right to sing together of what God has done v4 He has cut asunder the thick cords by which the enemy enslaved us, but we also need to groan together over the terrible suffering being endured by God's people. And not deny our own, pretending all is well when it is not. Prayers Carol for Tuesday, and ongoing prayers for all, especially Rubia, James and Andrew and all who are being persecuted for belonging to Jesus.

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