I am going to post a 3-Part series on Psalm 129. I have been giving messages on “The Songs of Ascent,” but Psalm 129 seems very appropriate at this time of Israel’s grief. Each part is a bit longer than normal, but if you persevere, I hope you will find it encouraging or challenging or enlightening – whatever the right word may be! God bless you all.
[A]. THE INTRODUCTION
The next Psalm in the Songs of Ascent is not an easy one on which to deliver a message, as it is more of a Bible-study Psalm. Also, it is very centralized, having just one theme, and that is “Israel and persecution.” We will look at a range of subjects here as well as address the whole Psalm.
These 15 Songs of Ascent were sung by the Jewish pilgrims as they ascended the uplands and hills in their journey to Jerusalem three times a year for the Feasts of Jehovah.
Deuteronomy 16:16-17 “Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.”
Little companies left the towns, and along the way, they converged, all with the same purpose. As they made their arduous ascent, the time was taken up in singing the great Psalms, and Psalms 120 – 134 were the chief songs they sang, hence the name Psalms/Songs of Ascent. They became more intense as they worked through the list, and most of these Psalms are focused on Israel and Jewish themes.
[B]. THE MANY TIMES THE PERSECUTION OF ISRAEL BROUGHT TO THE FORE
Psalm 129:1 “Many times they have persecuted me from my youth up,” let Israel now say.
The persecution of the Jew and Israel is featured throughout the Bible. Sometimes, it was because of the unrepentant nation, and God sent enemies in against them. That happened often, and about 13 times in the book of Judges, because of the nation’s idolatry; therefore, God had to raise up judges for deliverance when the people cried to the Lord, but it was short-lived. Israel was never able to step back from the sin against the Lord, usually in the matters of idolatry and injustice.
There were three major overthrowings of the Jewish people: Assyrians against Israel/Samaria; Babylon against Judah; Rome against Israel. All these incidents where God allowed enemies to invade the people were because of gross idolatry and sin. The prophets screamed out against it many times. Those judgments were deserved. God warned through Moses what would happen if the people sinned.
Deuteronomy 4:25-28 “When you become the father of children and children’s children and have remained long in the land, and act corruptly, and make an idol in the form of anything, and do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD your God so as to provoke Him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you shall surely perish quickly from the land where you are going over the Jordan to possess it. You shall not live long on it, but shall be utterly destroyed. THE LORD WILL SCATTER YOU AMONG THE PEOPLES, and you shall be left few in number among the nations where the LORD shall drive you. There you will serve gods, the work of man’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell.”
However, many times through the ages, the Jew has suffered persecution from all quarters, but when it came from the “church,” it was wicked in God’s sight.
Standing at the pinnacle of persecution was the holocaust, with around six million Jews tortured and murdered. So much has been written on this matter that I will not pursue it except to say that the retribution of God against this evil act is still stored up and will be one of the main reasons for God’s wrath to fall in the Tribulation, which is very, very close.
All sins must be accountable, and national sins such as the holocaust are on account. People have a most strange concept of God. Many think God is there to make their lives better (without the Christian gospel, circumventing the gospel), and the stuff about judgment and wrath must not be taken seriously. Speak to people about the coming wrath – 1 Thessalonians 1:10 “and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” – and they dismiss you as a crank or mock what you are saying. God is not mocked. His word stands sure, and one day, the wrath of God will burst on earth’s scene.
One other disturbing aspect of Israel’s persecution lies with the church. Throughout the early Middle Ages, right up to recent times, one of the greatest persecutors of the Jews has been the Roman Catholic church. I don’t need to spell that out here, as there are many thousands of studies and findings you can obtain on the Internet. However, the point that is most reprehensible is the persecution from Protestant churches, who should have known better if they had studied Paul and his love for Israel and the Jews, and if they had bothered to understand the importance of the Old Testament prophetic scriptures yet remaining to be fulfilled.
Some Protestant churches have carried on the traditions of Martin Luther, believing his writings, as it has been suggested Hitler did. If Martin Luther had understood the prophetic scriptures and the future of the Jews, we would not have the gross misunderstanding we have today.
Let me quote the “persecution manual” written by Luther – Texts for all this are easily obtainable, but they are all the same. At the beginning of his career, Martin Luther was apparently sympathetic to Jewish resistance to the Catholic church in the face of persecution. However, he expected the Jews to convert to his “purified Christianity”; when they did not, he turned violently against them.
Luther used violent and vulgar language throughout his career. While we do not expect religious figures to use this sort of language in the modern world, it was not uncommon in the early 16th century. I am going to quote at length from Luther’s writings, but I do so NOT to stir up any trouble or discord but to show how history has been influenced by what happened in the past. Sadly, this history has endured and remains the reason why so many in Christian churches have utterly no idea of the teachings of the Major and Minor Prophets. The writings of the prophets are a huge source of blessing and comfort but lost to many churches.
We cannot dismiss history because some might not be happy with it. In the world today, there is a move against our traditions, with history being dismissed and distorted as part of the WOKE nonsense and through the agendas of the socialist left bent on the destruction of our nominal Christian nations. We resist that just as we resist any move to excise the history associated with the Christian Church through the ages.
There is another serious side to this. Because of the Reformers, the Christian world is divided over Israel. Islam seizes on this, saying, “Look at what you Christians say about Israel. You are enemies of Israel yourselves!” This sad state of things comes about from a Reformation movement that did not go far enough. The Sardis church represents the Reformation period of Church history, and the Lord said of them, “for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.” Incomplete! All those churches stemming from the Reformation theology – Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, all the Reformed churches are incomplete on Eschatology and believers baptism and other things.
[C]. QUOTES FROM MARTIN LUTHER’S “THE JEWS & THEIR LIES”
The following are excerpts from Luther’s work entitled “The Jews & their Lies,” a 65,000-word anti-Judaic and anti-Semitic treatise written in 1543 by the German Reformation leader Martin Luther. The trouble is that the dark cloudiness of this work has elements that are alive today and have influenced doctrinal aspects in certain beliefs. Here is what Luther wrote:
*** First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honour of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians. For whatever we tolerated in the past unknowingly and I myself was unaware of it will be pardoned by God. But if we, now that we are informed, were to protect and shield such a house for the Jews, existing right before our very nose, in which they lie about, blaspheme, curse, vilify, and defame Christ and us (as was heard above), it would be the same as if we were doing all this and even worse ourselves, as we very well know.
*** Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. For they pursue in them the same aims as in their synagogues. Instead, they might be lodged under a roof or in a barn, like the gypsies. This will bring home to them that they are not masters in our country, as they boast, but that they are living in exile and in captivity, as they incessantly wail and lament about us before God.
*** Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them. (remainder omitted)
*** Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. For they have justly forfeited the right to such an office by holding the poor Jews captive with the saying of Moses (Deuteronomy 17 [:10 ff.] in which he commands them to obey their teachers on penalty of death, although Moses clearly adds: “what they teach you in accord with the law of the Lord.” Those villains ignore that. They wantonly employ the poor people’s obedience contrary to the law of the Lord and infuse them with this poison, cursing, and blasphemy. In the same way, the Pope also held us captive with the declaration in Matthew 16[:18], “You are Peter,” etc., inducing us to believe all the lies and deceptions that issued from his devilish mind. He did not teach in accord with the word of God, and therefore he forfeited the right to teach.
*** Fifth, I advise that safe conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. For they have no business in the countryside since they are not lords, officials, tradesmen, or the like. Let them stay at home. (…remainder omitted).
*** Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping. The reason for such a measure is that, as said above, they have no other means of earning a livelihood than usury, and by it they have stolen and robbed from us all they possess. Such money should now be used in no other way than the following: Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed one hundred, two hundred, or three hundred florins, as personal circumstances may suggest. With this he could set himself up in some occupation for the support of his poor wife and children, and the maintenance of the old or feeble. For such evil gains are cursed if they are not put to use with God’s blessing in a good and worthy cause.
*** Seventh, I commend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow, as was imposed on the children of Adam (Gen 3:19). For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants.
*** Again, that their synagogues be burned down, and that all who are able toss in sulfur and pitch; it would be good if someone could also throw in some hellfire. That would demonstrate to God our serious resolve and be evidence to all the world that it was in ignorance that we tolerated such houses, in which the Jews have reviled God, our dear Creator and Father, and his Son most shamefully up till now but that we have now given them their due reward.
*** I wish and I ask that our rulers who have Jewish subjects exercise a sharp mercy toward these wretched people, as suggested above, to see whether this might not help (though it is doubtful). They must act like a good physician who, when gangrene has set in, proceeds without mercy to cut, saw, and burn flesh, veins, bone, and marrow.
Such a procedure must also be followed in this instance. Burn down their synagogues, forbid all that I enumerated earlier, force them to work, and deal harshly with them, as Moses did in the wilderness, slaying three thousand lest the whole people perish. They surely do not know what they are doing; moreover, as people possessed, they do not wish to know it, hear it, or learn it. There it would be wrong to be merciful and confirm them in their conduct. If this does not help, we must drive them out like mad dogs, so that we do not become partakers of their abominable blasphemy and all their other vices and thus merit God’s wrath and be damned with them. I have done my duty. Now let everyone see to his. I am exonerated.”
This quote from The Christian History Institute – “Luther now thought what he had accused Catholics of thinking in 1523: Jews were dogs. “We are at fault for not slaying them,” he fumed shortly before his death.
Luther’s attitude has left a shadow on Lutheranism that exists to this day, and generally, the Lutheran Church rejects Martin Luther’s outbursts against the Jews. But sadly, the Reformation’s position about the Jews continues to these days. More can be said about the attitude of some Reformation churches stemming from Luther’s words, but that is enough.
There are some scholarly researches on the persecution of the Jews in the last 3,000 years, and they are very precise, listing many hundreds of incidents in history. You can search those yourselves. Remember, this message from Psalm 129 is all about the persecution of God’s earthly people.
[D]. WHY RAISE THINGS THAT MIGHT BE DISTASTEFUL?
Some think that past events should not be raised if they are not “clinically clean.” Some would contend that Luther’s position on the Jews does no good to be raised, but we must disagree. I want to cover this ground again. Today, in the modern world, there is a negating of history, and our very foundations are being destroyed. WOKE and socialism are gaining ground at an alarming rate. In the USA and in my own nation, children in schools now are being taught to hate their nations and despise their beginnings. The proper history that sustained nations is now destroyed.
When this happens, we have cut away the foundations, and truth has been destroyed. The old landmarks of history’s cause and effect have been moved and, in some cases, pulled up entirely. We ought to know the happenings of the past, whether good or bad. We must learn from mistakes and be very clear about the word of God. The rest of this Psalm of Ascent would inherently suggest that.
Also, we must not take the word of Christian ministers and Bible teachers, especially those who are everywhere now on social media and television, as “gospel truth,” but be like the Bereans who faithfully examined the word of God to see if the things being taught to them were in fact true to the Bible (in the days of the Bereans, it was the Old Testament which were the scriptures).
[E]. WE MUST RETURN TO THIS PSALM – PERSECUTED FROM OUR YOUTH UP
Psalm 129:2 “MANY TIMES they have persecuted me from my youth up, yet THEY HAVE NOT PREVAILED against me.”
Verse 2 is a parallelism with verse 1 with the addition of “yet they have not prevailed against me.” When this hymn was composed around 2,800 to 3,000 years ago, Israel already had a history of 1,000 years from Abraham. During those 1,000 years, even from the youthful days of the Patriarchs and Egypt, Israel had been persecuted by those who hated her and hated God. They were doing the devil’s bidding, even though the persecutors were not aware of it.
A man in opposition to God will always pursue the righteous. A man not under the control of God will do Satan’s bidding. That is what most leaders of nations are doing today, with four of the worst, among many, being Biden, Albanese, Putin, and Xi. Most nations have this type of leader in control. That is the way it is. For those who hope a change in leadership will make things better, the sad news for you is that in the last days of the Church age, men will proceed from bad to worse. It will keep declining.
I would like to share with you a thought. After the Reformation period, there were some great movements of God in the United States and Britain. There were godly revivals, mission/missionary endeavors, and evangelism that changed the outlook of nations, and a strong Christianity made a great nation. From Britain, this spread to a lot of the British Empire. The 17 and 18 hundreds and the first half of the 19 hundreds saw great revivals and outreaches, and Christian morals permeated society. Then, from the 1950s onwards, people began to separate from God with very powerful influences at work – rock music and the free expression movement (hippies); then the free thought and the growing evil influence of Hollywood, psychology, atheism, social media, and wickedness coming from the big tech companies.
When you reach the 2000s, you have self-serving governments and the wicked rise and influence of socialism. Look around you and see – what has happened to godliness now? Look how the USA, the UK, Australia, and some Europeans are now being governed (or not governed). In fact, Christians are being persecuted in Britain, the USA, Canada, Australia, most of Europe, and so many other places in the world, especially in Africa.
Israel was persecuted from its youth up and into manhood at the time of the Psalm of Ascent. Since that time, it got worse and more vicious, as Satan hates Israel with a vengeance and many times tried to destroy the nation so that the Christ would not be born.
The Australian government has condemned Israel and taken a hateful stand against the nation. Some terrible things are being done in our times. The anti-God Prime Minister of Australia has given around 100 million Australian dollars to the Palestinians, and any informed person knows it is used to buy arms against Israel. As I write this, the Australian government has granted another large sum to the Palestinian Organization and denounced and condemned Israel. Two of the past three United States Presidents have condemned Israel and promoted her enemies. Be warned, Australia and the United States, any peoples that lift up their hands against Israel, will fall under the curse of God. God’s promises are not revoked, and this was promised to Abraham.
Genesis 12:3 “I will bless those who bless you and the one who curses you I will curse. In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
The great statement in the verse (Psalm 129:2) is that the enemies of the earthly people of God did not prevail. Neither will they prevail in the future. The enemies of the heavenly people of God have not prevailed. Neither will they in the future, for God’s plan will be executed, and no hand of the devil will prevent it.
God bless you all. We will continue next time with Part 2 of Psalm 129.