We often face challenges, and even trials, in life. Knowing Jesus allows us to proclaim that even though our enemies attack us, the Lord is good!
Haggai, chapters 1-2; Psalm 129; Luke, chapter 10
From my earliest youth my enemies have persecuted me. Let all Israel repeat this: From my earliest youth my enemies have persecuted me, but they have never defeated me. My back is covered with cuts, as if a farmer had plowed long furrows. But the Lord is good; he has cut me free from the ropes of the ungodly.
The Reality of Persecution
Let’s be clear: no one “likes” persecution. While the New Testament writers – and even Jesus – tell us to rejoice when we are persecuted, they don’t tell us to like it. Joy does not come from pleasurable experiences; it is not an emotion like “happiness.” Joy comes from recognizing how God is at work in our lives and the lives of those around us. We rejoice when we see God at work, because we know that God always works for our good (Romans 8:28).
I believe that’s the attitude the psalmist reflects in today’s passage. From my earliest youth my enemies have persecuted me. And not just him; let all Israel repeat this. From the earliest days of the nation of Israel, they had been persecuted. They faced opposition on their journey out of Egypt. The people residing in Canaan fought against them as they tried to take the land God had promised them. From my earliest youth my enemies have persecuted me, but they have never defeated me.
“My Enemies Have Never Defeated Me”
But is the psalmist being truthful when he says, “my enemies have persecuted me, but they have never defeated me”? Clearly, all Israel couldn’t say that! They had suffered defeat at the hands of the Moabites, Ammonites, and Philistines in the time of the Judges. Later, they were conquered by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. Their enemies had defeated them – so what gives?
Let’s keep in mind what the Psalmist is saying: his enemies had never defeated him. Now, we don’t know who this psalmist was (there is no ascription of authorship), but it certainly could be true that his enemies had never defeated him. But that does not mean that he hadn’t suffered. Not only had he been persecuted from my earliest youth, but he also had the scars to prove it. My back is covered with cuts, as if a farmer had plowed long furrows. So the key word is that his enemies had never defeated him. That’s consistent with the message of all Scripture: we may be persecuted and abused, but we don’t have to be defeated. Jesus has already won the victory!
“The Lord is Good”
The Psalmist didn’t know what Jesus would do for us, but he knew that in spite of the attacks of his enemies, the Lord is good. How could he say that?
He has cut me free from the ropes of the ungodly. It is one thing to be attacked; it is another to be enslaved. His enemies had never defeated him, because God had set him free. The witness of the Old Testament is clear: when God’s people turned to him, he delivered them. Their enemies had never defeated them; only God could do that. And the reason that God allowed it to happen was because they had turned away from him and disobeyed his commands. When Israel turned to other gods, they no longer acknowledged God as the Almighty. They removed themselves from his protection, and that led to their defeat.
Application: The Lord is Good
The Lord is still good. He has cut us free from the ropes of the ungodly, set us free from the chains of sin. “Everyone who sins is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). But that’s not where the story ends, because Jesus came to set us free from sin and death and hell! “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free” (John 8:31-32, 36).
Contrary to what some people believe, and what some people teach, Jesus did not come to make us rich. He did not promise us “health and wealth and happiness.” He promised us forgiveness and abundant life. The angel told Joseph to name the child Jesus, “for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
Now, Jesus did say that God loves to give good gifts to his children (Matthew 7:11). But if we’re motivated to come to Jesus for any reason other than the salvation which he brings, we’re missing the mark entirely. Only when we come to him for salvation and forgiveness can we truly understand what it means to say that the Lord is good. And it is only when we grasp his goodness in that way that we can rejoice even when our enemies persecute us. Our backs may be covered with cuts, but we can still proclaim – truthfully and joyfully – the Lord is good!
Prayer: The Lord is Good
Father, we praise you because you are good, and your mercy endures forever. Help us to remember and recognize your goodness today. Even when we face trials and challenges, we can rejoice, because we can see that you are at work for our good. Form us in the image of your Son Jesus, we pray. Help us today to walk in your way, that others may see that you are good. Amen.