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This might seem a strange title for a post on Psalm 129, and I admit, arriving at this title was a bit of a tortuous journey for me, but bear with me, hear my tale, and all will eventually be made (fairly) plain.
Certain psalms are called imprecatory psalms. Imprecatory psalms are those psalms that contain curses or prayers for the punishment of the psalmist’s enemies. To imprecate means to invoke evil upon, or curse. I looked this up on the internet, so I know that it’s true. ; ) One of my teachers used to call them the “Go Get ‘Em, God” psalms.
And in this particular psalm, Psalm 129, the psalmist talks about the pain and oppression he has endured in his life, and tells God of his desire that such people come to no good. Here’s the text:
They have greatly oppressed me from my youth –
let Israel say –
they have greatly oppressed me from my youth,
but they have not gained the victory over me.
Plowmen have plowed my back
and made their furrows long.
But the Lord is righteous;
he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked.
May all who hate Zion
be turned back in shame.
May they be like grass on the housetops,
which withers before it can grow’
with it the reaper cannot fill his hands,
nor the one who gathers fill his arms.
May those who pass by not say,
“The blessing of the Lord be upon you;
we bless you in the name of the Lord.”
So, you see what might be termed as a lack of charity in the psalmist’s heart?
Beth Moore pointed out to us that the book “Hard Sayings of the Bible” says:
“David was the author of far more imprecatory psalms than anyone else.” Yet, “David exhibited just the opposite of a vindictive or revengeful spirit in his own life.”
So, how do we reconcile these two notions of cries for justice and vengeance in his writings, yet in actuality living out a life that exhibited much mercy?
Just because the psalmist pours out his very human emotions to God in prayer does not mean that God will automatically grant every request. God gives us prayer as an avenue of communication with Him. Sometimes He responds by granting our requests. And sometimes we ourselves are changed just through the process of pouring out our hearts to Him and giving vent to our emotions.
So, I see these psalms as man’s attempt to reach out to God: telling Him the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Sometimes the stuff that life dishes out IS patently unfair. No two ways about it. Sometimes people behave toward us in a cruel, evil manner. Sometimes, after doing all the right things, we ourselves end up getting the short end of the happy stick.
But when life dishes us up a hot steaming plate of manure, there is One who cares, and who wants us to pour out our hearts to Him in prayer – to tell Him how we feel.
So how does all this relate to The Woman at the Well?
I was meditating on how it’s been all the really painful things that have happened to me in my life: the death of both of my parents, a couple of miscarriages, a couple of extremely painful illnesses, the death of several godly friends – it’s been those very things, the things that have driven me to near despair – that have instead driven me to my knees, crying out in desperation to God. And while He doesn’t take away the pain immediately, He comes and quiets me with His love, and He rejoices over me with singing, and He gives me what I need to make it through that moment. And He carves out these deep wells of compassion inside of me, and empathy for others who are suffering similarly.
II Corinthians 1:3-4 says: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
So as I think about those wells He’s carving out in me and filling up with Himself and His love, I find joy bubbling up at the good work He is doing inside of me. And I am reminded of this verse from Isaiah 12:3: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”
And I think, you know what? I am that woman at the well. Perhaps a slightly different woman at the well from the woman who talked to Jesus in John 4, but basically, not so very different. I am receiving from Him the water that causes me to never thirst again. The water that He causes to bubble up inside of me is a spring that wells up to eternal life, and I am drawing it joyfully!
So, with apologies to my friend Yvonne, who is also known as the Woman at the Well, here’s my version of Psalm 129, from THIS Woman at the Well.
Sin has greatly oppressed me since my youth –
let all God’s people say –
sin has greatly oppressed me since my youth,
but the evil one has not gained the victory over me.
Pain has carved out deep places inside of me.
But the Lord is gracious,
and he fills those holes up with His love,
and makes them wells of compassion, mercy and grace.
May any that come against the kingdom of God
be turned back in shame.
May they quickly wither like plants that have no root;
in the same way may they bear no fruit.
May those who observe them not invoke
the blessing of God on their evil plans.
Today, I am praising God for wells of salvation. Have a great big tall glass of living water, yourself, while you’re at it!