“Ploughmen have ploughed my back and made their furrows long. But the LORD is righteous; he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked.” (Psalms 129:3–4 NIV)
Verse four is the core verse of the Psalm. The Lord is righteous – therefore we have freedom. Enemies only restrict freedom, but God gives freedom. However, what does ‘righteous ‘mean?
In this context ‘righteous’ describes the quality of God that leads Him to do right in his dealings with people – it is a relationship concept, not a moral stance. God’s righteousness has been revealed in his acts of rescue (see Ex 3:15, 6:6). Our freedom depends more on God’s determined faithfulness to us, than on ours to Him. He is the one who sets us free.
The way God has treated us in the past gives us confidence for the future. Because of the heroes of Hebrews 11, we are able to handle the call of chapter 12,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1–3 NIV)
Persevering in Christian discipleship is learning to pay ever-increasing attention to God’s righteousness and ever decreasing attention to our own. We find life’s meaning not by focussing on our motives & feelings but by trusting God’s plan for our life.
There is no need to moan about your situation when God is with you. We feel distressed (ploughed upon), but when we look up all we see is a surprised set of oxen and a perplexed ploughman wondering at the disappearance of their plough.
If we are free, and persevering in that freedom, then what are we to do with the wonderful gift of freedom that God has given us?
Our freedom is a gift, and all gifts from God are intended to bless others as well as ourselves. As Paul writes,
“…do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” Gal 5:13 NIV
Instead of selfishness we are to serve people – especially when they struggle to respect the freedom God gave them,
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.” (Gal 6:1 NIV)
If you are free from sin because of what Jesus did for you – cutting the cords that bind – then use the joy of freedom to motivate you to help someone today who appears to have forgotten the significance of their freedom.
“See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.” (Hebrews 3:12–14 NIV)