Reading: Psalm 129
A song of ascents.
“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 roof,
which withers before it can grow;
a reaper cannot fill his hands with it,
nor one who gathers fill his arms.
May those who pass by not say to them,
“The blessing of the LORD be on you;
we bless you in the name of the LORD” (NIV). *
A few years back I had a conversation with a Jewish friend about what it means to be numbered among God’s chosen people. I found his response quite surprising.
“Most people see being God’s chosen as a great honor or a blessing. The reality is quite different. The reality is persecution. The reality is envy and hatred by your neighbors. The reality is six million dead in the Holocaust. We are God’s chosen people. Is that a blessing? Sometimes it feels like a curse.”
Psalm 129 reflects the truth of my friend’s words: “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.”
Often, we make the assumption that being chosen by God will bring great blessing. But being called and chosen does not mean trouble free. The apostle Paul was God’s called and chosen messenger to the Gentiles, but fulfilling his mission involved tremendous suffering, beatings, imprisonment and ultimately martyrdom. See 2 Corinthians 11:22-33. Paul makes this observation about his calling: For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings (1 Corinthians 4:9).
Genuinely following Jesus in the world today can lead directly to persecution. Amnesty International reports that 80% of the systemic persecution in the world today is targeted at Christians. There is often a price to pay for being God’s chosen.
Response: Father God, I pray for those who are facing severe persecution, whatever their faith may be. But I pray especially for my brothers and sisters in Christ. Have mercy on them for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you see yourself as chosen by God? How do stories of suffering and persecution affect you? Is there something you can do to help those in need?
* NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, COPYRIGHT ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 BY BIBLICA
Please pray for the people of Ukraine!
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