I have often mentioned the importance of Bible study so that we may understand how one place in scripture compares and explains other parts of scripture. Often preachers will search through multiple books of illustrations looking for something that will enhance their sermon points and help capture the meaning of a passage. Sometimes the illustrations are the point and the sermon is built on the illustration rather than using the word of God to speak to us.
Instead of looking for multiple illustrations from other sources, I much prefer to let the Bible speak for itself. The Bible is its own best commentary, but to use it as such, a good working knowledge of scripture is necessary. Psalm 129 is a case in point. This is one of the frequent times scripture recounts the history of the Jewish people who have been oppressed since the day God made them a nation. As the psalmist says, Israel was afflicted from its youth.
The nation grew up in Egypt under cruel taskmasters, and then became a people set apart to God through the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai. It seems there is barely a chapter from that point when somebody was not trying to destroy them. The reason is not because Jews have some inherent despicability. I think modern Jews often do not understand this themselves. The real reason is the one who hates God’s people hates because of the one particular person Israel would produce.
If I were preaching this passage, the first place I would go for illustration is the book of Revelation. The first thought that came to my mind was the 12th chapter verses 1 and 2: “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.” The woman is Israel. The illustration grows with the imagery of sun and moon under her feet and the crown of twelve stars on her head. This is the same as Joseph’s dream when he saw father and mother and brothers bow to him when he became the vice-regent of Egypt.
The chapter goes on to speak of Israel travailing in birth. The birth pains are the difficulties by which the Saviour was brought into the world. Israel suffered because the Messiah was the fruit of her womb and He is the enemy of Satan. He intends to crush the head of the serpent, an illustration taken from Genesis 3.
This causes reflection on the 129th psalm verse 3 which speaks of plowers plowing her back. This is the deep pains of sorrow continually heaped on Israel because of the child that was to come. He too would have His back plowed by the cat o’ nine tails that left Him ripped apart in a mess of mangled flesh.
From point to point to point—dot to dot to dot, the scriptures weave the story of Christ. From Genesis to Revelation, the story of heaven and earth’s hero is told. Do we see these things in scripture as we read, or do we glance over them not understanding how the 129th psalm is one of the stepping stones in the story? Bible study is the only way this book comes alive. I can tell you it is more exciting to discover it for yourself than to have me simply tell it to you. If you try it and stick with it, you will learn this.
If you want the Bible to be your precious book, make it a part of your everyday life. Don’t let a day go by without reaching into it and gathering another of its nuggets of precious truths. If you do, Jesus will be more real to you than you can possibly imagine.
Pastor V. Mark Smith