"They have greatly oppressed me from my youth, but they have not gained the victory over me."

During the first few weeks of this election campaign more than 300,000 people (two-thirds under 35s) registered to vote in the largest pre-deadline surge ever. This will include first-time voters, many of whom may have felt left out when they were just too young to vote in the Brexit referendum. In their frustration they might well identify with the opening words of Psalm 129, They have greatly oppressed me from my youth”. 

Political parties have often drawn on the perceived sufferings of demographic cohorts to court their vote, whether that’s winter fuel allowances for pensioners, childcare vouchers and education issues for parents, or tuition fees for students. Frustration, fear and suffering can be compelling emotions for manipulation. 

In contrast, the Psalmist does not look back in complaint, but in praise. Though Israel has faced suffering, their enemies have not gained the victory for the Lord is righteous” (verses 2 and 4). There is confidence that despite past and present suffering – suffering far beyond that of most Christians in the UK – God will protect His people. How much more can we have faith that despite the uncertain road ahead, God is sovereign over all. 

Most of us should probably reserve our suffering for an empathetic suffering alongside our brothers and sisters who suffer far more (1 Corinthians 12:26). We think of those living on the streets in our cities; those trapped in slavery; those facing violence in other parts of the world, like Nigeria. The people of Israel shared their laments, coming together as a community to bring their suffering to God, to express their trust in His deliverance, and to commit to following God’s ways in the future (see for example Nehemiah chapter 9). 

The final words of Psalm 129 may seem unforgiving, the witholding of a blessing and promise of harsh judgement. But the Psalmist knows that God, not man, brings judgement. In the next Psalm, the Psalmist pours out their hope in the Lord, knowing their own position as a forgiven sinner (130:1). Likewise Jesus calls us to forgive our debtors, just as our own sins are forgiven (Matthew 6:12). Tensions can be heated at an election time, but we must not hold grudges or judge those with whom we disagree. Like the Psalmist, we know that we too are complicit in committing sin. 

Thus we wait, and we watch, knowing that with God there is unfailing love and…full redemption” (130:6 – 7) – as God has shown these to us in Jesus (John 3:16 – 17). So we must not hold onto bitter grievances or view others with hatred or with pity. We leave divine judgement against evil to God. 

May we also come together in our local churches, across the divides in our country, to love those with whom we disagree; to bring the suffering of others to God’s ears; and to re-commit ourselves to following Him as we have faith in His sovereignty, no matter the outcome of the election.