These opening words from Isaac Watt’s hymn (a paraphrase of Psalm 90) come to mind as I read this Psalm. As pilgrims made their ascent up the steps leading to the Temple Mount, this Psalm reminded them of the many times in their people’s history that God had rescued them from enemies that attacked and afflicted them; from slavery in Egypt, from the various foreign kings and nations that sporadically ruled over them during the time of the judges, from the attacks of other nations during the 470 years of kingly rule, and, ultimately, from exile in Babylon. Attack after attack after attack after attack and yet their enemies ultimately never prevailed against them.
Commentator Leslie Allen writes, “Psalm 129 is no trite statement of an easy faith or a shallow optimism. [God’s people] had learned both from history and from experience that the light of salvation lies at the end of a dark tunnel of suffering. They sang this song in the night, as it were. By faith rather than sight they clung to God’s past revelation of himself as champion of a particular city and people. With the courage that sprang from a real faith they dared to assert that their divine help in ages past was their hope for years to come.”
I can’t say that we Baptists here in New Hampshire and Vermont have, over the past 260 years, suffered the way the Israelites did, but I know that we met with much opposition in the early years and yet prevailed. Today many of our congregations are facing tough issues, ranging from town opposition, to having to decide between full- or part-time pastorates, from whether or not to sell their building, to even deciding about remaining open. Dwindling membership, attendance and finances are serious issues that can depress us and distress us and cause us to question where God is in all of this.
And yet, this Psalm should comfort and challenge us. Many times all seemed lost for Israel, and they did suffer, often as a result of their own sin. But time after time, God heard their cries. For God is a righteous God who did not forget His promises to His chosen people, Israel.
Can we, (or should I say, do we,) God’s people here in Vermont and New Hampshire, have that same courage and faith to assert that God, who brought about the Great Awakening in New England almost 300 years ago, and which helped lead to the planting of Baptist churches in New Hampshire and Vermont, can do it again?
Yes, the challenges many of our congregations face are serious, but let us be in prayer for each other, and trust that God is a righteous God who will not forget His promise to His chosen people in Vermont and New Hampshire. There is a Light at the end of the tunnel. God, our help in ages past, is our hope for years to come.
Let us pray for another revival and let us be prepared for it to happen.
- Malcolm Hamblett
First Baptist Church, North Stratford and their pastor Cindy Grassi
Northwood NextGen and their pastor Kimo Baker
Passumpsic Community Baptist Church and their pastor David Abbott