Michael Youssef - Learn From Israel
We're entering into a time of experiencing discrimination, alienation, and harassment. Bible-believing Christians in the West are facing and will be facing difficult time. And so we're about to prepare this generation and the next generation mentally, physically, morally, and in every way. And the way we do this, we can learn from the Christians who have been persecuted for hundreds of years, hundreds of years. But perhaps there is no group of people, there is no greater group of people who have been experiencing persecution and suffering and discrimination for thousands of years like the Jewish people. This is not political. This is just not born out of history but it's in the Scripture. Very clearly in the Scripture.
So, now I want you to turn with me to Psalm 129. The Jews are the longest-enduring ethnic people on the planet Earth. While Christians persecuted or experienced persecution in different parts of the world for 2000 years, they have been experiencing persecution for nearly 4000 years. Jewish persecution throughout the years, we've seen them in history. They've been slammed, they've been hated, they've been expelled, they've been pursued, they've been murdered throughout their existence. But yet, they survived intact. And that is why if I would have a title for this message for this generation and the next, it's to say: "Learn from Israel".
Psalm 129 is the type of psalm where the song leader whom they call a cantor, he's really the music leader. And the cantor would recite one word and then the people would recite the same word after him, repeat that word. Look with me please in verses 1 and 2. Let me be the cantor, and you be the congregation, okay, the worshipers. "'They have greatly oppressed me from my youth,' let Israel say". Israel youth is the time when they came into their own as a nation in the middle of the slavery of Egypt. For 400 years they experienced pain and suffering and slavery before God delivered them. That is considered to be the time of Israel's youth.
In fact, the book of Hosea, the prophet Hosea, in chapter 11, verse 1, he talks about that. He said, the Lord's speaking through him. He said, "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son". In fact, that is why Matthew, the writer of the Gospel, he sees the fulfillment of that very prophecy in Jesus when he escaped into Egypt for a period of time and God said, "Out of Egypt I called my son". In other words, Matthew is saying that Israel was the son that was not obedient to God, but Jesus is the Son who's obedient, in whom this prophecy of Hosea completely fulfilled. "Out of Egypt I called my son".
After years of slavery under Pharaoh, yet they kept on going anyway. When Pharaoh failed to cull their numbers, he began to kill every newborn male. But God protected Moses and he raised him up to be his instrument to deliver them from slavery. But it was not only in... watch these words, okay, watch, watch. It was not only in their youths that they were oppressed, but from their youth they've been oppressed. In their youth, but also from that time on they've been oppressed. "From their youth," the Psalmist writes. Most of you know biblical history and I'm not gonna repeat it. From the earliest days to the day of the writing of this Psalm, they were harassed and persecuted by the Philistines, by the Assyrians, by the Moabites, by the Ammonites, by the Edomites, and all the mosquito bites. And yet, they all were judged for dealing treachery and wanton destruction. All of the nations were judged.
The second stanza of the Psalm is what the theologians give it the big word called im, that's I-M precatory. Precatory, imprecatory prayer. I need to explain that. That's why I told 'em to put it right on the screen. The word "precatory" means prayer. That's all it means. When you add the letters "I-M" in front of it, it becomes prayer against. Prayer against. That is a prayer asking God to judge all those who hate and oppress God's people. Beloved, would you please listen to me. This is very important. This passage is not a contradiction to the spirit of what Jesus taught us in Matthew 5. He's not talking about vindictiveness or taking vengeance or judgmental attitude, no. There is no contradiction between the Old and the New Testament.
Of course, we are to pray for our enemies and Jesus commands us that. He doesn't suggest it. He commands us to pray for our enemies. In fact, Jesus explained this command in Matthew chapter 5, particularly verse 45. In verse 45, he says, "Do this because," of what theologians call "common graces". What's that common graces? Well, the sun shines upon the righteous and the unrighteous, the rain falls for the righteous and the unrighteous. Because of these common graces, therefore we need to pray for our enemies. That's what our Lord is telling us. But that does not mean that God will not judge the wicked in due course. He will.
Every time we pray and say, "Your kingdom come, thy will be done, thy kingdom come," we're saying, "God, judge the evil and the wicked". Every time we say, "Thy kingdom come," we are praying that God would judge the wicked people. Jesus is not saying that we should not want justice to take place or that we should not want to see justice of God on his enemies, no. So how should we pray for our enemies? Well, first of all, we need to pray for them to be converted. We need to pray for them to repent. We need to pray for them to turn away from their wickedness and receive Christ as Savior.
We pray for them to cease from their evil. But if they do not repent, if they do not turn from their wicked ways, if they do not turn from their enmity to God and his people, then we don't pray for them to prosper in their wickedness. That is a screwed-up thinking on the part of the so-called "progressive" Christians. We do not pray for them to succeed in their evil. That's not what our Lord is telling us. We do not pray for them to be blessed in their wickedness so that there may be more wicked, no. We pray as the disciples did in the book of Acts chapter 4, verse 29: "Lord, look upon the threat and grant your servants continually to speak your word in boldness and in courage".
The reason our Lord told us to pray for our enemies, first and foremost, that they would be converted. But secondly, he's telling us not to take matters into our own hands. We don't take matters into our hands, but we go to him. No wonder he said, "'Vengeance is mine,' says the Lord". And let me tell you, I live long enough to know this. That his vengeance is far stronger, far better, far more powerful, than you can ever dream. For a number of years, we have been sold a bill of goods and been given a picture of a milquetoast Jesus, a weak and helpless Jesus, and says that we need to be like that. They fail to recognize that the glorified Jesus in heaven right now, the book of Revelation gives us a picture of a glorified Jesus, a sword coming out of his mouth, big tattoos out on his thigh, and riding a powerful horse.
The amazing thing about those who attack the imprecatory portion of this Psalm is that they do not understand how mild this is. This is very mild. The Psalmist is not asking for God to send the wicked people to hell, which he will. But they're not even asking for that. The Psalmist is not asking for that. Or even that they will experience the same amount of suffering that they are dishing or giving out and inflicting on the righteous. He merely asked that their evil design might not prosper. In fact, there are three things here in this imprecatory prayer that I wanna share with you. No, that's not a three-point sermon, so don't panic.
These are just three things I wanna share with you, okay? And if you're taking notes, write them down. In verse 5, he prays that they will not be honored. In verses 6 and 7, he prays that they would not succeed. And in verse 8, he prays that they will not be blessed. Look at them with me, very quickly, very quickly, very quickly. The honor that the enemy seeks in the Old Testament sense is the honor that comes from military victory, especially if Israel is crushed. And the Psalmist is asking for, with all that he's asking for, is for his enemies to be turned back. Is for the enemy experience shame of defeat.
Not only that they not be honored, secondly he said, verses 6 and 7, that they would not succeed in their plans. The Psalmist uses a very quaint but very effective imagery and you have to understand the Middle East to understand that imagery. It's very unusual. Even though, you know, we've seen in some cities like New York and other cities, is where they have a roof garden. That's not what he's talking about. These roofs are made of mud. They're mud roofs, so if the seeds would fall on them, some will sprout, but that, not for very long because the soil is shallow and there is no provision of water and therefore those will die instantly. They will not grow into a big harvest. Any grass on the rooftop would quickly die. And the Psalmist is asking that the wicked might not even have the smallest chance of succeeding. He wants their plans to shrivel up completely and die. So much so, that the reaper would not have enough for a handful or put some harvest under his arm.
First of all, we pray that there would not be honored. Secondly, we pray that they will not And thirdly, verse 8, we pray that they will not be blessed or prosper in their evil designs. This request in verse 8 is connected to the blessing in verse 7. It's connected to that harvest in verse 7. See, in Old Testament times, it was common thing to do, is to pray for the harvest and pray for the reapers, those who are working hard to harvest the crop, to bless them as they go. That was a common thing. You see it in the book of Ruth chapter 2 where Boaz, you remember Boaz? He was blessing them as they go. But it would be wrong to bless evildoers. To bless evildoers would be betrayal of righteousness and an offense to God. It would be like a nation or somebody in a nation who will cooperate with the enemy. We call them traitors, right?
In the book of Revelation chapter 12, verse 4, we see a picture of the dragon standing before the woman who's about to give birth so that he may devour her child as soon as he's born. And we know the woman is Israel and the Messiah, the Son, Jesus the Christ was born, came out of Israel. And this is a prophetic picture, my friends. The child is being saved by being snatched by God and been placed on the throne and that is where Jesus is now. He's on the throne. We know that this is a fulfillment of Genesis 3:15 with Satan constantly striking at the heel of Jesus, constantly, constantly, constantly. But praise God, Christ crushed his head. From that moment, Jesus... from the moment he was born in Bethlehem of Judea, Satan goaded King Herod not only to go and kill him, kill all the babies in that town.
And then all the way to the most unjust, the most criminal act of kangaroo court that sentenced the the only perfect sinless Son of God to die on the cross. All the way through, Satan was out to destroy the Son of God, but praise God, on the third day, Jesus rose with every ounce of his omnipotence out of the grave. This is the fulfillment of verse 3 of Psalm 129: "Plowmen plowed my back; and made their furrows long". They scourged the back of our Savior, like a farmer plows his field.
Isaiah the prophet in 53:5 anticipate this suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ. He said, "He is pierced for our transgression, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him". Victory that the Psalmist is speaking about will never, never, never, never, never, never go to Satan and his followers. Victory belongs to Jesus and his followers. Revelation 11:15 says: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ".
And I can't wait to see that. And it's gonna happen maybe sooner than we think. Because Jesus lives, we live also. Because Jesus has been victorious, we shall be victorious too. Because Jesus defeated Satan and evil, we will defeat Satan and evil. As Jesus said in John chapter 16, verse 33: "In this world, you'll have troubles". But listen, don't miss that most important part: "But," can you say "but" with me, "take heart! I have overcome the world". The Psalmist affirms they did not gain victory over me. They did not gain victory over me.
Let me tell you this as I conclude. I am sure that some of you might be asking why is this pattern of oppression of Israel and then victory? Why is this pattern, our Lord Jesus Christ suffered greatly and then received victory in the Resurrection? Why do Christians suffer at persecution and then are given victory, why? And the answer is found in the Scripture: "So that we know that our power is not from ourselves but from God". You see, that is why the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:7 all the way to 11 could say with confidence, "We have this treasure". What treasure is he talking about?
The gospel of Jesus Christ. "We have this treasure in jars of clay". Why clay? Why are they not in iron? Why are they not in a safe? Why in jars of clay? "To show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us". Now, "amen" belongs here. He said, "We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed... we always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our bodies. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus's sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal bodies".
There's a very forceful Christian battle cry. It's in Latin and it's placed in the Sinai where, supposedly, the burning bush had taken place. It says: "Yet not consumed". Yet not consumed. Will you say that with me? God's people might be oppressed but they're never consumed. And they can cry with the apostle, "Thanks be to God for he has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ". And all of God's people said, "Praise God".