The unknown author of this psalm is reflecting on a common problem of God’s people – the ongoing opposition that they face. He observes that Israel has known antagonism since the beginning of her existence, her youth.
What this psalm calls for is a sense of realism among God’s people (vv. 1-3). This psalm is a reminder that believers living in this world are travelling through enemy country. In verse 3, the psalmist uses the illustration of a ploughman digging a furrow repeatedly on a person’s back to describe the troubles of God’s people. Obviously it would be painful, but the illustration also indicates that the troubles are malicious.
It is important to note the communal aspect stressed by the author. When his enemies attacked him, they were adding to a deep wound that he already possessed because of the spiritual link he had to previous generations of God’s people. The psalmist identified with their troubles. Of course, this sense of community also embraces other believers who are alive today and who are suffering for their faith.
Yet, as verse 4 indicates, sometimes the Lord delivers his people suddenly and completely. However dark and difficult and dangerous a situation may seem, God knows how to rescue his people from it. Sometimes he sends an angel to open a prison door to let Peter out (Acts 12:6-8); at other times he can move an emperor (Cyrus) to set his people free. The psalmist’s comfort is that the Lord is righteous, that he will remember his covenant commitments, and eventually come to the help of his people in a public way.
In verses 5-8, the psalmist prays for the removal of those who were persecuting God’s people. Some find fault with this type of prayer because they suggest it lacks love. Yet the psalmist also loves God’s cause and wants it to prosper. Therefore he prays that the influence of evil people would be brief. He likens them to seeds of grass that are blown on to a flat rooftop and somehow take root in the small amount of ground that may also have been blown there. Fortunately for the householder, such grass soon withered away.
We see ongoing attacks made today by the enemies of the church. As we pray about the situation, we have two choices: one is that God would convert them, and we should be praying earnestly for this to happen; the other is that, in one way or another, God would cause their enmity against his kingdom to cease. We should pray that their influence would be as minimal as grass growing on a housetop. When we pray earnestly for this, it is evidence that we love Zion.