A song of ascents.
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, Lord,(Ps. 126:1-6 NIV)
like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.
Love divine all loves excelling
The people of God had prayed for so long to be restored to their land, but when it happened it was like a dream. They had known the promises of restoration but now they were living through them and they were overwhelmed by the goodness of God. It had all happened so quickly that it felt as if they were dreaming. They laughed and laughed and sang songs of joy. The Lord had done great things for them. Even the neighbours had to admit that they had been blessed by the great things that God had done for them.
If you want to capture their depth of sorrow while in exile read Lamentations. Was any sorrow like their sorrow? Now God has miraculously brought them back. If we could have sorrow like their sorrow because of our sins, we might know joy like their joy because of our salvation.
The nations recognised that God had done a great work. It was great work but bringing us from the isolation of our sin into the family of God, redeemed, justified, sanctified and forgiven was the greatest work of God. That’s why we evangelise. We want others to know what God has done for us that they too might know the great work of salvation in their lives.
I imagine that the next phrase is not shouted out or sung,
The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy,
but rather in a moment of quiet reflection the Psalmist bows his head, lost in wonder, love and praise, reminding himself, yes the Lord really has done great things for us and we are filled with joy, thanks be unto God who redeems our souls.
They are glad to be back, but they stand in ashes. Now that the initial exuberance of freedom and deliverance has settled, they look at the broken walls. The reality is that it is going to be tough. Existence back in the land was harsh. Much like I imagine it would be like for a family going back to the burnt-out ruins of their home after a forest fire had devastated the neighbourhood.
They were restored to the land, but the land needed a lot of restoration. They prayed that the land would be refreshed like streams in the Negev. The riverbeds in the Negev were normally dry riverbeds but when it rained, they flooded very quickly. It was such a sudden flood of God’s blessing that the people needed to see and so they prayed that God might restore their fortunes.
The Lord promised to answer and turn their tears into songs of joy. They were not just to sit around waiting for God to do something. They had to go to work and much of that work would be sowing in tears. When they put their hand to the work and sowed in tears they would reap with joy.
When we do the work with tears looking to the Lord to bless, then he will bless, and we will return with joy bringing in the harvest with us.
Lord God help us to be faithful in doing Your work. Even when that work is done in tears, Lord help us to look forward to the harvest so that we may sing with joy to the praise and glory of Your name because we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.