A song of ascents.
1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
2 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.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
4 Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
5 Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.
(Psalm 126:1-6 NIV)
This psalm is another undated psalm with no author specified. The overall themes are what the Lord has done on behalf of His people (v. 1, 2, 3), and the peoples’ joyful response in songs of joy (v. 2, 5, 6).
Many commentators link this psalm with the return of the exiles to Jerusalem after 70 years of exile. Jeremiah had predicted that God’s people would be evicted out of the Promised Land if they did not worship Him and live according to His ways. Jeremiah also shared God’s promise that after their discipline was over, they would return to the land that God had given them.
Verses 1 – 2 capture the joy and wonder of the returning exiles. We see a parallel joy recorded in Ezra 3:11-13. In this passage, Ezra recorded the joyful shouts and singing of the returning exiles, some aged folks that had seen the original temple as a child before their families were exiled, and some young folks that had heard the stories but had never been to Jerusalem. In both cases, everyone was filled with praise to the Lord for bringing them home.
Have you ever seen God come through for you, when life seemed impossible and all hope was gone? The joy of experiencing God’s unanticipated blessings can be overwhelming. That joy, however, is often a result of facing trials and persevering in what God calls us to be and to do. The joy that God’s people experienced and celebrated came after 70 years of exile, followed by much manual labor to rebuild the foundation of the Temple.
In the second half of verse 2, the psalmist notes that other nations recognized that God was behind their restoration and blessing. In verse 3, the psalmist wholeheartedly agrees, giving God the glory and thanking Him for all He has done.
In verse 4, the psalmist asks the Lord to restore their fortunes – in other words, to continue the blessings. The psalmist was extremely grateful for this blessing, and also recognized that they could not survive without God’s continued hand upon them. Just as the land could not sustain life without the annual rains, the psalmist knew that God’s people could not survive without God’s continued hand of blessing upon them.
Verses 5 – 6 express the same thought twice. The psalmist acknowledges that life is hard, but must be lived in faith. In the midst of trials and tribulations and tears, God calls us to step out in faith, with the promise of a blessing later. Seeds of faith sown in tears will indeed be blessed by God and end in spiritual blessing later. The word picture of the farmer sowing seeds in tears and later reaping the harvest with joy says it all.
This psalm has great personal significance to me. The Lord brought this psalm to my attention during a very hard time in my life, when I was feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders and not seeing much hope of relief for the future. I knew I needed to break out of the sadness, but was not sure what to do or how to get started. I knew God was faithful and His Word was true, but I also knew that He sometimes leads His loved ones through the desert experiences of life to teach and prepare them for the next phase.
When my church put a notice in the bulletin looking for volunteers for several ministries, the Lord prompted me to check out one of the needs. That small step of faith, to lend a hand to one of the ministries, was truly seed sown in tears. And I can testify that serving with that ministry was one of the greatest blessings during that phase of my life – the seeds sown in tears came back a hundredfold harvest in joy.
May you be encouraged today as you face your trials and persevere in what God calls you to be and to do.
What small seed are you willing to plant in faith, watered by your tears, giving that seed to the Lord to grow into a harvest of praise and joy?