PSALM 126 TALK   TRAVELLING THE CHRISTIAN JORNEY WITH REAL JOY

PSALM 126 TALK   TRAVELLING THE CHRISTIAN JORNEY WITH REAL JOY

 (The seventh Psalm of the 15 Psalm series in the book of Psalms called “Songs of Ascent” which deals with the important issue of having and looking forward to the real joy of the Lord that comes when we first experience for ourselves his salvation and then when we look forward to his salvation to come.)

(THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

 GENERAL INTRODUCTION

 For an introduction to the Songs of Ascent see Psalm talk for Psalm 120

PART 2.    PSALMS 125 – 129   PROGRESSING ON THE JOURNEY

INTRODUCTON TO PSALM 126

After I completed my three years of Bible College training some forty years ago I was involved in thirteen years of full time church youth ministry. My ministry in those days just like today involved a lot of music. I remember from those days of youth ministry one song that still speaks powerfully to me called, “Happiness is the Lord”. The words of the first two verses of that song go like this,

Happiness is to know the Saviour

Living a life within His favour,

Having a change in my behaviour,

Happiness is the Lord.

 

Happiness is a new creation,

Jesus and me in close relation,

Having a part in His Salvation

Happiness is the Lord.

 Then the song has a fabulous refrain that really defines the difference between the joy or happiness God wants to give us and the joy or happiness that the world without God desires, it says,

Real joy is mine,

No matter if the teardrops start,

I’ve found the secret,

It’s Jesus in my heart”.

 

Then the song has one more verse that makes sure you know exactly what real joy or happiness is, it says,

 

“Happiness is to be forgiven,

Living a life that’s worth the living,

Taking a trip that leads to Heaven,

Happiness is the Lord”.

 This important message of real joy or happiness is the central theme of the seventh song of ascent and we can see that this is so from the fact that the phrase, “With Songs of Joy” appears three times in this six verse Psalm, vs. 2, 5 and 6.

The Psalm has two distinct parts which look at the joy of salvation found in verses 1 to 3 and then what I call the joy of salvation to come. Tremper Longman 111 speaks of this Psalm featuring a,

“Already and not yet perspective” which is a neat way of expressing the unusual structure of this Psalm.

The Psalm obviously is speaking about the Jews return from captivity in Babylon to Israel and particularly Zion or Jerusalem (around 537BC) but it also seems to indicate that after the initial joyful return from Babylon problems and difficulties set in and further deliverance or salvation was needed from the Lord.

A lot of commentators believe this Psalm would fit the situation of the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (around 458 – 444BC) when great opposition arose in particularly Jerusalem by non – Jewish settlers there.

So far as being a song sung for Pilgrim Travellers on their annual ascending journeys to Jerusalem to worship at one of the three main festivals there this song would have encouraged them as they journeyed to realise that even in the face of difficulty the Lord has done and will do great things for them and this should be the basis of real joy expressed in song as they looked to God to get them to their ultimate destination.

For us as Christians Longman’s “Already and not yet perspective” of our salvation is also a very real reality. We are saved in Christ and know the joy of our salvation in him. We are also being saved by Christ and know real joy even though we might face of difficulties in this life. Finally, one day will be in heaven or glory experiencing complete and wonderful joy again through what Christ has done for us.

So my outline for this Psalm talk is:

  1. (1 – 3)   THE JOY OF SALVATION FOUND
  1. (1 – 2a)  Surprised by the joy of salvation
  2. (2b – 3)  The joy of what the Lord has done
  1. (4 – 6) THE JOY OF SALVATION TO COME
  1. Introduction to the second section – the ‘already but not yet’ principle
  2. (vs. 4)   A call for salvation
  3. (5 – 6)   The joy of salvation to come

 Lets then have a close look at this Psalm under the headings above:

  1. (1 – 3)   THE JOY OF SALVATION FOUND

 The feelings expressed in the first verse of Psalm 126 is one of “surprised joy” as the writer says this,

“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed”.

 The idea of joy is expressed in verse 2a with the words,

“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy”.

 To get the full impact of these words and understand what the original readers and singers of this song of ascent would have understood by what they read or sang I need to answer for you three important questions, which are:

  1. What does the writer mean by the words “Restored the fortunes of Zion”?
  2. Why was this a surprise or like a dream?
  3. What do the words “our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of Joy” mean?

Let me now give you a good answer to each of these three important questions:

  1. What does the writer mean by the words “Restored the fortunes of Zion”?

The opening words of this Psalm which read literally,

“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion”.

 This is an obvious reference to the Lord making it possible for his people now known as The Jews to return to their homeland form seventy years of captivity in Babylon. This took place in the year 537BC when the king of the Persians who had just defeated the Babylonians made a decree or law that allowed the captive Jews to return freely to their former homeland of Israel.

This seems like a fairly simple event in history but it was much more than that as when a people have been conquered by another nation and what was left of them were taken into exile to another country that would mean nine times out of ten the end of that nation and culture. The whole idea of exiling a conquered people was to compressively crush those people and have them assimilated into the conquering nation.

This return to Zion, Jerusalem and of course Israel was foretold by the prophets and Jeremiah even sent a letter to the exiles in Babylon that sets down this great prophecy, Jeremiah 29: 10 – 14,

This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and full fill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

 “The fortunes of Zion”, could well be Zion as the writer of Psalm 126 chosen name for God’s people and if so means that God’s people who remember gathered as one people in Jerusalem and Zion where the Temple sat to worship God had been restored to live and prosper there.

This restoration was Old Testament style salvation and mirrors the greater acts of God in saving us spiritually through the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as it would have seen impossible that a conquered nation in ancient times taken into exile in another country far away could return to start again back in their former land so it would seem impossible that we can be saved from our sins and the eternal death our sins deserve yet that is the message of the Gospel.

We have been brought from darkness to light, death to life and transformed from being God’s enemies to be God’s friends even better God’s very own children as John declares in John 1: 9 – 13,

 “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God”.

 This spiritual restoration in Christ was made possible only because of what Christ has done for us on the cross as the writer to the Hebrews puts it in Hebrews 9: 27 – 28,

“Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him”. 

  1. Why was this a surprise or like a dream?

So, if the Jews who returned to their homeland from 537BC knew this was foretold by the prophets like we read previously in Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Babylon why were they so surprised when it actually happened?

This surprise was stated by the writer of Psalm 126 in the expression,

“We were like those who dreamed”

 Allan Harman explains this description of them being surprised this way,

“The reference to dreaming may describe the amazement of the people at what had happened, or, more probably, to their condition while still in Babylon”.

 In Babylon, they were locked away in miserable bondage and this would have been more like a nightmare than a dream but through a wonderful turn of events (another way of saying restored fortune) not of their own making they were back in Israel, Jerusalem and re-building the Temple on Mount Zion.

This dream like description of their salvation is used to describe Peters miraculous salvation or escape from prison in Jerusalem in Acts 12: 9,

“Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision”.

 So even though the Jews knew from the prophets or God’s word to them that God promised to bring them back to Israel and restore them to live and worship there when it happened they could not believe it was actually happening and so it seemed like a dream to them.

Maybe we could call it a dream come true and I am sure many people today think that Christians who claim to be saved through the Lord Jesus Christ are simply living a dream. However just like the Jews back in 537BC our salvation is not a dream but a very wonderful reality as Paul puts it in Ephesians 2: 1 – 7,

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus”.

  1. What do the words “our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of Joy” mean?

These words I think capture something of the great joy and wonder of being saved by God and for those ancient Jews when they initially returned from brutal and dark bondage in Babylon where they were no more than slaves in a foreign land the joy and freedom of being back home again as a fully restored people would have been amazing.

The first four verses of Psalm 137 capture well how the Jews would have felt in Babylon as captives in a foreign land,

“By the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. 2 There on the poplars we hung our harps, 3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy;

they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion! 4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?”

 So, it seems the Jews were well known as great singers and even the Babylonians knew this and wanted them to sing their joyful songs of Zion but how could they sing joyful songs when they felt so miserable and downtrodden.

However, after 70 years of miserable and painful captivity they were saved and restored to their homeland and stood again in Zion and so we read at the start of verse 2 of Psalm 126,

“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy”.

Josh Moody who has an excellent piece on this Psalm Called “The Secret of Joy” picks up the story of the famous preacher C.H. Spurgeon being criticised about putting too much laughter in his sermons and Josh records Spurgeon’s reply to this criticism as,

“My good lady, if you only knew how much I restrain myself”.

 The message of the Gospel is what it says it is, “Good News” and it should bring to our faces a great smile of joy and happiness. It should cause us to laugh and be happy as Josh Moody describes,

“This laughter is not a little tweak of the lips. This is not a polite living – room chortle. This is not a snigger behind your hand. This is not a mid-happy laugh. Thus, is a slap – your – thigh burst in laughter”.

 I can say that in the Christian circles I mix in laughter and joy is the chief characteristic of my experience and I can remember many times of great joy and laughter as I have shared in fellowship with other believers not only in my home country of Australia but in all the countries I have had the blessing of visiting over many years.

Now back restored in Israel and particularly Jerusalem or Zion these ancient Jews could sing their songs of Joy which that could not sing as we saw from Psalm 137: 1 -4 in captivity in Babylon.

As Paul prays for the Roman Christians in Romans 15: 13,

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”. 

  1. (2b – 3)  The joy of what the Lord has done

 This joy of experiencing God’s amazing salvation is then spoken of in international terms in the second half of verse 2 with these words,

“Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them”.

 As I said before even the thought in the ancient world that a conquered people who had been forcefully removed into captivity in a foreign land and then returning simply just did not happen. Many much greater nations and their cultures have come and gone over the thousandsof years of history and I only know of the Jews as a nation that both after the time of the Babylonian conquest and recently after being ejected from Israel under the Romans two thousand years ago returning after 1948 to re- establish the state of Israel again.

So, the nations around Israel back in 537BC had to acknowledge that the God of Israel, here called The Lord had worked a miracle for them to bring them back to their homeland through the conquering Persians. Ray Fowler says,

“What God did for Israel was so amazing that even the surrounding nations had to sit up and take notice of what God had done and give God the glory”.

 The bible has the story of two great Exoduses one out of slavery in Egypt and the other our of bondage in Babylon and both seem to have been acknowledged by the Nations around Israel at the time.

In the case of the Exodus from Egypt we have the words Rahab said to the spies of what the people in Jericho were saying about what the God of Israel had done for them in Joshua 2: 9 – 11,

“I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed.11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.

 And here we have the reaction of the nations to this second Exodus in verse 2b of Psalm 126,

“Then it is said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them”.

 Allan Harman picks up the connection of these two great biblical exodus stories for us as Christians when he writes,

“The manifestation of God’s saving power in the Exodus from Egypt and return from exile were preparatory of a far greater display in the coming and work of Jesus”.

 John the Baptist makes the exodus story connection to the coming of Jesus when he declares this,

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

 John sees Jesus as the Passover lamb, now the perfect sacrifice that takes away the sin of the world. Paul makes the connection of Jesus as the Passover lamb as well in 1 Corinthians 5: 7 – 8,

“Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”.

 So, the importance of us declaring to the world or nations of what he has done for us on the cross was so important to Jesus that he instituted a memorial service to keep that continually by word and action proclaimed to everyone of what the Lord has done for us as Paul tells the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 11: 23 – 26,

“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”.

 Then in verse 3 the writer of Psalm 126 says that the basis of Israel’s joy is what the Lord has done for us, verse 3 puts it this way,

“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy”.

 Josh Moody aptly writes,

“I do think there is anyone who, if truly understood this psalm, would not want the dream it describes. Whatever your temperament (morning person or not), whatever your situation (tough or easy), so you not desire to have a constant joy that is so amazing and so obvious that people all around you say, ‘I want some of the joy juice he’s on”? The dream is described as God’s restoring his people, which causes laughter, joy, and witness”.

 So, for those who were on an annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for one of the three festivals held there these words would have been a great encouragement to them to sing with great joy what the Lord had done for them. After all, when the people of Israel were locked up in Babylon as captives and virtual slaves no pilgrimages took place but now coming back from Babylon, which could have been when the first part of this Psalm first sung they would have had much laughter, joy and singing going on as they made those annual journeys.

They had much to be joyful about and so do we with our amazing salvation that Christ has won for us which is a sure place in heaven for all eternity and so it is not unnatural for New Testament writers to speak of their joy in the Lord on many occasions like 1 Peter 1: 8 -9,

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls”.

 So, we too can journey to God in heaven with other fellow believes filled with joy that shows itself in laughter and songs of joy.

As the last verse of the happiness is the Lord song says,

“Happiness is to be forgiven,

Living a life that’s worth the living,

Taking a trip that leads to Heaven,

Happiness is the Lord”.

  1. (4 – 6) THE JOY OF SALVATION TO COME
  1. Introduction to the second section – the ‘already but not yet’ principle

 The second half of this Psalm seems to be like a separate Psalm added to the first one as it clearly asks for restoration of Israel Gods chosen people now when the first part of the Psalm spoke of the joy of God’s restoration having been given to God’s people Israel already.

So how is this second half of Psalm 126 related to the first half?

I think the answer to this question is twofold and these two answers to this question intersect to give us some wonderful practical teaching for our lives as believers in the Lord, the God of the bible.

I call these two answers to this question:

  1. Historical
  2. Theological

Let me explain:

  1. Historical

The first reason why the writer of Psalm 126 asks for restoration of Israel after declaring the joy of restoration having been given by God in the first three verses of his Psalm is what I call a change in the historical state of Israel when the writer of Psalm 126 wrote the second half of his Psalm.

We know from the bible and outside of the bible recorded history that the Jews returned from their Babylonian captivity in 537BC when the Persian king Cyrus issued a decree for captive people under the Babylonians could return to their former homelands and re-build them.

This initial return from captivity is what the first three verses are speaking about. We know particularly from the bible in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah and the prophecies of Zechariah and Haggai that after a few years back home the Jews experienced great opposition and difficulty.

The reality was that they were now not the only people living in their former homeland and Ezra and Nehemiah speak of Samaritans, Arabs, Ammonites and probably many others causing the Jews great opposition and difficulty.

Probably because of this opposition and the enormous job to be done of rebuilding most of the work of rebuilding was either painfully slow or even stopped.

In the case of the re-building of the Temple God raised up Ezra who worked tirelessly to get that done and Nehemiah did the same in the case of the re-building of Jerusalem’s walls.

Some commentators have even suggested that because only small numbers of Jews initially returned to Israel this call for restoration in the second half of the Psalm is for further restoration or return to the land to take place as well.

  1. Theological

My second reason why our writer could have joy in God’s restoration or salvation of his people and then ask for restoration yet again is what I call a theological reason and that is captured well by my quote from Tremper Longman 111 commentary that simply says,

“The Psalmist speaks from an already – not yet perspective”

 I found a very good explanation of the “already – not yet theological perspective on the Got Question? Web page and I recommend you look this up if you want a more detailed description of it but here is my brief interpretation of it.

The opening Got Question? Explanation is as follows,

“The theological concept of “already but not yet” holds that believers are actively taking part in the kingdom of God, although the kingdom will not reach its full expression until sometime in the future. We are “already” in the kingdom, but we do “not yet” see it in its glory. The “already but not yet” theology is related to kingdom theologyor inaugurated eschatology“.

 Another aspect to the already – not yet theology is what I call our status in Christ now and the state in Christ we will be in in glory after we die or Christ returns and I think is explained well by what Paul says in Ephesian 2: 6 – 8,

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”.

 Note how Paul speak of how we are seated with Christ which obviously is not where we are in this life but as GotQuestion? Explains,

“That’s because the present spiritual reality does not yet match up with the future, physical reality. One day, the two will be in sync”.

 Note further that our salvation is sure and secure now because Paul says in verse 8,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”.

 So, the answer to the question are you saved? Is a threefold answer:

  1. I am saved – Justified
  2. I am being saved – Sanctified or being sanctified
  3. I will be saved – Glorification or will be glorified.

I like what Paul says in Philippians 3: 12,

 “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me”.

 So, in the case of Psalm 126 Israel had been restored or saved from captivity in Babylon but once they returned from captivity and difficulties through mainly opposition set in they needed further restoration or salvation to know the full salvation or restoration of their homeland.

This mirrors beautiful the theological teaching of the bible of how we are saved by faith in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ but we need to be saved throughout our life from the sin and the devil and we can look forward in the future to being saved when we are glorified and seated with Christ in heaven.

So, let’s look then at the actual text of this second section.

  1. (vs. 4)   A call for salvation

 So, our writer of Psalm 126 calls for further restoration of Israel and their homeland of Israel with the words,

“Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev”.

 I did not comment in the first section on the term, “Restore our fortunes” and so to understand more fully what our writer is asking in prayer for God to do I will explain what I think he means by this term.

Tremper Longman 111 points out that this term, “Restore our fortunes” is found 25 times in the Old Testament and he believes that this term means in its context,

“A change of fortune for an individual or a community”.

 We see this clearly when the term is used in Job 42: 10,

“After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before”.

 And Jeremiah uses the same term in Jeremiah 32: 44 to describe what God would do for his people when they return from captivity in Babylon,

“Fields will be bought for silver, and deeds will be signed, sealed and witnessed in the territory of Benjamin, in the villages around Jerusalem, in the towns of Judah and in the towns of the hill country, of the western foothills and of the Negev, because I will restore their fortunes, declares the Lord.”

 This reference from the book of Jeremiah could well be what our writer is speaking of as he also links this restoration of fortune to being linked to the Negev.

The writer of Psalm 126 uses the expression,

“Like streams in the Negev”?

 What then is the Negev?

The Negev from my research is the extremely dry desert area to the south of Israel and it seems it best pictured for the writer of Psalm 126 the spiritual and physical dry or barren state of Israel at the time he was writing his Psalm. We have seen this could well have been the difficult time of Ezra and Nehemiah when great opposition set in against the returning Jews to their homeland.

This opposition and hardship of rebuilding a totally smashed up country made even harder by hostile enemies was like being stuck out in a dry desert area without water. So, our writer wants God to perform a miracle like providing streams of water in the desert areas of the Negev.

Isaiah speaks of this spiritual miracle to come in similar terms in Isaiah 41: 17 – 20,

“The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.

18 I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs. 19 I will put in the desert he cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set junipers in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, 20 so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it”

 Albert Barnes makes this excellent comment on this passage in Isaiah when he writes,

“When the poor and needy seek water – Water is often used in the Scriptures as an emblem of the provisions of divine mercy. Bursting fountains in a desert, and flowing stream unexpectedly met with in a dry and thirsty land, are often also employed to denote the comfort and refreshment which the gospel furnishes to sinful and suffering man in his journey through this world”.

 I saw a movie on Netflix TV recently about a minister who lost his biblical perspective of how the Gospel is the world’s answer to its many terrible problems when he saw footage of starving African children. He could not understand how a loving God could both allow this and then consign these children to hell when they died a terrible death so young.

The answer to this spiritual dilemma is what sin or mankind’s rebellion has done to this world and how even before our birth we are sinful and of course no one and I mean no one deserves to be saved but the love of God is that even though no one deserves to be saved God performed the miracle of grace and some, not all are saved when they turn to Christ with faith.

When they turn to Christ Jesus says this is what will happen to them in John 8: 37 – 38,

“Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them”.

 Jesus is speaking here of the spiritual miracle of water flowing inside and out of our thirsty hearts. The miracle of spiritual restoration is what our writer is asking God for in verse 4,

“Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev”.

 This would have been great words of hope for those making their annual pilgrimage or pilgrimages to Jerusalem as they walked the long difficult miles through the desert areas of the plains of Israel up into the hills or mountains of Jerusalem.

It is also a great word of hope and encouragement for us as we often walk the difficult path of faith in this world. I longed to say to the minister in the movie don’t give up on the Just and loving God and his word and particularly his Gospel message even when this world and our lives seem to be in such a mess the Good News is that not only does God save us through Christ but he also continues to help us in this dry spiritual world with his gift of the Holy Spirit who refreshes us with living water like a desert area receiving a miraculous downpour of life giving rain.

  1. (5 – 6)   The joy of salvation to come

 The final two verses fit so well into the theological principle I expounded earlier of “already – not yet perspective” and the joy that it brings even on the difficult road we travel to God. The last two verses use two different poetic images to say the same thing:

  1. (vs. 5)  Tears to Joy
  2. (vs. 6)  Sowing to Reaping

So, lets have a closer look at these two poetic images:

  1. (vs. 5) Tears to Joy

Allan Harman has the theory that this writer is picking up two well- known proverbial sayings of his time to make his point and the first proverbial saying is:

“Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy”.

 I like Spurgeon’s explanation of this verse when he writes,

“Hence, present distress must not be viewed as if it would last for ever, it is not the end, by any means, but only a means to the end. Sorrow is our sowing, rejoicing shall be our reaping”.

 David expressed a similar idea in Psalm 30: 5,

“For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favour lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning”.

 Jesus put it this way when speaking to the disciples and us about the hardships particularly that will come from opposition will bring in this life when he says this in John 16: 20,

“Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy”.

 I remember years ago a speaker at my church who spoke of how he recently visited what was then one of the most persecuted churches in the world which was in a Muslim dominated country in North Africa and he said he found the Christians in that church some of the most joyful people he had ever met and their church service was filled with praise for the God they felt so close to through The Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, we can face tremendous opposition in this fallen, sinful anti God of the bible world but we can have the already – not yet perspective that can say with the Psalmist,

“Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy”

 To do that in our walk with the Lord that leads to God and heaven above we must follow the advice of the writer to the Hebrews who says in Hebrews 12: 1 – 2,

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”. 

  1. (vs. 6)  Sowing to Reaping

We must always remember that ancient Israel was an agricultural based society so a lot of the bible is written with references to agricultural images and terms. Verse 6 of Psalm 126 is a brilliant illustration of the use of agriculture as an image for our spiritual lives, it reads this way,

“Those who go out weeping carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them”.

 We know from Jesus parable of the soils which is a better name for that parable than the parable of the sower that ancient sowing of seed was a much more hit and miss affair. Jesus describes in his parable recorded in Matthew 13 four types of soil, paths, rocky, weed infested and good soil. He describes how the first three types of soil would not produce a harvest and only one, the good soil produced the successful harvest.

In this type of agriculture or crop sowing the first part of verse 6 would apply,

“Those who go out weeping carrying seed to sow”

 So, the sowing of seed is both hard work and sometimes results can be poor or even unsuccessful.

However, the second half of verse 6 speaks of the joy of the successful harvest,

“Will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them”.

 The joy of reaping a great harvest is expressed in the words,

“Carrying sheaves with them”.

 The successful harvest time far outweighs the difficulties of the days of sowing and so this verse is yet again another example of the “already – not yet perspective”.

We might face some difficulties in this life as we go the way of God but they are far outweighed by the future joy and glory to come in the next life with God as Paul says in Romans 8: 18,

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us”.

 In verses 22 – 25 Paul speaks of the groaning or difficulty of this life compared to the hope and glory we have coming to us in the next,

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently”.

 Paul goes on in this passage to speak of how God does not leave us suffering or groaning without help and assistance for God, Paul says provides help and assistance through his Holy Spirit, as we read in verses 26 – 27,

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God”.

 This finally leads Paul to give us what I believe is our greatest grounds for joy in the Lord that should cause us to praise the Lord all our lives for we read in verses 28 – 30 these amazing words,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified”.

 Note the very real “already – not yet perspective” of the last verse of this passage where in Christ we are predestined, justified and finally glorified. The original Greek has the ability of presenting the tense of present continuous and this is what we have in Christ both present and continuous grounds for real joy and praise.

CONCLUSION

 This short six verse Psalm of Psalm 126 might not have started its life as a song of ascent but rather a Psalm written at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah when thanks and praise leading to great joy is presented for the original miraculous act of God restoring his people from the bondage of captivity in Babylon.

However, at the time of writing probably the time of Ezra and Nehemiah sixty or seventy years later great problems and difficulties had set in mainly because of great persecution from non – bible believing people now entrenched in living in Israel.

This led the writer of Psalm 126 to pray for restoration again from these difficulties and as he prayed he realised probably because he believed in what the Lord had done in the past and therefore would do in the future that this time of weeping would be replaced with joy or this time of sowing would lead to a joyful time of harvest.

This then became a song to be song on the pilgrim journeys to Jerusalem and the temple there as those journeys could prove to be very difficult but they ended in a time of great joy and laughter in Jerusalem where the whole nation of Israel gathered in sweet fellowship and worship of their great God.

We too have a pilgrimage or journey to complete and we also can look back at the joy our coming to the Lord brought us to start this great journey.

However, as we face problems and difficulties on the journey of life we too like Paul in Romans 8 can look forward to the glory awaiting us at the end of our great journey of life.

Even on our way we not only have the hope and joy of our journeys destination to look forward to but we have God’s spirit with us and in us to help us on the way and Paul sets out the fruits of the Spirit word in our lives in Galatians 5: 22 – 24,

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires”.

 Paul then gives us his advice of how we should walk the journey of life in God or the journey of faith in the next verse, verse 25,

 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit”.

 I close as usual with my original poem / song based on what I have learnt from this Psalm and a final word of prayer:

THE JOY OF TRAVELLING TO GOD

(Based on Psalm 126 and the tune of “Uncloudy Day)

 Oh, it seemed like a dream that had come true

When Israel returned that day

From captivity in a foreign land

For God made for them a way.

 

Chorus:

The Lord has done great things for us

With joy, we travel to God above

For the Gospel declares that God does save

By his wonderful amazing love.

 

Like Israel of old we can laugh and sing

For salvation has come to us

Like them God has blessed our lives

And all we have to do is trust.

 

Chorus:

 

O God we need your help today

Our world is stricken with drought

Sin has closed people’s minds to God’s word

They are thirsty but full of doubt.

 

Chorus:

 

So, as we travel God’s way in this world

We must believe even though its hard

But if we proclaim the powerful word of God

God’s amazing joy will start.

 

Chorus:

The lord has done great things for us

With joy, we travel to God above

For the Gospel declares that God does save

By his wonderful amazing love.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Dear father in heaven we thank you for your amazing love which we see in the giving of your Son on the cross to make a way back to you through how your Son’s death forgave our many sins. My we laugh and sing always as we experience the joy of our salvation in Christ. However, help us now to walk your way in this often-difficult life keeping our eyes fixed on your Son and the glory and joy that awaits us with you in heaven. This we pray in Jesus powerful name, Amen.

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