Reading: Psalm 126
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,
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 (NIV).*
A stream a short walk from my home in Ottawa, ON — photo by David Kitz
This is a psalm that has two parts—two sharply contrasting perspectives. It begins with jubilation, but it transitions to sober reflection and a prayer for restoration.
The historical context of this psalm is readily identifiable. The psalmist is commenting on the joyous return of the exiles following the seventy-year Babylonian captivity—an event that occurred in the sixth century before the birth of Christ. 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.
The LORD had brought back the people of Israel and they were filled with joy. Have you experienced the glorious liberating power of God in your life? Have you experienced the pure joy of the Lord as you realized your sins are forgiven? And oh joy—this God you serve is as near as your next breath!
I remember a time like that—a time when I was filled with the Holy Spirit. The joy I experienced was so all encompassing that I remember waking in the morning with my face muscles aching because of the smile that had been permanently etched there.
But alas, we can’t live on that mountain-top high forever. In our pilgrimage with God, we eventually reach this line in Psalm 126: Restore our fortunes, LORD, like streams in the Negev. The Negev is the desert region to the south of the land of Judah. Streams in the Negev are intermittent. A raging torrent one day becomes a mere trickle on the next day, and then nothing on the third day. The boisterous river of joy turns into a dry gulch—a blank line on the desert floor. Then we join with the psalmist and pray. Restore our fortunes, LORD. Our prayer becomes a plea for a return to the joy of harvest.
Response: Father God, I thank you for times of great joy, when we experience your salvation and your felt presence. Help me to sow the seeds of your gospel message today. Lord, bring a harvest. Amen.
Your Turn: What season are you in? What season is your church in? Is it seed planting time or harvest?
* New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica
Volume II of Psalms 365: Develop a Life of Worship and Prayer by award-winning author David Kitz is available now. For a closer look at Volumes I and II click here.