Monday, May 17, 2010

Psalm 126

When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men 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, O Lord, like streams in the Negev. 
Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. 
He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, 
will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.

Today's pain is not the end of the story. 

It's easy, in our fallen humanity, to pessimistically focus on the trials and struggles today as ultimate. It's never been this bad, we think, and it can only get worse. 

Israel knew that tendency all too well. Sent into captivity by the God they had rejected, Israel was told to plan to stay awhile in Babylon. God knew very well that the time away from the land of Israel was crucial to their spiritual well-being. At the time, though, it had to seem to them like the end of the world. 
And yet it wasn't. Their pain and suffering, their loneliness, their sorrow, was not the end of the story. God brought them back so dramatically that they could hardly believe it themselves - the Psalmist says they were like men who dreamed. Likely, men who were afraid to wake up from a dream too good to be true. 

But it was true. And as they began to praise God for His deliverance, the nations began to take notice and say, "The Lord has done great things for them." To which Israel could only say, indeed He has. 
I think it's significant that their praise and joy came first, and then the nations began to notice. Paul tells us that joy is a fruit of the Spirit. There is something about joy that's contagious! We were created for praise, and when God shows Himself strong in our lives we should be the first ones to celebrate Him. From small things like finding a parking spot at Wal-Mart on a Saturday afternoon, to big things like the return of a wayward child, and everything in between, we should be calling attention to what God is up to. "To know God and make Him known" - this is the essence of glorifying God. 

Keeping before ourselves what God has done makes it easier to pray things like verse 4 "Restore our fortunes, O Lord". When we know that He is FOR us - when we truly believe it and have hard evidence from what He has already done - we realize that like any Father He delights to do good for His children. We don't always know what that good will be, but we can delight in knowing that He loves to bless us. Especially when we're committed to blessing others and glorifying Him in the process.

The Psalm ends with some of the most encouraging words in Scripture: Tears today, but joy coming. The Psalmist didn't write these words as a theoretical statement. He had lived them. He knew that tears can be turned to joy by the intervention of a loving and sovereign God. 

A lot of you are sowing in tears right now, sowing seeds with faith and not sure if anything will come up. Rest assured, God has a plan. Joy will follow. The harvest will come. Our job is to drop the seeds in the ground and water them with our tears. The rest is up to Him. Just trust that He wants to bring you full circle back to verse 3. "The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy." 

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