Anticipate Peace – a Reflection on Psalm 126

Anticipate Peace – a Reflection on Psalm 126

Today our Director of Student Ministries, Brian Morgan, reflects on Psalm 126. 

Psalm 126 – 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.

Can you remember the last time you were “filled with laughter,” and joy rolled off your tongue? Maybe Christmas is a painful time for you and you are longing to be filled with laughter and joy. How can we get from despair to a place of peace? Psalm 126 shows us that remembering good things are an important way for us to cope with troubles in the present. It reminds us that life was once good, and someday, it just might be so again. Then, when those good days do return, make certain to rejoice!

Psalm 126 is a plea for a reversal of a bad situation, but what’s interesting is the order of the verses. The plea comes in verses 4-6; however, verses 1-3 are a celebration of how great it was when the Lord restored Zion. So the celebration comes before the plea. Verses 1-3 are about a previous time when God had delivered Zion, and the psalmist calls these thoughts to mind – both his mind and Yahweh’s mind – as he prepared to make his plea. These opening verses remind us that we should not fail to celebrate when things are good.

Verse 4 presents a common biblical image of survival in the desert. The Negeb received little rainfall and has only a few natural springs. When the Lord acts, the desert we have made of our lives, the situation that has become unbearable, suddenly becomes habitable again. Our lives can continue. Notice the feeling of verse 4 is different than the rest. Verse 4 is the plea – it is the point of the whole prayer – “Restore our fortunes, O Lord – Please!” 

The second and third image intensifies the desert turned farmland even more. In verse 5 sowing is made in tears. This may represent the hard labor of planting in general, but more likely it represents the futility of planting in a desert with no irrigation. There is a certain kind of despondency and sorrow that comes upon a person who knows (or thinks he/she knows) their hard work is in vain. The seed is planted, and the only moisture for it are the tears of a dehydrated, puffy, and red face made weak from sadness. 

But the Lord has acted! Those futile crops, the doomed future, has actually produced something! What was thought to be useless and wasted is actually profitable. Seed becomes sheaves, tears become shouts of joy. 

As we anticipate the coming of Jesus, some of us need to remind ourselves of the good times while we are in the midst of sadness. This psalm gives us hope that our tears will eventually turn to shouts of joy, either in this life or the next. As believers, we know the Lord is faithful to use all things for the good of those who love Christ Jesus (Romans 8:28). We also understand this Christmas season can be filled with a mixture of emotions; however, at the very least, can we hold fast to the joy of our salvation (Psalm 51:12), and rejoice that the kingdom of God was brought to earth in a fresh and incredible way through the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.