Over the last couple of days, we have tried to find tomato plants that are already starting to sprout flowers. Douglas generally starts to plant his garden in late March or early April, but we were away during that time, so there is a mad dash to sow some vegetables, especially our beloved tomatoes, in anticipation of a harvest of goodness. Not thin, sickly looking tomatoes, but big, plump, scrumptious tomatoes just right for sauces or for simply slicing and eating.
Psalm 126 is about reaping a harvest of joy. The author is unknown, but it is believed to have been written to celebrate the Jews return for 70 years of exile. It highlights the joy that comes with restoration, whether that is the restoral of health, employment, dreams, or a people’s homeland. It speaks to the resilience of the body, spirit, and mind of human beings, and of the virtue and necessity of a faith undergirded by patience and a never-ending and confident hope in God.
Psalm 126: 1-3 When the Lord brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, “What amazing things the Lord has done for them.” Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy!
The books of Ezra and Nehemiah, two of my favorite books of the Bible, tell of the restoration, renewal, and recommitment of the Jews; they tell of a time of tremendous joy, after decades of weeping and sorrow. These two books together remind us that while troubles may come, sometimes self-inflicted, God is faithful in keeping His promises.
This psalm helps us appreciate how the people felt after years of tears, for it is a psalm of celebration and gratitude. You can almost see and hear the giddiness of the people as they celebrate this change in their fortunes. There was laughter, singing, and disbelief that what they had desired for so long had finally come true, like a dream that you wonder will ever be fulfilled.
It reminds us that when prayers are answered and the desired changes come into our lives or our life-long dreams are fulfilled, we should invite all of our friends and have a celebration with singing and, if you are like King David, dancing. We should celebrate not just at weddings and graduations, but also at the last chemotherapy session or when our child or grandchild accepts Jesus as their Savior, after years of praying for just such a result. Let’s find more opportunities to celebrate God’s goodness and faithfulness in our lives.
For joy should be shared. As one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, joy comes from the Lord. Remember Nehemiah’s words to his people in Nehemiah 8:10, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich food and sweet drinks, and share gifts and food with those who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected or sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” You cannot beat rich food and sweet drinks for a having a joyous time!
What I find also interesting is that the author reminds us that not only should we notice and proclaim God’s amazing goodness in our lives, but we must be aware that other people also witness the change in our lives, remarking on the amazing things that God has done for His people. That’s why it is so important for us to relate the stories of God’s goodness and miraculous deeds in our lives to other people, for in hearing our stories, people find hope that God will do the same for them, if they seek Him while He may be found. Our testimonies are our best bait as fishers of our fellow human beings.
Psalm 126:4-6 Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.
Though the exiles returned to the homeland, it had been occupied by other peoples who were not as overjoyed to see them return. The exiles are starting anew. So, it makes sense that the author asked God to renew their fortunes, to give to the returning Jews the success that their ancestors had enjoyed before their disobedience led to their exile. He is asking God to restore His divine favor in their lives, now that His divine wrath is over.
The author understood that the time from sowing seeds to reaping a harvest can be long. Weeping is a natural part of the sorrowing process, so it is important for us to remember that tears and weeping do not constitute lack of faith. Instead, God has given us this wonderful mechanism for releasing the stress and strain of suffering and grief. We must allow men and boys this amazing outlet for their grief, anger, suffering, and other emotions that tend to stay bottled up and produce angry, violent people.
David said it best in the fifth verse of Psalm 30, “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” It is a reminder that night can last a long time, but, in the natural order of the universe, morning eventually comes. Those who sowed in tears during the long nights of the soul will reap a harvest of joy when change comes, bringing with it a new morning full of God’s new mercies for our lives.
It requires patience from sowing to reaping, but Galatians 6:9 states, “So let us not get tired of doing what is good. At the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” And one of my standby scriptures for when I get impatient for God to move in my life is Isaiah 40:31, “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired, and they will walk and not become weary.”
This psalm reminds us that while our trials and troubles reduce us to tears, if we are patient and remember what God has done in the past for us, then we will someday see the change we desire or have our dreams fulfilled in ways that we never could have imagined. Our tears will be the seeds that bring forth a harvest of joy, just as sowing the tomato plants this late in the season should still produce a harvest of big, fat, red, and juicy tomatoes just right for those good old tomato sandwiches with mayonnaise that I enjoyed as a child in the South.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We come before your Throne of Grace, thanking You for the moments of joy in our lives. We pray that Your grace, mercy, and peace will be manifested in every life on this planet, and that everyone will come to know that they need You to see real joy in their lives. We are not talking about that artificial joy that the world gives that lasts only for a moment, but joy that burrows deep into our hearts, causing us to have peace even in time of troubles. Lord, heal the world of hate and prejudice, and let the change start with me. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.