A Song of degrees. “1 When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. 2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them. 3 The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. 4 Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the south. 5 They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. 6 He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126: 1-6).
For seventy years, the Jews were captives in Babylon. Life was hard as they served their new masters. But deep in their hearts, the exiles cherished a dream – of returning to their homeland. How they must have prayed for the Lord to show them mercy by ending their captivity.
When God finally answered their prayer and delivered them in an unexpected way – through King Cyrus of Persia – they thought they were dreaming, and could not contain their joy: “… we were like them that dream. 2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing” (vv 1-2a).
The deliverance was so amazing that even the heathen took notice and gave glory to God: “Then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them” (v 2b).
o “The LORD hath done great things for us” (v 3)
The liberated Jews were full of gratitude and joy for the Lord’s gracious deliverance. Spontaneously, they affirmed the testimony of the heathen and repeated their own witness of Jehovah’s merciful dealings with them. With happy voices and thankful hearts, they openly acknowledged that “the LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad” (v 3).
“None are so happy as those who are newly turned and returned from captivity; none can more promptly and satisfactorily give a reason for the gladness that is in them, the Lord himself has blessed us, blessed us greatly, blessed us individually, blessed assuredly; and because of this we sing unto His name” (The Treasury of David).
As God’s people, we have enjoyed His bountiful blessings. The Lord has not only saved us by His grace, but also watched over us and met our every need. Do we acknowledge His blessings, and testify of His loving favour upon us?
o A prayer for full restoration (v 4)
God’s mercies had encouraged the Jews to ask for more – they now sought His mercies upon their suffering brethren: “Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the south” (v 4). It is believed that some who were dispersed in the outlying provinces were still captive in Babylon while others who remained in Jerusalem were in distress, even in their own land: “… The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire” (Neh. 1: 3).
Matthew Henry aptly commented: “Let those that have returned to their own land be eased of the burdens which they are yet groaning under. Let those that remain in Babylon have their hearts stirred up, as ours were, to take the benefit of the liberty granted. The bringing of those that were yet in captivity to join with their brethren that had returned would be as welcome to both sides as streams of water in those countries, which, lying far south, were parched and dry.”
Let us learn from the example of these liberated Jews. When all was well with them, they thought of their brethren in distress and prayed for them. Like them, let us be mindful of our afflicted brethren who are in need of our prayer and help.
o Tearful sowing but a joyful harvest (vv 5-6)
In the last two verses, the psalmist alluded to the labours of a farmer in sowing and reaping: “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. 6 He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (vv 5-6). As a farmer scatters his seed, he weeps because of past experiences of failed crops due to bad weather or poor ground. He carries with him his “precious seed” which is his hope for the next year. As every grain is being sown, he prays that it will be fruitful. The farmer’s patient efforts in sowing his seed will be duly rewarded with a joyful harvest.
The afflictions of God’s people are not unlike the trials of a farmer as he sows his seed. The Jewish exiles had long sown “in tears” during their long and grievous period of captivity, but in God’s good time, they were able to “reap in joy” when He graciously restored them (v 5). Their patient waiting upon the Lord had paid off and they could rejoice when He graciously ended their suffering.
Brethren, are we facing trials in life? Are we seeking the Lord’s will in some important matter? Let us learn to wait patiently upon the Lord. Do not be discouraged for He has promised that “they that sow in tears shall reap in joy” (v 5).