By Pat Lehman, professor of communications at Goshen College
Reprinted from Advent Devotions
Those who have known exile – captivity – dare hardly hope for restoration. And they certainly never expect to dream again. Whether captive to lost hopes, ended relationships, the death of one we love, dreams shattered like mirrors thrown to the ground – no matter what holds our souls captive, we often expect to remain there, exiled from the life we had hoped for.
So too the Israelites lived without hope. “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. And there we wept when we remembered Zion.” Whether we read these words in Scripture or listen to The Melodians’ reggae version of them, our spirits weep with the Israelites of old. We too know sorrow; we too know exile.
Thus the words of Psalm 126 leap from the page as the poet sings of the restoration of his people to Jerusalem. The moment is surreal, dreamlike, full of laughter, full of joy. The impossible has happened through the God who makes all things possible, a message Mary remembers in Luke 2:37. A virgin conceives. A Savior is born. Our fortunes are restored!
The writer of Psalm 126 is not so lost in joy nor in the present dream now become reality that he forgets the exile in Babylon. He contrasts planting in tears to harvesting with shouts of joy and repeats it again in the cadence of Hebrew poetry. “They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.”
Our God is faithful, bringing shouts of joy after captivity and exile. Let us praise this God of the Israelites who is our God too, leading us from sorrow to joy, from tears to laughter.
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 126 (NRSV)
A Harvest of Joy
A Song of Ascents.
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts 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 rejoiced.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.