A song of hope... for the hopeless
"When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, 'The LORD has done great things for them.' The LORD has done great things for us, and we are glad."(vs.1-3)
When we first enter into this psalm, we find ourselves among the Israelites as they are returning from seventy years of captivity in the land of Babylon. They are ecstatic, almost delirious with joy, laughing and singing praises to God. Their dreams have finally come true, ("we are like those who dream"); they can hardly believe this is actually happening to them after so many years. Others even looked on and could not help but give God the glory for this miraculous change of events. God had done great things for them, and they were overjoyed.
"Bring back our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the South."(vs.4)
The return of the Jews to Israel was not one mass exodus event, but rather occurred through several different organized departures, each led by different leaders and over several decades. Ezra led one of these returns early on, while Nehemiah, a later governor of Judah, came much later. In this celebration song, the psalmist includes a prayer for the rest of the Israelites still dwelling in Babylon, that they too would be able to return to their homeland, like a steady stream ever flowing south.
"Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." (vs.5,6)
These are the words of redemption's song! Recalling the words of another psalm, "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." (Psalm 30:5), these two verses are the very heart and soul of this song. Torn from their homes, their families, and their country, the Israelites were brought as slaves to Babylon. Seventy years of anguish, under the chastening of the Lord, they waited for His promise of restoration. And it was finally here. The children of Israel had wept greatly in repentance for their great idolatry that had thus required the Lord's hand of discipline, and those tears, like seeds sown, were now bearing the fruit of repentance...restoration to Zion. The harvest time of the Lord's mercy had come, and it was a bumper crop.
Have you ever been in the midst of a trial that threatened to overwhelm you? Are you in one now? Perhaps you have spent much time crying and praying, yet, nothing appears to have changed. It seems hopeless. You feel like despairing, and all hope seems to be gone. Maybe this trial is even a result of your own sins or past choices, and you feel condemnation mingled with desperation. Perhaps you have even questioned God's mercy towards you because of the continuing consequences of your past failings. If you are, or have ever been here, take heart and keep reading!
I have also walked this stormy road. Years ago, I believed myself to be a failure as a friend, wife, and mother. I felt I had let everyone down, and feared that what was broken could never be repaired. As my prayers seemed unanswered and my circumstances unchanged, I lost hope. Yet, at the very point when I felt myself going under, drowning in my own despair, God reached down and led me to this very passage. Hope, like a light, shone into my dark situation. God is the God of redemption, restoration, reconciliation, renewal, and refreshment! He is the God of hope. My dark hour passed and with it the fears of the future that had haunted me in my period of doubt. God's grace is sufficient, His promises true, and His deliverance as sure as the sun rising. Those tears you shed, my friend, shall return to you some day as laughter; and those anguished prayers of desperation will one day be answered in full. His chastening lasts for a moment, but His favour lasts for ever! You can stand on His Word. "Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy," just as the children of Israel rejoiced at their deliverance from their years of sorrow in captivity. When you reap, it will be a harvest equivalent to the seed sown; the greater your sorrow, the greater will be your joy! Stretch out your hand in faith and receive this promise. He is faithful and true, and His Word will never fail you. You can count on Him.
So, go ahead and weep, but weep in hope! Continue to cry out for deliverance, but do so knowing He will deliver you! You may indeed sow in sorrow, but one day you will reap in joy. Your tears are not wasted. Your cries are not unheard. Your prayers are not unanswered. He saves all your tears, hears all your cries, and answers every one of your prayers...in His time. Trust Him. Wait on Him. Cling to His Word. He will deliver you, and in that day you, too, will laugh, sing, and rejoice with the psalmist at what great things the Lord has done for you!
Lord Jesus, I pray that these words will find themselves being read by the very one who needs a message of hope right now. May they be restored in their faith in Your faithfulness, and delivered from the depression that is bearing down upon their soul. In Jesus mighty name, Amen.