The Psalms of Ascent are a set of fifteen psalms that were traditionally sung as priests entered the temple, and Jews journeyed to the Holy Land to celebrate the Passover Festival. They offer hope, encouragement, and peace in a time of uncertainty. Today we will read and discuss Psalm 126, the seventh psalm in the psalms of ascents.
Psalm 126 was most likely written after the fall of Babylon when the Israelites who had been exiled were allowed to return to The Promised Land, their home. It is a psalm of both celebration of restoration, and longing for fulfillment.
It shows us that both sorrow and joy can coexist, and that, in the midst of our celebration, we can still be expectant for more.
Verses 1-3: Remembering God’s Goodness
When the Israelites were freed from exile and allowed to return home, it was a moment that they never anticipated would ever come, and one that could only have come through God’s divine grace.
The restoration of God’s people was so astonishing that other nations took notice, saying, “The Lord has done great things for them.” (v. 2)
Babylon was the mightiest kingdom in the world at this time, yet that mighty kingdom fell at the hand of God, and His people were set free, returning to the land that God promised them. They were rightly filled with joy, celebrating with laughter and songs.
Verses 4-6: There Is Work Still To Be Done
At first glance, these verses may sound a little ungrateful, but they should be understood as being expectant.
Being freed from exile was a miraculous and celebratory event, but the Israelites were returning to a land that had been destroyed. The temple was gone, their homes and pastures and animals were gone. It was a time to start over.
Both joy and sorrow existed at the same time. Joy at their deliverance, and sorrow at what still needed to be done.
The psalmist in Psalm 126 seeks God, asking for a mighty and abundant blessing, one that is like a torrential rain in the desert (streams in the Negev, v. 4). When it rains in the desert, the water is overwhelming and abundant, and bringing with it the ability for growth that didn’t exist before.
But the psalmist also knows that some of the goodness of God will take time, like sowing seeds for planting and waiting for the harvest.
We have a part to play in the restoration of God. Our tears are not wasted. God uses our sorrow to water the seeds we sow in faith, and we will reap an abundant harvest, and will rejoice.
We are never promised a perfect life, free from trouble. But we are promised restoration if we have faith. In 1 Peter 5, we are told that God will restore us and make us strong “after you have suffered a little while”.
Psalm 126 is also a picture of Jesus. Jesus spent three years teaching, preaching, healing, and performing miracles, knowing that death awaited Him. He died on a cross, was buried, and then ascended to heaven, where He awaits His return.
Jesus knew sorrow. He was so distraught by His impending death that His sweat was like drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane where He prayed the night of His arrest.
But when Jesus returns, oh what a rejoicing that will be!
When this COVID-19 pandemic is over, we should celebrate and rejoice at God’s goodness, but also we need to remember that there is work still to be done. Don’t let this situation go by without teaching us something.
Don’t let your sorrow be wasted.
Each day, from March 23-April 6, 2020, I will be live on Instagram reading and discussing each of the fifteen psalms of ascents. I want to encourage you to join me.
Also, take a moment each day for your own study. Write the psalms (they’re all relatively short), and dig into God’s Word. That is where we will find peace.