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 they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like streams in the Negeb!
Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.
For those with this song on their lips in post-exile Judah, the experience of being back in the land was truly a now-not yet existence. We get the optimism of being back in v1 – 3, having spent the allotted time in Babylon and now the deep down freshness of being home lay before them.
And yet the story doesn’t quite unfold the way it should. Being back in the land is fraught with frustration and unmet expectations v4 – 6. The melody of longing that filled all the previous Old Testament story is still the soundtrack for all the post-exilic books of the Old Testament.
Think of Nehemiah’s frustrations in the last chapter of that book, Ezra’s experience of mixed wailing/cheering at the laying of the foundation of the temple, Haggai’s ministry among those with deficient resources/faith and Zechariah’s apocalyptic visions not of his own time, but of the Messiah’s arrival in the future.
It is perhaps an experience not unlike our own. For us who live this side of the Cross, we know why this frustration exists for the returned exiles; they are arranging a kingdom without the arrival of the Messiah. While we live in a time after that arrival and in the age of Christ, so our ‘now – not yet’ experience is qualitatively different, however the day to day task can often produce similar emotions as we too seek the renewal that only the Messiah can bring. We indeed pray for and work toward the realisation and arrival of the Christ in the lives of those around us. And there is no shortage of opposition and frustration to that mission.
Psalm 126, then is a song for our lips too. The two halves of this Psalm reflect life so often. The optimism of verses 1 – 3 and the wearying toil of 4 – 6.
Brad Dewson, Minister Goondiwindi Presbyterian Church