“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.“ (Psalm 126:5-6, NIV)
Psalm 126 is one of fifteen songs sung by Jewish Pilgrims as they traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate holy days. We call them “Songs of Ascent” because of Jerusalem’s high elevation. The pilgrims would sing together on their way up to Mount Zion.
This one, in particular, is one of my favorites. Its theme is joy – four times the psalmist uses the word. But it’s not a joy one might find in paradise where everything is perfect and ideal. No, this is real-life, real-world joy.
The nation was in a difficult place when the Psalm was written. Though some Israelites had returned from Babylonian captivity (v.1), many more of her fellow citizens remained there as hostages. Times were hard and the nation struggled…but isn’t that when we need joy and hope the most?
So the Psalm begins by remembering joy…then anticipating joy. God brought home some captives already – we had to pinch ourselves to make sure we weren’t dreaming (v. 1). We laughed and cried in our rejoicing – even the surrounding nations were surprised at what God had done for us (v. 2).
We need that joy to return…like the winter rains that bring life to the desert (v. 3). Those rains come every year, we can count on them. Like clockwork those rains come, filling the dry river-beds with life-giving water. The deserts burst forth with life overnight. We can count on those rains…we can count on God, too.
Though at the moment joy may be hard to come by, we know it will return. We sow seed because we anticipate bringing in the sheaves of wheat. We sow tears now, but anticipate the return of our joy (vv. 5-6).
Friend, if you’re going through tough times and joy is hard to come by, remember and anticipate. Remember what the Lord has done for you – remember the grace, mercy, protection, and provision he has shown you. Anticipate, believe, and trust that he will do it again…that soon songs of joy will again be on your heart and lips.
Until then, sow seeds in anticipation…