Psalm 126 A song of ascents (1) When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. (2) Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them." (3) The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. (4) Restore our fortunes, LORD, like streams in the Negev. (5) Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. (6) Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.
Psalm 126 is titled Restore Our Fortunes, O LORD, A Song of Ascents (ESV); Thanksgiving for Return from Captivity. A Song of Ascents. (NASB); A Joyful Return to Zion A Song of Ascents (NKJV); and simply, A Song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem (NLT).
Psalm 126 is the seventh of fifteen psalms commonly referred to as the Song of Ascents, or Song of Degrees, Song of Steps, Pilgrim Songs, or Gradual Psalms. Jewish pilgrims making the journey to Jerusalem for the three annual festivals as required by God in the Old Testament would sing these songs as they came upon and entered the holy city of Jerusalem.
Each year every man in Israel must celebrate these three festivals: the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Harvest, and the Festival of Shelters. On each of these occasions, all men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he chooses, but they must not appear before the LORD without a gift for him. All must give as they are able, according to the blessings given to them by the LORD your God. Deuteronomy 16:16-17 NLT
It was with reference to some great and surprising deliverance of the people of God out of bondage and distress that this psalm was penned, most likely their return out of Babylon in Ezra’s time. Though Babylon be not named here yet their captivity there was the most remarkable captivity both in itself and as their return out of it was typical of our redemption by Christ.Matthew Henry, English minister, 1662-1714
When the LORD brought back the captive ones of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with joyful shouting; 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. Psalm 126:1-3 NASB When the LORD brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, "What amazing things the LORD has done for them." Yes, the LORD has done amazing things for us! What joy! Psalm 126:1-3 NLT
We were like those who dream. It was like a dream. It seemed as if we were dreaming (ICB).
These words paint a beautiful picture of exiles returning home. They never dreamed it would happen; it always seemed too good to even be a possibility. But yet, finally, they approached the holy city. They were home, and they felt like they were dreaming. All they could do was laugh and sing and shout in joy.
“Look what the Lord has done for us!” “He has brought us home!”
In fact, the Jewish people returning home were filled with joy and laughter and thanksgiving to the point that their neighbors even joined in.
“Look what the Lord has done for them!” “The Lord brought them home!”
The Jewish people knew the promise of restoration. It had been foretold that they would return home someday. God promised so. But when time goes by- day after day- hope starts to fade. And yet, God’s promises never fail.
And when the day finally arrived, the streets were filled with joy. And as the people returned home, neighboring nations watched, and even joined in with the celebration.
These foreigners were no dreamers; though they were only lookers on, and not partakers in the surprising mercy, they plainly saw what had been done, and rightly ascribed it to the great Giver of all good. It is a blessed thing when saints set sinners talking about the lovingkindness of the Lord . . .Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Oh, that our joy in the Lord would be evident to those around us. God is good. Always. We can proclaim it with our mouths, we can shout it from the hilltops, but we can also walk daily with joy pouring from us in quiet ways.
A smile, a nod, a kind deed.
So that unbelievers look at us and see that something is different. Then someday they might ask, what is it? What is different about you? Where does your joy come from?
And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 1 Peter 3:15b NLT
There is so little of happiness abroad that if we possess a full share of it, we ought not to hide our light under a bushel, but let it shine on all that are in the house. Let us avow our joy, and the reason of it.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Bring back our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the 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. Psalm 126:4-6 NKJV Restore our fortunes, LORD, as streams renew the desert. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest. Psalm 126:4-6 NLT
The Good News Bible translates verse four: “LORD, make us prosperous again, just as the rain brings water back to dry riverbeds.” The Message says: “And now, God, do it again- bring rains to our drought-stricken lives.”
Some commentators see a hesitation here, a restrained joy possibly. Although many had returned home, maybe some were still in captivity, or maybe some were still on the journey home. Maybe relatives were missing, so joy was hard.
Or maybe verse four is simply, “let’s not forget!” In our joy of restored relationships and answered prayers, let us not forget where we were. Let us rejoice and thank the Lord with a humble heart.
"Even now," declares the LORD, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning." Joel 2:12
What hope. We may struggle for a time, but we will come home again with joy. This is God’s promise.
So those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessings. Psalm 126:6 MSG
Even in times of heartache and worry, we must go out and “sow our seeds” in the world. We must continue on. Time might pass before we see that answered prayer, before we see the loved one’s salvation, before we see healing or a restored relationship. Time might pass as we wait.
But God’s promise is clear,
Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest. Psalm 126:6 NLT
Believer, God’s word never fails. He is good always, and we will return from the harvest with shouts of joy and armloads of blessings.
Father in heaven, give us strength to go out into the world and plant seeds of love and truth even when it is hard to do. Thank you for your word and your faithfulness. Your word is true, and you have been faithful throughout time and even now. We love you. Amen.