What Joy?

Psalm 126 is the seventh of a collection of psalms called, Songs of Ascent. This collection of psalms were sung by the people of God as they traveled from their homes to the Temple in Jerusalem to worship during the great festivals of the Jewish calendar.

In this psalm we see how joy or gladness manifests itself in the life of the pilgrim who is journeying to be with God. Pilgrimages can be comfortable or uncomfortable, difficult, dangerous, happy, thrilling, and awe inspiring. For the pilgrim though, they are always, joyful. “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad.” (Psalm 126:3).

Even as I say that, I experience a push back. “What, are we always to be happy?” “But what about…?” “Are you saying I’m not…?” “Surely you don’t mean…?” Yes, there are qualifications, but a pilgrim’s joy is not the consequence of any earthly circumstance. “The Lord has done great things for us” — this is the basis of our joy. Circumstantially, the psalmist is in a season of want (vs 4), tears (vs 5), and weeping (vs 6). Nevertheless, the pilgrim is able to rejoice because, “the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion”, and even though that was a past circumstance, the pilgrim employs the Lord’s past faithfulness as reason to continue to ask and trust in their present need.

In faith we trust the Lord to restore in his timing. Sometimes he restores suddenly like the spring rains in the Judean Negev desert. One day you’re standing in the barren, brown desert and the next day there are flowers everywhere (as the image shows). What a surprise! Sometimes however, the Lord’s restoration takes a season, a season of sowing and tending after which a harvest is gathered in. The pilgrim who sows with tears, who goes out in weeping (pictures of repentance) will not only reap the harvest of the crop they’ve planted, but they shall reap shouts of joy.

Psalm 125 (ESV) reads,

1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
2 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.”
3 The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.
4 Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negeb!
5 Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!
6 He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.

Wasn’t it just like walking in a dream —
Wonderstruck, eyes shining with delight,
The joyful surprise in the face of what seemed
Impossible, a victory, the wrong made right?
And then there was the long, weary waiting,
The months of work with no compensation,
Suddenly a payday, no more speculating
About the coming joy and salvation.
But again we’re in need, again overcome;
Our weakness the world counts as shame;
Though famine, fire, and flood overrun,
We still lift our hands and call on Your name.
Giver of life, Fulfiller of dreams,
Restore our fortunes like Negev’s desert streams.

© Randy Edwards 2017.
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
Photo by Gideon Pisanty, Spring bloom at the Negev Mountains, with Tulipa systola, Helianthemum vesicarium, and Erucaria microcarpa. March 5, 2010.

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