Psalm 126: Lament and Hope

Psalm 126
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 it was said among the nations,
‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.

In seminary I had the honor of taking a class on the psalms with Dr. Ellen Davis, an authority on what I like to think of as the “original prayer book.” For our major class assignment, we were to exegete the psalm of our choice. I chose Psalm 126, not for any lofty theological reason but out of pure laziness: it’s one of the shortest!
My poor motivations didn’t stop the Spirit, though, from teaching me the beauty and depth of the psalter nor from turning Psalm 126 into one of my favorites. It beautifully balances lament and praise in a song of hope for restoration and an abundant future. The workers in the psalm distress at their current condition but have faith that come harvest time the fruits of their labor will be plentiful and worth celebrating.
The psalmist compares their experience to the “watercourses of the Negeb.” There are seasons when a creek bed is dry and so, too, do our lives go through seasons when we feel there is little there to nourish us or others. But in due time the rains come and the creek bed overflows with water, more than enough to tend the diverse life around it. We have experienced these rushes of blessings and joy in our own lives and in those dry seasons we remember them and look for their return.
Psalm 126 has returned to me this week as a prayer for all of us at the start of this school year. We have our reasons for lament and to feel parched at times. Our creek beds are not as full as we are accustomed to seeing them this time of year and yet we still set about the work of planting the seeds and tending the fields of our lives. To do so is an act of defiance. It is an act of faith! We have confidence that the work we do today, sometimes even with tears and sadness, will bear great fruit come next spring when it is harvest time.
I hold fast to this psalm as I look with hope and eagerness to the spring when we will, indeed, return carrying heavy sheaves to celebrate our hard work together. A harvest season will come, one when we are free to gather and rejoice, worship and praise, and hug with abandon!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Angela Stanley says:

    …maybe NOT an act of defiance? Or am I reading it wrong?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s