Read Psalm 126
God’s people in this psalm are reflecting on a joyous memory, a time when God’s mercy was on full and brilliant display. They recall laughing uncontrollably and shouting for joy, experiencing deep fulfillment of something hoped for — almost too good to be true. They were “like those who dream.” Onlookers couldn’t help but observe: “The Lord has done great things for them.”
But things have since taken a turn. Fortunes have dwindled. God’s people long for life-giving streams to flow through the Negev’s typically dry, empty wadis. Work feels pointless: They go out weeping and spend their days sowing in tears.
How is it, then, that hope is the theme of this psalm? Indeed, God’s people are glad, if no longer shouting and laughing in a dreamlike state.
First, we see that God’s people are disciplined about taking time to remember past “fortunes” — even memorializing one in this “song of ascent” for pilgrims to Jerusalem. God’s people preach the truth of the Gentiles’ one-time observation to themselves when they fall on hard times: “The Lord has done great things for us.”
Second, we see that God’s people attribute good things from their past to God alone. Their refrain is not “We were so lucky!” or “Our work paid off!” Rather: “The Lord has done great things for us” (emphasis added).
Finally, God’s people trust and depend on Him, and not themselves. “Restore our fortunes, O Lord…!” they appeal to God directly. They know from experience how He provides for His people, and they expectantly sing about them in the second half of the psalm.
The act of remembering brings hope, not wistful heartache. Because the God who once gave good gifts is still good and still in control. So when we feel stuck in an in-between season — when our personal Negev is parched and bone-dry — we can remember that the Lord has done great things for us. Indeed, He sent us His Son.
Pause to remember a deeply satisfying, almost-too-good-to-be-true moment in your life and thank God for it.
James 1:17 reminds us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Do you consistently attribute past gifts and fortunes to God’s mercy?
How might the regular discipline of thankful remembrance on display in Psalm 126 give you lasting joy and hope for the future, even when you’re feeling depleted?
Lord, this community lament speaks to our pandemic-weary souls this Advent. In anxious times and in-between times, we remember the great things You’ve done for us and confidently hope that we’ll once again laugh and shout for joy, “like those who dream.” Thank You for Your promise that our work in the meantime is not in vain, though we go out weeping. Restore our fortunes, O Lord — and until then, make us glad.
Ann is part of Jason and Pepper Meek’s City Group.