Psalm 126 is an incredible six verses. The first part of verse 1 gives us the setting; namely, after the return of the captives during the Babylonian Exile. As one commentator writes, ‘The restoration of “the captives to Zion’ (v. 1) took place in 538 BC, in fulfillment of the prophetic word (Isa 14:1–2; 44:24–45:25; 48:20–21; Jer 29:14; 30:3; 33:7, 10–11; Am 9:14). The people knew about the promises of restoration, but when the actual moment of restoration came, it was an overwhelming experience.” (Expositors Bible Commentary)
I love the phrase “we were like those who dream.” This moment, as the exiles returned home, was so joyous that it could not be contained. It was so unimaginable that it didn’t seem real. This thing that the Lord had done was so great that they couldn’t help declare it among the nations.
As you read verses 1–3, and you think about what the Lord has done for you, is this the kind of joy you feel? The Israelites experienced a physical deliverance, but that is not the same thing as being “saved by grace through faith” (Eph 2:8–9, which has been the standard of salvation even before Christ’s incarnation). This deliverance was temporal. Yet, for those of us in Christ, our deliverance is eternal. When is the last time you shouted for joy or couldn’t contain the story of what God has done in your life?
Verse 4 illustrates that although God has done a great thing, this is not the foretold Second Exodus in which God will return all of His people from all parts of the world in final restoration. In this moment, they are only tasting in part what God will ultimately do. This verse-long prayer is that God would fulfill His ultimate promise of rescue and that it would come, “As the streams in the south.”
This phrase may not mean much to you, but it refers to the dry stream beds in the Negev Desert, south of Israel. Although they are usually dry, when it rains, these streams will flash flood in a dangerous torrent.
That rapid, overwhelming force is exactly the swiftness the psalmist is praying the Lord bring for His ultimate restoration.
In the meantime, those who labor, must do so with struggle, but reaping brings joy (5). Indeed, we are in the day where we are to throw the seeds of the Gospel “to and fro,” praying that the seed fall on good ground (Matt. 13:1–8, 18, 23). Then in the time of ultimate restoration, each laborer will walk with all the sheaves (the people reaped from Gospel planting), dreamlike, with joyful shouting, because “The Lord has done great things.”
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate