Psalm 126

This Psalm is known more for the verses at the end then for the rest of the Psalm, but we are going to look at all six of its verses.  This is a Psalm that truly was also a song. Beginning with Psalm 120 and continuing to Psalm 134, these Psalms are called “Songs of Degrees.” They were sung by the pilgrims who were traveling to Jerusalem to keep the various feasts days on the religious calendar of Israel. It was a special Psalm to the children of Israel because it reminded them of the Lord’s past works in the life of their nation and of His promise to carry on that work into the future.

It is also a special Psalm to those who are in the church of Jesus Christ. It speaks to us of what the Lord has done for us in saving us and it also reminds us that God has a plan to bless us and use us for His glory into the future. When this Psalm is preached in churches, often only the last two verses are used. They are used to challenge the church to be active in outreach into a lost and dying world. 

The beautiful thing about the Bible is that it has the ability to translate into our lives today. This is the challenge of studying the Bible and digging for the meaning God has for you.  

Let’s look at Psalm 126. I will read it all at once and then we will go back and try to find out how this applies to us. 

1 When the Lord brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! 2 We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, “What amazing things the Lord has done for them.”
3 Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy!

4 Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert.

5 Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.6 They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.  Psalm 126:1-6 NLT

I am choosing to divide this Psalm into three different thoughts directly affecting an authentic follower of Jesus Christ. Embedded in this Psalm are the some thoughts about what it means to follow the Lord. 

It is painstakingly clear, that we desperately need to come to understand what it means to be followers of Christ. Recently someone professed to me to be a believer. When I suggested that there was more to it than just believing because even the devil believes in Christ. This individual agreed that they weren’t presently “following.” 

I feel like I say it all the time but let me repeat it again yet another way. If you are a Christian or a Christfollower everything about your life will be changed. If you really are in love with Christ you will not engage in any activity that you know would be displeasing to Him. You will love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. 

Here is a wonderful picture portrayed in just six short verses of three basic elements of the Christian’s life. 

First of all there is: 

  • Worship and Praise -  Freedom

1 When the Lord brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! 2 We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, “What amazing things the Lord has done for them.”
3 Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy! Psalm 126:1-3 NLT

Can you picture it with me? People who have been held against their will in a foreign land have been released and now they are coming home. Better yet they are coming home to their spiritual home which is Jerusalem. They are singing, they are dancing because they have found freedom. They are going home and there will be no more oppression or slavery. There will be no more temporary housing or lack of food or water. 

Can you picture another scenario with me? The Jewish faith has many religious celebrations and many of them took place in Jerusalem. Along the way the families would sing songs of praise to God as they remembered His goodness and mercy. 

But I have one more picture to paint for you. 

Julia H. Johnston was a pastor’s daughter born in Ohio in 1849. She led the children’s ministry in her dad’s church for over forty years. She also found the time to write over 500 hymns.  One of them is a song I heard all my life that reminds me of what it must have been like to hear the exiles singing on their journey.  In my world growing up this song was sung with a lot of enthusiasm and spirit.  

There’s a sweet and blessed story

Of the Christ who came from glory,
Just to rescue me from sin and misery;
He in loving-kindness sought me, 

And from sin and shame hath brought me, 

Hallelujah! Jesus ransomed me. 

From the depth of sin and sadness
To the heights of joy and gladness
Jesus lifted me, in mercy full and free;
With His precious blood He bought me,
When I knew Him not, He sought me,
And in love divine He ransomed me.

By and by, with joy increasing,
And with gratitude unceasing,
Lifted up with Christ forevermore to be,
I will join the hosts there singing,
In the anthem ever ringing,
To the King of Love who ransomed me.

Hallelujah! What a Savior,
Who can take a poor, lost sinner,
Lift him from the miry clay and set me free!
I will ever tell the story,
Shouting glory, glory, glory,
Hallelujah! Jesus lifted me.

You know why we sang that song with such spirit and enthusiasm; because God had changed our circumstances. We had gone from the prison of sin to the freedom of God’s mercy and grace. 

  • Word of Prayer - Fortune

4 Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. Psalm 126:4 NLT

The fortune talked about in this verse is not what you might think at first glance. They were praying that others might be restored and brought back from exile and experience the deliverance they had felt. What a prayer! This should be the desire of every Christian. We should long to see other come to truly know Christ and experience His fortune. There is nothing better than watching Christ cause someone to blossom into an authentic follower. I thank God for the call that He places on every one of us. I thank God for men and women that will go around the world to tell His story but I also am thankful for men and women that will go across the street and tell the Good News. 

  • Work of Promise - Focus 

5 Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.6 They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.  Psalm 126:5-6 NLT

The Task of the Planter

19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19 NLT

One translation says, “Bearing precious seeds,” and that little phrase has the idea “of leaving a trail of seeds.” The idea here is that everywhere we go; we are to be dropping the seeds of faith and of the Gospel.  Imagine if I were to put up a map of Licking County. Then, imagine that we took push pins and placed one pin for every family that makes up Newark Church of the Nazarene right in the community in which you live. Do you realize that the map of our county would be covered with pins? Nearly every community would have someone in it from our church. What does that mean? It means that if you and I are doing what the Lord has called us to do; we will be dropping Gospel seeds all over Licking County. We will be sowing/planting the Gospel all over this county for the glory of God and it means that people will hear and they will be saved. They will come to know Jesus Christ and He will change their lives forever. Are you planting as you go? When was the last time you shared or did something that would draw attention to the goodness of God? 

The Tears of the Planter

Notice that this farmer goes out to plant and as he plants he is shedding tears, Why does he weep? Because he knows that everything depends on the next crop. He has a burden for the harvest and he wants to see the seed multiplied so that his people might live! I have already touched on the need for a burden over the lost, so I will merely point out three simple reasons why we need a burden for the lost:

1. Biblical Examples – The Bible offers many examples of men with a burden for the lost. Their burden serves as a lesson to our lives.

a. Jesus Had A Burden - John 11:35; Luke 19:41 

b. Jeremiah Had A Burden - Jer. 9:1

c Paul Had A Burden - Acts 20:31; Rom. 10:1; Rom. 9:3

2. Past Experience - There was a day when we were lost without God. Just the memory of sin and a life lived apart from the Lord ought to be enough to drive us out into the world to tell others about a God who loves them and died to save them. (Ill. Isa. 51:1)

3. The End Of Man - The Bible clearly indicates that many more will die lost than will ever be saved, Matt. 7:14; 22:14. (Ill. Someone has said that only 2% of all the people who have ever lived will be saved. That is a horrible and heart breaking statistic!) The Bible is also clear in that there are only 2 possible destinations for men when they leave this life. One is Heaven and the other is Hell. I submit to you that if we really believed in an eternal hell, where the condemned burn for eternity apart from the presence of God with no hope of relief or release, then we would be more active in spreading the news that Jesus saves sinners! 

The Salvation Army in its early years was about nothing more than bringing men and women to Christ. The challenge of every organization and church that cares about the social needs of people is to forget the spiritual and place all the emphasis on the physical. (OGU/Feels good) 

They were holding a convocation. Morale was at all-time low. The organization had hit rock bottom. They did not know what to do. They sent a telegram to their founding father, William Booth, asking for any advice he could give on how they could get back on their feet. William Booth sent back a telegram with two words: "Try tears!" When they did, revival came to the Salvation Army. We can talk about revival, preach about revival, pray for revival, but revival never comes until desperation comes, and the sign of desperation will be the tears of our eyes, and the brokenness of our heart.

The Triumph of the Planter

The planter went to the fields, he worked and he planted, now he returns with rejoicing, bearing in his arms the fruits of his labors. He has a great harvest to show for the investment of his time and his tears.

Remember that the seed is called “precious,” in some translations. Why? There are several reasons, but the main one is the fact that the seed contains life. When it is planted into the ground, and the conditions are just right, that seed will germinate and new life will be the result. 

When the tomb of Egyptian Pharaoh King Tutankhamen was discovered, among the many treasures in that tomb were some seeds that were over 3,000 years old. Scientists took some of those seeds, planted them and they germinated and grew up into plants. No wonder the Word of God is compared to a seed. 

Dr. James Merritt tells this story: “A man joined my church and had been a member there for a while. He came up to me after one Sunday morning's service and pulled me aside, and asked if I would go and visit his wife? Well, I didn't even know he was married because he didn't wear a wedding ring, and I had never met his wife. But I told him that I would go. Her name was Diane. He told me that she was a confirmed atheist and hated preachers. But by that time I had already promised to go, so I had no choice.

On Tuesday night my wife and I went out to visit with Diane. Now to say the least, she was extremely cool in her reception. She let me know she was an atheist and that she did not like preachers. But she agreed to let me come in for five minutes. Well I got to work in a hurry.

I said to her, "Diane, do you know for sure that if you were to die today you would go to heaven?" She said, "I don't even believe in heaven. I told you I'm an atheist." I said, "Are you telling me that you know that there is no God?" She said, "That's right." 

I said, "Well, let me ask you a question. Do you know everything there is to know about everything?" She said, "Well, of course not." I said, "Well, let me be generous. Would you say you know half of everything there is to know about everything?" She said, "No, I wouldn't say that either." I said, "Well let's just say you do." I said, "Now here's the half of the knowledge that you do have, and over here is the half of the knowledge you don't. Would you agree that God could exist in the knowledge you do not have?" She said, "Well, I never thought about that before."

Then she said, "Well, I don't know whether there's a God or not." I said, "Now we're getting somewhere." I said, "You're not an atheist, you're an agnostic." She smiled very broadly and said with pride, "Yes, that's right, I'm not an atheist, I'm an agnostic." I said, "Now I want to ask you this question. Are you an honest agnostic, or a dishonest agnostic?" She said, "What do you mean?" I said, "Well, an honest agnostic says, 'I don't know whether there's a God or not, but I want to find out.' But a dishonest agnostic says, 'I don't know whether there's a God or not, and I don't want to know.' Now which are you?" She said, "Well, I'm an honest agnostic."

I said, "Alright." I went to my car and got out a little paperback New Testament, brought it in and gave it to her, and I said, "I want you to do me a favor. I want you to begin reading everyday one chapter in the gospel of John." She said, "But I don't even believe the Bible." I said, "I understand that, but I want you to do it anyway." She said, "It won't do any good." I said, "I understand that, but I just want you to read the gospel of John." 

Then I said, "As you read the gospel of John I want you to ask two questions: 1) Who did Jesus claim to be? 2) What am I going to do about it?" I said, "Do you understand?" She said, "Yes." I said, "Okay, there are twenty-one chapters in John's gospel. If you read one chapter a day that's three weeks’ worth of reading. I will not be back, and you will not hear from me for three weeks. But then I will come back and see how you are doing." 

Sunday morning I gave the invitation, and the first person to walk down the aisle of the church, crying big crocodile tears, was Diane.   I said, "Why have you come?" She said, "I have come to be baptized." I said, "Well, Diane that's wonderful, but before you can be baptized, you've got to be saved." She said, "Oh, I have been saved." I said, "Yes, when?" She said, "Wednesday morning." I looked stunned, and then she smiled and said, "I did not get past the first chapter."

If we will go and sow, God will give us a harvest of people brought to faith. Notice I didn’t say church. 

Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 6 I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 7 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. 1 Cor. 3:6-7 NLT

The truth is that I am speaking to a group of people who have been given much. You have been saved by His grace and are headed to His heaven. I would just remind you that:

When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required. Luke 12:48 NLT

You and I have been given the opportunity to tell others the story and bring them to Christ. It’s what Christfollowers do. You know the other day I mentioned seeing men and women come to Christ on a regular basis in the church I grew up in. The other thing I remember is that most of the time when they would really become that transformed person that it wasn’t long till some of the friends would be with them in church because of their story. Many times they didn’t have to say anything but the change was so startling that they would be asked about it and then they would tell their story. 

If you think you are a Christian and your life hasn’t changed and you are still doing the same things you were before you started coming to church you are not a follower of Jesus Christ. Why would anyone want what you have to offer if you are doing the same things as everyone else in this miserable world? 

There is nothing better than having your life transformed and being made new and then sharing your story. God will use you in ways you can’t even imagine if you will truly live for Him. I have always drawn great strength and personal challenge from the men and women who have been willing to go and tell the story of God. 

You would be better off to put down the remote that brings pure filth into your heart and home and pick up a book and read about what God has done through men and women that planted with tears and reaped a harvest of joy. 

David Brainerd: "Oh, that I could dedicate my all to God. This is all the return I can make Him."

Jim and Elizabeth Elliot: “His journal entry for October 28, 1949, expresses his belief that missions work was more important than his life. "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

William Carey: “"Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God."

Adoniram Judson: The prospects are as bright as the promises of God.” 

C.T. Studd: "I cannot tell you what joy it gave me to bring the first soul to the Lord Jesus Christ. I have tasted almost all the pleasures that this world can give. He also penned these words: “Some wish to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.” 

Robert Moffat: “Writing to his parents from London shortly before sailing for Africa, he said: "Oh, that I had a thousand lives and a thousand bodies! All of them should be devoted to no other employment but to preach Christ ... I have not repented in becoming a missionary, and, should I die in the march and never enter the field of battle, all would be well."

While the Moffats were on their first furlough in England, David Livingstone asked Mr. Moffat whether he thought that he, perhaps, might also be used in the missionary work in Africa. Mr. Moffat replied, "Yes, particularly if you will not go to an old station but will push on into unoccupied fields." And then he added, "In the north I have seen in the morning sun, the smoke of a thousand villages where no missionary has ever been."

David Livingston: When trying to find a way to the west coast of Africa, Livingstone wrote:
"Cannot the love of Christ carry the missionary where the slave-trade carries the trader? I shall open up a path to the interior or perish."

Robert Morrison:  What we do may also be unknown to us. We may never know what good seed God planted through our lives. 

This reminds me of missionary Robert Morrison in the late 1800s traveled from England to China to be a missionary there. Well once the Chinese found out he was a missionary, they kicked him out. Robert went to Macao a Portuguese colony, stayed there a little while, and then returned to China only to be deported again, so he found a job as an accountant with the East India Company there and periodically would travel to China, only to be expelled each time. Morrison worked hard all day for the East India Company, which hated missionaries, and at night he translated the Bible into Chinese. Eventually he finished translating the Bible and later died in Macao. For days after his death, there was no agreement on where to bury his body. The Chinese did not want a Christian buried in their cemetery, and the Roman Catholics were not about to have a Protestant buried in their cemetery. Finally, someone negotiated with the Roman Catholic Archbishop, who sold one cemetery plot so they could bury Robert Morrison. He was rejected all his life and rejected in his death.  

But in 1982 then president of Asbury College, Dennis Kinlaw, was in China and noted how many Chinese had copies of the Bible. He asked how they got them, and was told that a relative was a Christian, or neighbors or parents were, and they led another to Christ. And the salvation of those children and adults came from reading the Bible that Robert Morrison gave his life to translate. It remained unknown to Robert, but was known to God and not a work that was wasted but used gloriously. Kinlaw was overcome with emotion as he stood at Morrison’s grave in an obscure land. 

Don’t you ever get tired of the mundane and the same old stuff in your life week after week? Open up your eyes and open up your heart and let God lead you to a place where tears will fall as you serve Him by serving others.