A Song of Ascents
1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
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3 The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
4 Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
5 Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.
Things Only the Lord Can Do
What are these great things that the Lord has done for Israel, things so great that even the Gentiles are speaking about them? Things like drastic miracles, the Exodus, or the return from Babylon come to mind. These are things that only the Lord God can do; no one else can do them. Even the enemies of God have to admit, “This is the hand of the Lord!” For the people of God, it is like a dream come true. They are joyful, laughing, and glad.
As you look over the last two, five, or even ten years, what amazing things has God done in your life, your family, or your ministry? What is so incredible that only God could have done it?
Sowing with Tears
Now we come to the second part of the Psalm, the second reality: the reality of crying out in a stressful time. “Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negeb!” In other words, “Lord, please do it again, like before!” At times, joy seems to be something that only occurred in the past, a long time ago, a generation before. Only tears occupy the present. If only the Lord would act now as completely and dramatically as he did then! So when we face the reality of difficulties, we pray for “streams in the Negeb”: a sudden flash flood, transforming dried land into watercourses, making scorched land into a garden!
Think about this: the biggest miracle of God was accomplished in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and his ascension to heaven. Even after that, God continued the miracle by pouring out the Holy Spirit to all who believe. On the last day of the feast, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”
Reaping with Joy
Yes, in Jesus, God restores the fortune of all nations. Redemption is accomplished and the Kingdom of God has been inaugurated on earth. Amen! Yet we still cry out: “Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negeb!” Let us willingly believe in the reality of God’s providence, sustaining us as we await the return of Christ. There will be songs of joy, but only when the tearful task of sowing has been done and the crop has matured for harvest. Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!
Dr. Ben Chen ministers in both China and the U.S. He works with Third Millennium Ministries to further theological education in Asia.
We plea to you again to restore our trust in your promise in Christ during this season of sowing the seed of the gospel in the various cities of China. We patiently await the joyful time of harvest you have prepared for your people.
We pray all this in the name of the Lord of the harvest. Amen.