Year C – 5th Sunday in Lent – Psalm 126

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 they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like streams in the Negeb!
Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.

Summary – This is the 7th of the Songs of Ascent, the Psalms from 120-134.  Often read communally especially on certain feast days, these Psalms emphasize localized Yahweh worship–at the temple in Jerusalem–as well as national identity as a people.  In this Psalm, there is first a remembrance.  The Psalmist recalls what occurred earlier when the Lord “restored their fortunes.”  It was like a dream come true, and there was much laughter and rejoicing.  Other nations also recognized their good fortune and realized that God had blessed them.  Israel, too, recognized that it was God who had done great things.  Secondly, there is a petition.  The Psalmist asks God to again restore their fortunes.  Comparing it to water in the wilderness, he exhibits faith that sadness will be turned to joy when this happens, and bountiful crops also will result.

Insight – One of the field studies we took while I was in Israel was a tour through the Negev region (which in this Psalm, is spelled Negeb).  There are a couple of words that come to mind in trying to describe the Negev.  Dry.  Dead.  Barren.  Colorless.  Silent.  The entire mountainous landscape was made up of sand-colored rocks, sand-colored earth, and sand-colored sand.  No one in their right mind would try to live there, or could live there, unless they knew the secret.  At one of the stops we took, our bus parked, we got out, and we began following our professor down a path.  As we turned a corner into a valley, the entire landscape changed.  This valley, or “Wadi,” was fed by some sort of spring, and we hiked along the stream for about an hour, through small plants and trees, watching lizards scurrying around and Ibex’s nimbly negotiating the cliffs on the other side.  Water made all the difference.  Where just around the corner there was no water, there was absence of life.  Here, where there was water, there was abundance of life.  Psalm 126 captures this image vividly for us.  When the Lord “restores the fortunes” of His people, blessing them and abundantly providing for them, it is like streams in the Negev: life and joy appear where once there was death.  So have faith, and call upon the Lord with your requests: he is the only one capable of turning the natural world upside-down!

Child Catechism – When God blesses His people, what is their response?  They are joyful and glad.

Discussion – What various groups recognize God’s blessing when He restores the fortunes of His people, according to the Psalm?  Why does the Psalm praise God for restoring the people’s fortunes in the past and then ask Him to do it again?  Who obviously gets NO glory in the restoration of fortunes, and why is that important for us?

Prayer – Lord, you have acted mightily on behalf of your people throughout history.  We thank you for your grace and ask that you continue to restore our fortunes.  In this Lenten season we pray that you would by your Holy Spirit defeat the sins that entangle us and restore us to you that we might be glad as streams in the Negev.  Turn our tears to joy, and our mourning to thankfulness.  In Christ’s Name, Amen.

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