If you have had a conversation with me at any point the last month I have mentioned Psalm 126. These six verses have radically transformed me and were words that I verbally repeated through some hard days. It was the week leading up to the anniversary of my Dad’s death and I was struggling. I hid behind my routine: school, workout, homework, and sometimes babysitting. Then repeat.
I had small group that Tuesday and nothing in me wanted to show up but I knew showing up was exactly what I needed to do. Even there, I hid behind biblical talk and a group discussion about the book we were reading. I took a slight step of letting down my self-protection mechanism when the girl leading the group asked how she could pray for us. I cautiously choose my words and said something like “November is hard.” I clinched my fists in that moment because I would not cry. Although I came to realize in the days since, to be afraid to let myself go to that place of a tearful confession of “I am not okay” only intensified the feeling that I was having – I was a prisoner to the shadow of death that lingered that week. I had to let someone in because I was sinking and although our friends are to never take the job of fighting our battles for us, we often just need someone to stand with us. We need someone to interject a voice of truth to the silence that encompasses us in those moments.
I finally texted a friend, who has walked through just about every season of life with me, and told her a little bit about what was going on. We would later have a face to face conversation about it at 2 a.m. in her living room, where she did most of the talking and I did most of the crying. But that conversation would not go by without her making it clear that it was dumb that I waited as long as I did to let someone know. To you who is sitting in the thick of something by yourself right now, tell someone.
That same Tuesday night, I attended a bible study hosted by a sweet new friend of mine. Also, not something I wanted to go to but I went. She briefly mentioned Psalm 126 and I went home to read it and then even memorized it that night. In the days following I would recite it over and over and over. When I couldn’t sleep, I would say it. When I drove, I would play it out loud from my phone. It became my soundtrack. You need something playing over you when darkness is hovering. Psalm 126 became that.
That hard week ended and I am not naive to think another one won’t come. However, since then I have kept digging into Psalm 126 and I know that the holidays can be days wrapped in bright lights and cheer, making those who have great pain feel it in a deeper way. Psalm 126 is simply the message that– tearful sowing will one day end in joyful singing.
For the next six weeks, I am going to be breaking apart Psalm 126 verse by verse, and cross referring the Psalmist words to other places in scripture. My hope is that these words will become what they have been for me: a reminder to my soul that sometimes aches, a weapon to push back the darkness, and a reminder that your pain is not meaningless. I hope you will journey with me.
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion we were like those who dreamed. Psalm 126:1
Psalm 120-134 are a collection of chapters from the book of Psalm called “song of ascents.” These are known to be the songs the pilgrims would sing as they ascended into Jerusalem for one of the three main annual Jewish Festivals. God’s law required males to go to Jerusalem for three sacred festivals [Deuteronomy 16:16] The festival of unleavened bread, the festival of weeks, and the festival of tabernacles. So, when the people would make the journey to Jerusalem these are the songs they would sing along the way. Psalm 126 is a part of those songs
The opening verse of this chapter is referencing the return of the Jewish community from exile in Babylon. King Cyrus had decreed they could return to their home in Jerusalem. [Ezra 1:1-11]
I am sure that many of the Jews, while in captivity, doubted they would ever experience freedom again. I am sure they doubted they would ever return to their homeland. But they would not let themselves forget Jerusalem.
By the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land? If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy. Psalm 137: 1-6
They would sit by the river, weeping, praying, and remembering. They did not want to forget, they begged of Him “don’t let us forget Lord.”
Too many of us our sitting by a river, in a foreign land, that God never meant for us to live in and we are forgetting. We are sitting by the river of our failures, fears, and shortcomings. Some of us are sitting next to the river of anxiety and depression. We are sitting by a river, just as the Jewish people did, but we are not doing as they did. We must weep. We must pray. We must express that we recognize that where we are, is not where we are meant to be. It was the unsettledness and awareness in them that Babylon was not the land they wanted to settle in that brought forth desperate prayers for the Lord to change the scenery. Do not settle for living by a river, in a land that you know God does not intended for you to live by. Do not settle for accepting that you have lived next that river for too long to leave it. The Jewish people were in captivity far longer than you have sat next to whatever your river is.
How many of us are longing for the return of something? For the Jewish people, they ached to return home. Some of us long for our belief to return. Some of us long for a sense of hope to return. We must do just as the Jewish people did, they would not let themselves forget Jerusalem. Jerusalem in the Old Testament was considered the place where God dwelled. We cannot forget where He dwelt and where He dwells now.
The Jewish people needed to remember Jerusalem. We need to remember His arrival. To remember His arrival is to remember that where He dwelt is among us – Emmanuel, God with us. To remember His arrival is to remember what came in the years following, a cross and then an empty tomb. He now dwells at the right hand of God with the work being finished.
Sit next to that river of yours. Weep, pray, and remember. Tell your soul to remember where He dwells. Ask Him to not let you forget.
we were like those who dreamed
Dreams in the Old Testament often served as vehicles to redemption.
Joseph saved his family from famine because of a dream. Daniel attained his position through the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar. Jacob received the promises of God for his people and himself through a dream. Solomon got the chance to ask for wisdom in a dream where the Lord appeared to him.
I can’t help but think that when the Psalmist says, “we were like those who dreamed” it was reference to those who were blessed by a dream the Lord let them experience. The restoration in Zion was the vehicle to the Jewish peoples’ redemption. The Psalmist was saying that their return home was a dream. Dreams can be vehicles to redemption. A synonym for the word redemption is recovery. The effects of pain, loss, heartache, struggle, it leaves a wound. A wound that needs to recover.
A dream could pave the way to a recovery of your wound. Let yourself dream.
Joseph was known for being a slave but Joseph was also known for being a dreamer. The messy part of your story does not have to be the only thing you are known for. That struggle of yours does not have to be the only thing you are known for. Be known as a dreamer. Dream on.
What do you need to remember this week?
What river are you sitting next to that is not meant for you to live by?
What are you dreaming for?