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Restored!

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RESTORED!

1 When the Lord brought back the captives to  Zion,

we were like men 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.”

3 The Lord has done great things for us,

and we are filled with joy.

4 Restore our fortunes, O Lord,

like streams in the Negev.

5 Those who sow in tears

will reap with songs of joy.

6 He who goes out weeping,

carrying seed to sow,

will return with songs of joy,

carrying sheaves with him.

                                                                PSALM 126

It’s true!   The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy!

After so long an interregnum we have a new minister.

Only a week or so ago we were considering the prophet Ezekiel and we reminded ourselves of Psalm 137 – the psalm of the exiles:

1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept

when we remembered Zion.

2 There on the poplars

we hung our harps,

3 for there our captors asked us for songs,

our tormentors demanded songs of joy;

they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord

while in a foreign land?

Today we find ourselves at Psalm 126.  God has turned our circumstances about.

That is His delight and plan.

To help us rejoice I want us to look at this psalm and see how it reflects our own situation, and what advice it gives us as those facing a new chapter in the church’s life.

Notice how the psalmist plays with the word RESTORE in the psalm.

If you are using the NIV you will see the way the marginal references show us that the author is using the word “restored” in a number of ways. (It is even there in the play on words of “dreamed”.)  If you are using the AV you will see the repeated phrase “turn again”.  

This of course is the theme of the psalm - RESTORATION

I suggest we look at it in the following ways:

1.               A powerful deliverance                vv1-3

2.               A simple prayer                   v4

3.               A confident hope                 vv 5,6

1.  A Powerful Deliverance              vv1-3

1 When the Lord brought back the captives to  Zion,

we were like men 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.”

3 The Lord has done great things for us,

and we are filled with joy.

From an historical point of view the restoration after the exile was a truly amazing event.   In accordance with God’s promise His people came back from Babylon and rebuilt the City and the Temple.  Such a reversal of fortunes was indeed noticed by the surrounding nations.

The Psalmist gives words to that generation and all generations since with which to celebrate the power of God to RESTORE.

Here we have:

Deliverance experienced  vv 1,2

Deliverance observed 2b

Deliverance reflected on v3

a.)      Deliverance experienced   v 1,2

1 When the Lord brought back the captives to  Zion,

we were like men who dreamed.

2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,

our tongues with songs of joy.

The LORD restored!

It is unmistakeably a work of God Himself – the Shepherd of Israel gathers the flock and brings them back to the pasture of His own land.

It is a home-coming like that of Naomi about whom we heard recently.

It is a home-coming – like that of the prodigal in Jesus’ parable

The LORD’s people experienced it

Men who dreamed              - like Simon Peter released from prison too

Filled with laughter             - like Sarah

Filled with songs of joy                - like the worshipping community through the ages

 

b.)           Deliverance observed!  V 2b

 

Then it was said among the nations,

“The Lord has done great things for them.”

It is always important in God’s dealings with His won people that these things are seen and noticed by the unbelieving community.  It is part of His witness

One way in which we – as the Lord’s restored people – can enhance that witness is by the quality of our joy.

That joy is expressed here in the psalm by:-

c.)            Deliverance reflected on   v 3

 

3 The Lord has done great things for us,

and we are filled with joy.

Alas – sometimes there is an unnecessary gap between the reality of the great things and the reality of the joy.

The picture of an overflowing container is constantly used in Scripture – and we who have proved the power of God need to be cups full and overflowing.

There should be celebration of all that He does for us.

The small seemingly (to others) insignificant deliverances, and the great deliverance from sin at Calvary.

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.                                                    EPHESIANS 3:16~

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.                                   ROMANS 15:13

This is the OVERFLOWING PRINCIPLE OF GRACE – and you should be able to see the evidence of it.

We need not only to be RESTORED and to RECOGNISE that restoration – but we should expect to see it reflected in those around us – and we should REFLECT ON IT OURSELVES – it should be our topic of conversation.

In stead of gossip and idle chatter – the fellowship talking about the goodness of God.

2.             A SIMPLE PRAYER

4 Restore our fortunes, O Lord,

like streams in the Negev.

The psalmist is not content with a celebration of PRESENT wonders – or even of PAST wonders – he prays for FUTURE RESTORATION!

This is another aspect of the OVERFLOWING PRINCIPLE  - what we experience of God’s grace overflows in us in worship and in joy – it also overflows again in PRAYER!

I suggest to you that this verse gives us a simple and memorable prayer for this season of change.

Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the (southern) desert.

Some of you will be familiar with the experience in drier climates than ours of rivers – some of them large rivers, which, in the dry season become dusty wadis  - and then when the rains come a torrent rages down those same dry river beds.

16 Has not the food been cut off

before our very eyes—

joy and gladness

from the house of our God?

17 The seeds are shrivelled

beneath the clods.

The storehouses are in ruins,

the granaries have been broken down,

for the grain has dried up.

18 How the cattle moan!

The herds mill about

because they have no pasture;

even the flocks of sheep are suffering.

19 To you, O Lord, I call,

for fire has devoured the open pastures

and flames have burned up all the trees of the field.

20 Even the wild animals pant for you;

the streams of water have dried up

and fire has devoured the open pastures.                                              JOEL 1 15~

Those who live in arid countries know the exquisite value of the oasis – the stream in the desert.

The psalmist is suggesting that that should be a fitting subject for our prayers.

Such a prayer builds on the promises of God – frequently expressed in His word – and particularly in ISAIAH

32 See, a king will reign in righteousness

and rulers will rule with justice.

2 Each man will be like a shelter from the wind

and a refuge from the storm,

like streams of water in the desert

and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.                       ISAIAH 32

6 Then will the lame leap like a deer,

and the mute tongue shout for joy.

Water will gush forth in the wilderness

and streams in the desert.

7 The burning sand will become a pool,

the thirsty ground bubbling springs.

In the haunts where jackals once lay,

grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.                                      ISAIAH 35

18 “Forget the former things;

do not dwell on the past.

19 See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the desert

and streams in the wasteland.                                                      ISAIAH 43

It is a prayer based on                His work

                                                His character

                                                His promises

And finally, the Psalmist offers us:

3.  A Confident Hope            v 5,6

5 Those who sow in tears

will reap with songs of joy.

6 He who goes out weeping,

carrying seed to sow,

will return with songs of joy,

carrying sheaves with him.

This familiar passage is the conclusion of the psalm. It draws upon the experience of Gods people a pattern for future behaviour and progress.

Notice the repeated phrase “songs of joy” (2,5,6) and the force of the word “carrying” in verse 6.

The last thing that the psalmist suggests here is INACTIVITY

And yet that is often the conclusion that the Lord’s people come to!

Here the conclusion is ACTION:   sow, reap, go out, carry, return.

The TRANSFORMING power of God is experienced as the believer GOES ON with Him.

It is self-evident that those who do not sow do not reap – regardless of their pain or joy.   It is obvious that those who carry nothing of the precious word of God produce no harvest.

But to those whom Christ has redeemed – whose lives He has turned around from exile in sin to homecoming in His presence – to those He gives a message to carry, a Gospel to share, a Word to sow and a harvest to reap.

The work of harvest in spiritual as in natural matters is down to God alone – but those who CARRY may do so in tears – but God brings them back singing!

Prepare then for further evidences of His care.

He brings back

He RESTORES

He fulfils.

That is HIS WORK.

Praise Him!

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