When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, then were we like those who dream.
Then was our mouth 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, and we are glad indeed.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the watercourses of the Negev.
Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.
Some believe today's Psalm refers to the time of freedom from Assyrian invasion under King Hezekiah, others that it is from the time of Ezra and the beginning of the return from Babylonian captivity. I tend to think it is the latter, but the point is the same. God's people are emerging from a time of captivity, sorrow, struggle--and they can hardly believe it. Is this really happening? Are we dreaming? Dare we trust this--and then comes the laughter, joy, and shouting. This is a "Psalm of Ascents" meaning that it was one of a group of Psalms that pilgrims to the holy city of Jerusalem sang along the way. What a glad song!
Those who sow in tears will reap in joy. No, not just because they cried. It is not the tears in and of themselves. Those who persevere who keep hope in God, those who continue to do the hard things because they are the right things--these will be the ones who will sow seeds of love, change, righteousness, justice, and hope. There are dozens of biblical examples of such people, and there are others in our world right now who are among those who continue to do right and speak the truth in the face of opposition and even persecution or death. Some glad morning, we will rejoice at what the grace of God, empowering ordinary human beings, has accomplished.
We just returned from an annual conference where we saw one of those individuals. He works long hours at City on a Hill in one of the worst areas of Milwaukee. He wears "many hats," one of which is working with boys in a program called Royal Rangers (a sort of Boy Scouts with a spiritual emphasis) I don't know how he withstands the schedule he keeps--I know sometimes he is exhausted. He is a relatively young man and was once engaged, but his fiancee died tragically. I feel sad for him, because (considering the schedule he keeps and the life he lives) there is no time in his life for romance. He is a wonderful guy who deserves a wonderful wife. But then I see him with some of the boys from the city. They love him, and more importantly, they know he loves them. When he shares stories of what has happened as he and his colleagues work with these children, he always wipes tears from his eyes (and those who are listening usually do as well). This year he was able to report that the crime statistics from the area of City on a Hill have declined. They, and others like them, are making a difference. Our friend is sowing in tears, but he will reap in joy.
From Psalm 30
I will extol You, O LORD...
Sing praise to the LORD,
And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.
For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for life;
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.
I cried out to You, O LORD;
And to the LORD I made supplication:
Hear, O LORD, and have mercy on me;
LORD, be my help!”
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
Most people tend to think of The Salvation Army when they hear the song, "Bringing in the Sheaves" (VERY loosely adapted from the Psalm). Here is a version we heard in my house when I was a child--an old "Southern Gospel" song. Don't say I didn't warn you! :-)
God of the harvest, may we not grow weary in well doing. We will not faint, and in due season, we shall reap what has been sown. Grant wisdom, strength and courage to those who labor in sometimes obscure places. We praise you that while "weeping may endure for a night, joy comes in the morning." Amen