Psalm: Psalm 126
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
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.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them. (NIV)
Streams in the Desert
While serving as a seminary professor in the city of Fresno, I endured the intense, arid heat of central California’s summer months. As someone who was raised on the prairie of North Dakota, when I first arrived in central California I was completely unacquainted with these hot, dry conditions. What surprised me most was how green everything remained. Because Fresno is situated in a desert-like climate, I had expected the plant life to become brown and drab. In reality, this surely would have been the case apart from the intensive irrigation that occurs in that region.
If I am honest, my years in Fresno are not my only experience of life in the desert. There have been seasons of my life that have been dry and dusty, times when I have felt the heat with particular intensity. However, it has often been in these times that I have most powerfully experienced the restoring streams of God’s grace.
The people of Israel experienced the Lord’s restoration in their return from captivity. This experience was so profound that they felt “like those who dreamed” (verse 1). They laughed and shouted for joy (verse 2). However, the process of restoration was not without pain. They wept as they sowed their fields. Yet, they did so while clinging to the promise that joy would accompany the harvest (verses 5–6).
Amid the realities of a global pandemic, many people have experienced 2020 as something of a “desert” year. Perhaps you’ve felt this way at points. Maybe you’ve even come to this Advent season with a gnawing sense of your own need for renewal. For many of us, Psalm 126 provides a timely word of encouragement.
During this Advent season, may we find hope in the message that Jesus has come to offer himself like streams in the desert (verse 4). Where we have planted in sorrow, he enables us to reap in joy. As we journey toward the celebration of Christmas, may we experience the Lord’s grace flowing into our lives, bringing restoration and vitality, and may we be filled with newfound joy.
Cory Seibel – Pastor at Central Baptist Church in Edmonton, Alberta; Adjunct Professor at Taylor Seminary; NAB Governing Board Member; and EYELET Member