As a child traveling with my parents to my grandfather’s farm in Middle Tennessee, I eagerly anticipated seeing my grandparents, eating my grandmother’s scrumptious home cooking, and drinking water drawn from their well in the front yard. My eagerness would grow when I spied a mountain in the distance that my younger brother and I called “Granddad’s Mountain.” It wasn’t on his property but was close enough that we knew that we were only minutes away from laughter and love. Earlier this year, when I drove in that county on my way to a family funeral, I suddenly realized as I looked out my window that I was looking at that beloved mountain that had signaled the nearness of my grandparents’ farm. A poignant joy filled my heart and my eyes misted as I reminisced.
In Psalm 126, another of the songs sung by pilgrims on their way to the feasts at the temple in Jerusalem, the singers remember with joy what the Lord had done for their people. They would have gone up to Jerusalem, a city in the midst of mountains, to worship at the temple that itself was atop a smaller hill. Their hearts, much more than mine, would have raced when they first saw familiar peaks rising in the distance and realized that they were near the end of their journey. And so they sang,
“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” (Psalm 126:1-3).
As they sang with joyful memory, they also soberly assessed their current situation. While the LORD had blessed them, much had changed. Now they also wept even as they smiled about past blessings and dreamed of the Lord renewing their land again. They sang and they prayed,
“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” (Psalm 126:4-6).
Whether the psalm reflects a time of drought or the return from exile in Babylon, there was concern about the fertility of the land and fear mixed with faith as the worshipers envisioned the future. We too may recall happier days and dream of renewed blessing as we join with others to praise and to pray. Our hearts may be broken as we consider what we see before us. We remember what God has done, and so we to pray with visions of how he will bless in the years ahead.
When we arrived at my grandparents, Granddad would take my brother and me with him as we went out to check on his cattle in the fields; Grandma would let us help her feed the pigs and draw that water from the well, then taste it from a ladle she had dipped in the pail. Afterwards we would go to worship at Bonner Church of Christ, in a building that Granddad and our uncle had built, and we may have sung the final verse of a hymn written by Knowles Shaw, based on the words of Psalm 126,
“Go then even weeping, sowing for the Master, Tho’ the loss sustained our spirit often grieves; When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.”
- Quotations from the Bible are from the English Standard Version.
O Father, We reflect on how past generations taught us and provided for us, using blessings you had provided. We sing with joy as we praise you; we weep as we contemplate terror, poverty, and disease. We still trust in your care. We dream of a greater future in which your love shines through our relationships to transform our world into a place where we harvest your blessings with joy. Calm our fearful hearts. Train our eyes to see the fields ready for harvest, the dreams on the verge of fulfillment. In Jesus’ name, amen.