Summary: "Great Expectations for a New Beginning" is an exposition of Psalm 126. It makes the point you can face life's turning points with confidence that the Lord who has intervened in the past is able to do it again. So look back and consider what God has alrea

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Psalm 126

The Mountain Valley Cathedral in a remote Swiss village was one of the most beautiful churches in the region. One of the features that attracted so many people to the cathedral was its beautiful pipe organ. People would come from miles away to hear the lovely tones of this organ. But one day the organ fell silent. Musicians and experts from around the world tried to repair it. No one succeeded. Then one day an old man appeared and asked permission to try to fix the organ. After working on it for several days, the community once again was filled with glorious music. Farmers dropped their plows, merchants closed their stores – everyone stopped what they were doing and headed for the church. When the old man finished playing, someone asked him how he fixed the organ. He answered, “It was I who built this organ fifty years ago. I created it. Now I have restored it.”

This is the message of Psalm 126. It is A SONG OF ASCENT – a hymn the Jewish pilgrims would sing as they traveled to Jerusalem for the holy feasts. Some scholars argue that these songs of ascents – Psalms 120-134 – are postexilic; meaning they were written after the Lord brought Israel out of Babylonian captivity and restored them to their own land. This view has shaped how Psalm 126 is translated and interpreted. It is read as a thanksgiving for deliverance from bondage and a prayer for the complete restoration of the Jews to Palestine. But this is only conjecture. Ultimately, we do not know the author of this psalm or the occasion that prompted its composition.

Older versions translates verse 1 to speak of the Lord bringing back the captivity of Zion. But it is more accurate to translate it more broadly to speak of God restoring Zion’s fortunes, which leaves the psalm to refer to any number of occasions when the Lord intervened for his people. In fact, the words used in verse 1 are also used in Job 42:10: “And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he prayed for his friends.” Likewise, Psalm 126 is about some period of misfortune in Zion or Jerusalem in which the Lord stepped in and turned things around. This ancient hymn speaks to us to say that you can face life’s turning points with confidence that the Lord has intervened in the past and is able to do it again. It is said that the ancients sung this psalm to celebrate the new year. That would be fitting as this psalm looks back to consider what God has done and looks forward with confidence that God can do it again.


Verses 1-3 focus on a sovereign and gracious act of God: “the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion.” The emphasis of these verses is not on what happened or when it happened. The focused is on who did it. The Lord restored the fortunes of Zion. Whatever historical event this psalm celebrates, it was not the result of a wise decisions of a king, the heroic acts of soldiers, or even the spiritual devotion of God’s people. The Lord did it. The same is true for us. It is the Lord’s blessings that we now enjoy. Psalm 115:1 says: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” We can live and serve with great expectations as we look back and consider the good things and great things the Lord has done for us.


The ancient Jews sung this psalm in reference to some historical act of divine intervention. But as we read this Old Testament text with New Testament eyes, we cannot help but see a reference to the spiritual act of divine intervention the Lord has performed on our behalf through the Jesus Christ. The Lord has restored our fortunes. 1 Peter 2:9-10 says: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” The Lord has done good things for us through the Person and Work of Christ. It is enough that he saved has saved us from the penalty of sin by his amazing grace. But James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” The Lord keeps doing good things for us. Our text mentions two.

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