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Summary: Sorrow is but for a time. The power of prayer, memories of God’s past healing and His loving-kindness sustain Israel. God heals the pain of the present in the same manner as He has healed the pain of the past.

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Joy is the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying: it is keen pleasure, or elation. Joy is more elusive, subtle, and nuanced than happiness. We can manipulate circumstances to our own advantage to obtain what we think will bring happiness, or expend great efforts in pleasure-seeking, joy is entirely gratuitous. You cannot earn, buy or deserve it. It is a divine gift to receive rather than a selfish goal to pursue.

In his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis describes joy as “an unsatisfied desire, which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world.”

The opposite of joy is not sadness or sorrow but anxiety. Jesus encouraged his followers, "Do not worry; who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" Consider the joy of the birds in their morning songs, or the flowers in their springtime glory, he said. If the Lord of the universe clothes creation with such extravagance, then we can rejoice in his love regardless of our circumstances. Jesus says that we rest in God's love "so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete" (John 15:11).

I. INTRODUCTION

A. We continue our study of hymns and anthems Israel uses in worship. Today we Psalm 126 is a song of ascent (i.e., processional) the congregants sing on their way to worship.

B. I wish we knew more about Israel’s use of psalms; but what we do know is that psalms demonstrate the intimacy between God and his people. The passion in the songs is unequaled; no music since has captured the range of emotion one finds in the psalms.

C. Hymns and anthems sung in the 21st century express many of the same themes found in the psalms, so why don't they move us as the psalms move us? The difference is those who sing, and their personal history with God. OYBT Psalm 126, as we hear Israel’s plea for God to restore their joy.

[Sorrow is but for a time. The power of prayer, memories of God’s past healing and His loving-kindness sustain Israel. God heals the pain of the present in the same manner as He has healed the pain of the past.]

II. RESTORATION OF JOY IN THE PAST (126:1-3)

A. Israel knows the assurance of God’s restoration, the joy of his salvation. They remember returning to their homeland, the turning point in their fortunes, and the reestablished worship of the believing community in Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile.

B. We were like men who dreamed. There are a few ways to interpret this statement:

1. A dreamlike anticipation of God’s future restoration of Zion expressed from an exilic standpoint (Beyerlin).

2. In OT thought, dreams can reveal the divinely determined future, and so the speakers describe themselves like dreamers, in the sense that they look forward to it and are certain it will come.

3. More likely, the reference to dreaming ties to a reference in Isaiah 29:7-8 (like a dream), where a hungry or thirsty person dreams of eating or drinking.

C. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. The people remember how God’s joy affected them: with laughter, praise, and spontaneous singing.

1. Even the nations (Gentiles) noticed the change in countenance of the Israelites, saying The Lord has done great things for them. Imagine the level of their joy; Gentiles around them even notice!

2. Israel affirms, The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy.

[Sorrow is but for a time. The power of prayer, memories of God’s past healing and His loving-kindness sustain Israel. God heals the pain of the present in the same manner as He has healed the pain of the past.]

III. RESTORATION OF JOY TO COME (4-6)

A. Restore our fortunes, O Lord. Remembering God’s earlier intervention serves as an encouragement to believe that he will again intervene. God has the power to bless the covenant people in their land.

B. Their remembrance also serves as something of a challenge to their God, in whose presence they meet, to resolve the tension between past and present realities. In other words, the community petitions God to act as he has acted in their past.

C. Like streams in the Negev. They are assured of God’s power to restore, demonstrated by his power in nature; the summer drought in the Negev is followed by the winter floods through the wadis (topographic depressions formed by erosion or other natural forces).

D. Sow in tears~reap with songs of joy. Go out weeping carrying seed~return with songs of joy carrying sheaves with him.

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