These notes are based on the NASB text.
What is the background of Psalm 126?
Although the superscription of the psalm does not mention a writer, some scholars believe that this Psalm was penned by Ezra on the occasion of the release of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity. Cyrus, king of Persia, successfully defeated the Babylonians in 539 B.C. and granted the Jews permission to return to Judah and to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. The occasion for the writing of the Psalm, however, could have been the reversal of another crisis or misfortune.
126:1 When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion,
We were like those in a dream.
The psalmist recalled a time when God brought about a change for His people. This change for the better may have been the return from Babylon or perhaps from another crisis such as a famine or plague. The event was so great that it seemed like a dream to the people. It seemed too good to be true.
126:2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
And our tongue with joyful shouting;
Then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
126:3 The Lord has done great things for us;
We are glad.
As the psalmist recalled the great event from the past, he reflected on the impact it had on the people. The people responded to God’s goodness with laughter, joy, and gladness. They had been delivered. They had something to sing about. The surrounding nations also recognized and acknowledged that God had done great things for His people.
Practical Consideration: The world takes note of what happens among the people of God.
The events of the past few years have served to show us that world takes note of what happens among the people of God. The fall of several evangelists has not gone unnoticed by the world. Many of these men have become laughingstocks and the brunt of cruel jokes. Many people have lost faith in the church, in religion, and in Christianity. Our world is waiting to see what God can do through and for His people. We must guard our influence before an unbelieving world. We must purpose to live our lives in a manner that causes men to glorify God (Matthew 5:16) and turn to Him rather than from Him.
126:4 Restore our captivity, O Lord,
As the streams in the South.
The first three verses of this psalm are a hymn of thanksgiving. This verse is a prayer for restoration. The phrase “restore our captivity” was an idiomatic expression used to emphasize a return to a former good condition (see also Job 42:10 and Ezekiel 16:53, 55). This reference to captivity may be to the same one mentioned in verse 1 or to another misfortune. This plea is filled with the hope of the restoration of joy and the blessings of God even as streams restored, refreshed, and irrigated the arid region in the South (the Negev) after a drought.
Practical Consideration: We can live with the actualities if we live in hope of the possibilities.
Difficulties will come. Often they will come on the heels of great rejoicing. Difficulties, however, need not cause us to despair. We should turn to the Lord in times of difficulty, trusting Him to sustain us. When God’s help comes, in His time, it is as reviving and refreshing as rains in the desert.
126:5 Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.
126:6 He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed,
Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.
These verses express the hope and faith of the psalmist. He was certain that God would indeed restore His people just as one who sowed was certain of a harvest. Those who sowed tears is times of misfortune would one day reap joy in the time of God’s deliverance.
Practical Consideration: Investment and sacrifice precedes reward.
A farmer who toils and sows can expect the day of harvest. A student who invests hours in disciplined study can expect a return for his study. A man who weeps for the lost and faithfully sows the gospel seed can expect to see men come to Christ. However, men who do not sow should not expect to harvest. Pain precedes prize, cross precedes glory, and sowing precedes harvest.