Praise and prayer for a new life after exile

Posted Apr 16, 2021

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Daily Scripture

Psalm 126:1-6

1 When the LORD changed Zion’s circumstances for the better,
it was like we had been dreaming.
2 Our mouths were suddenly filled with laughter;
our tongues were filled with joyful shouts.
It was even said, at that time, among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them!”
3 Yes, the LORD has done great things for us,
and we are overjoyed.
4 LORD, change our circumstances for the better,
like dry streams in the desert waste!
5 Let those who plant with tears
reap the harvest with joyful shouts.
6 Let those who go out,
crying and carrying their seed,
come home with joyful shouts,
carrying bales of grain!

Reflection Questions

Israel’s long history included incredibly low times of misery at the hands of tyrants (notably slavery in Egypt—cf. Exodus 1:8-11, and exile in Babylon—cf. 2 Kings 24:13-14, 25:11). But it also included God’s action to deliver them in the Exodus and in the return from exile. Psalm 126 poetically recalled the joy of the times when God lifted them up from their lowly status, and prayed that God would again allow them to live in the joy of God’s deliverance.

  • The first half of this psalm was a journey in memory. The Israelites never forgot the Exodus from Egypt—their “defining story”—nor the jubilation of being set free from exile. “Yes, the LORD has done great things for us,” the psalmist affirmed—God lifting them up from their lowly status was a permanent part of their history. What do you remember as a time when God did “great things” in your life? How do you keep that memory alive?
  • The second half of the psalm became a prayer, based in the confidence that the same God who did great things in the past would do them again. Are there parts of your life in which you echo the prayer, “Let those who plant with tears reap the harvest with joyful shouts”? In what ways can you nourish your confidence that, in the words of Psalm 30:5 we read yesterday, “Weeping may stay all night, but by morning, joy”?

Prayer

Lord God, thank you for the times when you did great things for your people. Help me to live in the confidence that, sooner or later, you always act to uplift and bring joy to the lowly. Amen.

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Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe helps facilitate Journey 101 “Loving God” classes, guides a 7th-grade Sunday school class, is a member of a small group and a men’s group, and serves on the curriculum team.

‘Today’s passage comes from the book of Psalms. If we are honest with ourselves, it probably isn’t one of our favorite books of the Bible. Sure, we love the 23rd Psalm (“The Lord is my Shepherd…”) or snippets of Psalms, but our eyes tend to glaze over if we read the Psalms straight through. (That’d be quite the Summer Sermon Series: Join us as we survey the 150 Psalms of the Bible!) The Psalms can also be challenging at times because we feel like we are joining a movie mid-stream, since we don’t know the backstory, or that the language is a bit hard for us to process.

Aside: One friend likes to read the Bible as he works out on the treadmill. He says it very rewarding, though sometimes his Psalms get sweaty.

However, I would submit that the Psalms can be an essential component to our faithwalk. Why?

  • Jesus was intimately familiar with this Jewish Hymnbook – He quotes the Psalms more than any other book of the Hebrew Bible & at various times sings a Psalm, like when He departs with the Disciples as they leave the Last Supper. (One can easily imagine hiking along a hilltop with Jesus as He sings or hums the 121st Psalm: “I lift up my eyes to the hills…”)
  • The Psalms cover every emotion of the human experience from misery to euphoria, from gut-wrenching despair to hope, from full-throated praise to raging anger. This helps us to realize that our own joys & woes are not unique – someone had experienced these same emotions thousands of years ago & truly understands what we are feeling.
  • While many Biblical stories give us the Who, What, Where & When, the Psalms tell God’s story using illuminating language that offers us an alternative interpretation/explanation. (Think how the story & lyrics of “Amazing Grace” enhances a discussion of the idea of grace or how “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” captures the sheer thrill/excitement of the Resurrection.)
Aside: A friend posted on Facebook that they have named their newborn, “Psalm.” I still don’t know if the baby is a hymn or a her.

One tip that might help us better understand a Psalm is to put it in our own words & tie it to our own life experiences. Let’s give it a try with a portion of the 126th Psalm & think back to November 2015:

Verse 1: Pinch me I must be dreaming - everything is awesome. The Kansas City Royals had just defeated the New York Mets in game 5 of the 2015 World Series. After 30 years of suffering through 100-loss seasons, favorite players leaving for more money, & the utter anguish of the 9th inning of Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, we had won it all. It was like a dream.

Verse 2 & 3: We were so overcome with joy, we laughed until our sides ached & we shouted until we were hoarse. Even strangers cheered, for they knew we were walking on hallowed ground. Everyone was giddy. Secret money stashes that had been long-saved for just this occasion were tapped as we happily bought commemorative T-Shirts, license plate holders, & Christmas tree ornaments. Business trip attire now required a KC Royals hat or jacket, triggering fellow passengers to smile & give a thumbs up. (Well, except that grumpy guy in the Matt Harvey/New York Mets jersey.)

Verse 3: As we celebrated in a sea of blue at Union Station, we knew that we were indeed blessed & we were satisfied. Having reached the pinnacle of baseball, we were content. Every stranger in their Salvador Perez jersey was just a friend we hadn’t met yet. All of the toils & troubles of yesterday seemed like a faded memory.

So, what might some hymns written thousands of years ago mean for us today?

In general, I would contend that the Psalms can help shape our worldview. They remind us that God is a loving God, that He is actively engaged in our world, & that God longs for us to share all of our thoughts & feelings with Him. (Yep, all of them.) This helps us to better see, understand, & cope with our daily peaks & valleys. Perhaps our daily psyche would be improved if, instead of what’s trending on social media or the latest fear-inducing headline, we let a Psalm help frame our day.

Specifically, I think the 126th Psalm reminds us to seize the joy of today. Note, our Psalmist doesn’t catalog all the bad things that had happened yesterday, his audience already knew it well – they’d lived it. Nor does he fret over tomorrow’s concerns, which, considering their precarious geo-political status, is quite remarkable. Our friend is instead living in the moment. As we exit the fear of the pandemic, this is very important for us practice in our own lives. We should embrace today’s bliss, be it hugging a grandchild, re-connecting with a loved one in a long-term care facility, or boldly attending worship in-person. Tomorrow’s worries will always be there. We can guarantee there will be a slew of headlines with words like “troubling,” “concerning,” & “experts are worried.” But let’s not let those predictable headlines prevent us from savoring today’s blessings. It’d be like not relishing the sunshine of today, because the forecast is for rain tomorrow. (This is particularly senseless for those of us who reside in Kansas, since that forecasted downpour may or may not even occur.) So, like our hymnist from years ago, go ahead & giddily celebrate today’s joys.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to re-watch Game 5 of my commemorative DVD set of the 2015 World Series. I think I’ll start it at the top of the 9th inning. Joe Buck: “The crowd wants Matt Harvey & wanted Matt Harvey to finish it.”1 (Oh boy, this is going to be awesome!)

1MLB and A&E Television Networks, 2015,

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