The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 126

Psa 126:1


PSS 126-128: The miraculous prolonging of Hezekiah's days, so that he could have a family to fulfill the promises.

Psalms 126--128 are the central songs of the Songs of Degrees, the high point in expression of the spiritual types of Hezekiah's life. Christ is seen in every verse, in every image. What is most wonderful in the contemplation of them is the magnificent way in which the commonplace becomes profound, and the natural becomes spiritual. When the image of Christ is stamped thereupon, the base currency of everyday life becomes the finest gold. The simplest sights and actions glow forth with the most sublime meaning. Sowing and reaping, sleeping and waking, are transformed into rich parables of faith -- every detail of these ordinary actions now alive with significance. The house and the city and the gate are places never again to be inhabited or visited in the heedless manner of earlier days; now each is enlisted to the service of Christ: his "Father's house", the "city of the great king", the "gate of his enemy" now possessed by the Eternal Conqueror.

We seat ourselves at the family table for our evening meal, and suddenly we find that the Master is there. The bread is his body, precious seed cast into the ground to die and bring forth much fruit; we are that fruit! The wine is his blood, the blood of the True Vine, and we are his branches! The oil is the light of that perfect Life; in the darkest of all nights he knelt among the gnarled olive trees of Gethsemane while we slept heedlessly -- he is the tree of life, and we are like him: little olive plants round his table!

"So shall no part of day or night
From sacredness be free;
But all our life in every step
Be fellowship with thee."

Step by step, "degree" by "degree", we ascend into the presence of God. Our daily routine is transformed into life on a higher level -- a life lived to the fullest even now, because lived in joyful contemplation of eternity with Christ.

BROUGHT BACK THE CAPTIVES: Though the AV implies a return from captivity (and of course there was such a return), the Hebrew seems to allow for a more spiritual application: ie, "restored the fortunes". The same phrase has the general sense of restoring of fortunes (and/or healing of diseases) in Job 42:10, where the blessings include, incidentally, long life and many children (cp Psa 127:3; 128:3,6)!

WE WERE LIKE MEN WHO DREAMED: We just couldn't believe it', or, 'It was like coming out of a nightmare.'

Psa 126:2

SONGS OF JOY: The songs of Isa 38:10-20 and Psa 120-134. And even among the Gentiles are the mighty deeds of Yahweh magnified and glorified (see 2Ch 32:23).

It is conceivable, to go a step further, that the returning captives of Assyria (Psa 120:5) bring with them a "mixed multitude": "We will go with you," they seem to say, "for we perceive that God is with you [Immanuel!]" (Zec 8:23; cp Psa 122:1,2).

Psa 126:4

STREAMS: "Aphikim" = channels or gorges. Job compared his three companions to such deceitful brooks of the south country, which in the spring are filled with water, but in the heat of summer are dried up to the dismay of thirsty travelers (Job 6:15-20). This annual phenomenon eloquently describes the vacillating fortunes of Israel throughout her history.

Perhaps more to the point, this vivid figure of speech may refer to the 200,000 returning captives: picture a wadi in the Negeb without a sign of moisture in it (not a difficult task in Texas! or Australia? but in England?!). Then, as a result of a thunderstorm in the hills, there comes a mighty rush of floodwaters. So also with the road back to Zion -- first it is empty of travelers, and then suddenly it is inundated with an eager continuous stream of rejoicing former captives intent on getting back home as fast as their legs can carry them!

Psa 126:5

Sowing: what to sow (Luk 8:11), what not to sow (Deu 22:9), how to sow (Psa 126:5,6), when to sow (Ecc 11:6), reward of sowing (1Co 15:58).

REAP WITH SONGS OF JOY: The literal reference is surely to the amazing prosperity which the God-blessed Year of Jubilee brought after the preceding year of devastating invasion (2Ki 19:29; Isa 37:30; v 31 there describes the return of the captives, according to Lev 25:10). But the anticipation of such extraordinary fertility would require the faith of the farmer, to sacrifice perhaps his last stores of seed in hope of the wonderful harvest. Cp also the "kingdom" picture of Amos 9:13,14: "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them [Psa 127:1]; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof [Psa 128:3]; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them."

"There is something very touching about the courage and faith and self-sacrifice of the small farmer who, when sowing time comes, must take of his little store of seed and give it up, sacrificing it beyond recall when he places it in its bed of earth. The loss may mean less food for many days; but to hold it back would mean permanent loss, for if it is saved to be eaten there will be no harvest, and no seed for further sowings. Such experiences of the conflict of present need and future good would be known to almost every generation of Israelites with their recurring periods of drought and bad harvests. On occasions the seed was sown with tears in the acuteness of a felt hunger. But the Psalmist says, 'They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him' " (CJo 137).

Psa 126:6

(NT) The resurrection of Christ: the grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying, so as to bring forth much fruit (Joh 12:24). First sorrow, then joy, that a child has been born (Joh 16:21,22).

SEED TO SOW: Or "precious (meshek) seed" (AV). From rt "to draw out", as from a bag or container (sw Amo 9:13; Job 28:18).

SHEAVES: Cp Lev 23:11, the symbolism of the "wave sheaf".

"Blessed are they that mourn (now), for they shall be comforted" (Mat 5:4). No one but the Master can so touch the heart and spirit of man, and convince us that our consolation shall be infinitely sweeter than any bitter affliction. Our thoughts are transported from the days of the Psalmist to those of the Roman occupation, when God's people wept in the long night of Zion's captivity. In their bondage they cried to God for a deliverer, and He heard them. But God's timetable again called for a sowing in tears before there could be a reaping in joy: "Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit" (John 12:24).

From the hill of death, as the shadows lengthened, a little group trudged their forlorn way to a new tomb carved out of a hillside. There they deposited their precious burden; the hungry earth reclaimed its own. The "seed" was planted and watered with their tears, and they returned in sorrow to their homes. Daylight came, and night, and day again, and behold... a stirring! The annual miracle of sowing and reaping found its counterpart in a "harvest" of the highest order. God gave the increase, the "seed" sprouted and grew, though man knew not how.

"A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. Ye now therefore have sorrow," he had told them. "But I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you" (John 16:21,22).

Into the city they ran, with a song of joy on their lips and in their hearts. It is a "harvest song" of thanksgiving which has never ceased from that day to this, no, nor ever shall. It is a song passed from one to another, sung by each new generation with a wonder that is always fresh. It is a song of joy to gladden the heart of the weariest disciple with the prospect of a day when all tears shall cease (Rev 21:4), and the sorrowful sowing of the "night" will be only a memory.
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