Monday, August 27, 2007

"Those who sow in tears will reap in joyful shouting" (Psalm 126)

When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion we were like those who dream.
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."
The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.

Restore our captivity, O Lord, as the stream-beds in the Negev.
Those who sow in tears will reap with joyful shouting.
He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed,
Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves.

- Psalm 126

In our pride we like to take satisfaction in how we gained our liberty. Whether the Cuban Revolution or the American Revolution, it's the pride of life. We like to take the credit for what was done.

But here we read, "The Lord has done great things; we are glad." It's a great secret, but we find more satisfaction in being able to ascribe success to God than in being able to claim credit for ourselves. We find more consolation in being rescued because we are cared for than in being tough enough to rescue ourselves.

The parallel here between the shout of joy in returning from captivity and the shout of joy in the reaper returning with his sheaves tells us that these are one thing. We shout for joy in escaping from captivity, and God the reaper shouts for joy in so bringing us back.

That shows us another parallel, the grief in the sowing that leads to this harvest of deliverance. The sowing in tears is parallel to the bondage in which we are ground down while the word of truth that sets us free is growing in us. Deliverance from captivity is only through the growth of the word of truth in us, not by some exercise of our own power. Jesus said, "If you remain in my word, you shall be my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."

There is much weeping and heartache in sowing this word of truth, not only as it grows in us but as we give it to others. Most is lost, falling by the side of the road, sprouting and withering in the stony ground, choked among the thorns. We want to be rescuers, imagining we'll have something to boast of and that we will be appreciated by grateful people. But if indeed we join God in sowing in order to bring freedom we can expect lots of heartache and humiliation. By the time their children are naming streets after us, our corpses will have been planted, and we will have pushed up a lot of dandelions.

We will love people and put a lot into their lives, and then they will throw it away for a single meal. There is no honorable way to avoid this disappointment, because even God has to suck this up.

When God consoles us with a harvest, we'll see nothing in it to praise us, and all our joy will have to be in the truth, which does not flatter us. It has taken a lot of years to get me to the point that I can write this with conviction and acceptance of its reality, but it is true, and life this way has less useless pain and futility. God does resist the proud. He gives the grace spoken of here in Psalm 126 to the humble. Again this song of ascents teaches us that we ascend as we humble ourselves.



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