We Were Like Those Who Dream
Have you caught yourself daydreaming? Were you hoping for something better than you have now? Perhaps a new job, a new relationship, a new path in life? How many of those dreams were completely impossible, only fantasies within your mind? Have you ever had a dream that you thought was impossible ever come true?
Psalm 126 is the account of the Israelites who had an impossible dream come true. The Babylonians had plowed over the nation, destroying the capital Jerusalem, and taking the people that they didn’t kill into captivity. Most painful of all, the temple of God was destroyed. For 70 years, the Israelite people were living in a land that was not theirs, with the knowledge that their capital and their temple had been destroyed by a more powerful nation. It must have seemed an impossible dream to even fathom returning home. But they did.
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
What seems impossible to man can be accomplished by God. No one else could have restored the people of Israel back to Zion other than God. The Psalmist reflects on the feelings of the people: we were like those who dream. You can imagine the surreal feeling, returning home when it seemed all but eternally lost. You can imagine those who were born in captivity, finally seeing the homeland they had heard stories about, their homeland. It must’ve felt like stepping into their wildest daydream and finding it to be true.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy;
Here, it’s almost as if it takes them a while to even process what is actually happening to them. After the shock of finding their wildest dream come true, they cannot help but be filled with laughter and joy.
Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great thing for us; we are glad.
The realization of the dream is undeniable, even to the nations surrounding the Israelites. The other nations cannot explain their good fortune, but to ascribe it to God. “The Lord has done great things for them,” they say. I love the order of these lines in the psalm. Notice it’s the other nations that say it first. All the other nations are on the outside looking at Israel’s good fortune, and they cannot deny it. This is almost like the cliched phrase someone says if something good happens to them: “Pinch me, I must be dreaming.” Why do we say that? Because we need someone outside of ourselves to verify that this is really real, that it’s not just a dream. The other nations, in a since pinch the Israelites and prove they are not dreaming. It is real, and the Lord has done great things for them.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the streams in the Negev!
Someone cynical may look at this line and think the Israelites are getting greedy. They’ve just had an impossible dream granted to them, and now they’re asking God for more? I don’t think this a request made in greed, but in an understanding that if God has already done the impossible, then he can do anything and everything else. The Israelites are still poor and weak, even though they’ve returned home. They are again relying on the Lord to do the seemingly impossible again.
The streams of the Negev are these waterways in the desert. One moment, the desert is barren and lifeless, and then the next moment, a rainstorm comes, and these wadis form, and life springs out all around. It’s an almost instant change of fortune, from death to life. God is able to make a seemingly barren desert teem with life.
Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.
This last portion of the psalm is the “application” portion. We have seen God accomplish what was impossible. We know that God does it for good. We know that God has the power to turn around the worst things ever, including death, and bring them to life. While we ourselves may daydream, and our dreams remain dreams, God is able to make dreams actually come true.
We may toil in tears on this earth. Life at times may feel like one long process of heartache and tears. But we can rest in the knowledge that our struggle is not in vain. This life is as if we are in the midst of planting. There is a harvest coming. God will set things right, and we will reap joy through our tears. And we shall return to our home, beside the Father, with shouts of joy, bringing our sheaves with us.