Meditations on the Psalms #291

Psalm 126 Part 2 

We all experience and lament over our ‘dry times. The prayer of vs5-6 is “Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert.” (NLT). The picture here is a very vivid prayer for revival. The word that’s translated as “streams” is a wadi – a dry riverbed. So, God’s people there in that prayer view themselves like one of those dry riverbeds in the Negev (NIV), the desert to the south of Israel. But their prayer is that God will restore them like the streams in the desert. Such a vivid picture, because at certain seasons when there’s rainfall in faraway mountains it flows into the Negev – it comes copiously, abundantly, and in a few hours, what was a dry dusty riverbed is transformed into an overflowing, torrential stream.

 Their inspired prayer, which can be our prayer, is that God would restore His people like that stream in the desert – that though we’ve been dry and dusty without much evidence of life, suddenly God is going to visit us and send such a visitation of His Spirit that it will be like a rushing torrent that will sweep all obstacles before it.  

The gladness of the first half of this psalm was real, but only part of the picture. With wisdom, the psalmist reminded himself and all of us that great joy is often preceded by a season of tears as if they are seeds we sow, that will bring a crop of joy to be later reaped. In the first image (the sudden filling of the desert streams, v4), the results are sudden and unearned. In the second image – the harvest after the difficult work of ploughing and sowing seed, (vs5-6) the results come only after a long period of hard work and waiting.

The two images of renewal (4b, 5-6) are not only striking: they are complementary. The first of them is all suddenness, a sheer gift from heaven; the second is slow and arduous, with man allotted a crucial part to play in it. One pictures justification, God’s abundant gift, like streams in the desert. The second pictures sanctification, which is the union of God and man.  

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