Three years ago, my third semester of Hebrew was coming to a close. I had struggled through the first two courses and though difficult, things began to click. After months of rigorous study and confusion, as the class was coming to a close and Christmas drew near, our professor was at the front of the class and ended the semester with a moment I will never forget. He talked about how the world was in disarray. He talked about how much of the world sees Christmas as just another holiday and how Christians all over are met with misunderstandings, persecution and indifference. Even so, he said with tears welling up in his eyes, over the next few weeks as we head toward Christmas, they’ll be singing our songs. Whether they realize it or not they’re proclaiming the truths we know to be true and over which we are joyful.
I think about that moment often. After the difficulty and uncertainty of those months, there was finally a breath. I was offered perspective and my time leading up to those thoughts from my professor made some more sense. In the confusion, frustration and difficulties of Hebrew I was reminded that God is in control and what He has done, what we celebrate, is more than our experience. While this small example does not do it justice, Psalm 126 reminds us of a few things as we head into Christmas. In this passage, the psalmist remembers the Lord restoring those who were far off back to their land, he remembers how laughter and joy once again defined their lives and how nations saw the beautiful work of God among them.
The psalmist continues in verse four by asking God for further restoration, like the streams in the Negeb (v. 4). These streams would run extremely low on water during the dry season but would fill up and overflow in the rainy season. Given the Lord’s provision, the people would experience this in their own lives and overflow because of what God was doing among them. More people would return from exile and enter the restoration prepared for them by the Lord. The psalmist ends by affirming that tears and weeping won’t always be so — that patient endurance in the things of God will turn out for one’s good.
This picture the psalmist paints is much like our own experience. It’s at Christmas we celebrate the arrival of Jesus who came to set the captives free (Luke 4:18) and it’s in this psalm the author makes much of the restoring work of the Lord. The people experienced the dream of restoration, although there was still more to be realized. God wasn’t done yet. In light of His provision and work amongst them, the people rejoiced and we can as well.
The Bible tells us that we see in a mirror dimly lit for now but will one day see fully (1 Cor. 13:12). In this world that has its highs and lows, its trials and burdens, and its successes and joys we can rest in and rejoice at what God has done among us. In a tumultuous world we can rejoice that people all over will be singing the songs of hope, even if they haven’t yet experienced the restoration believers have experienced. When they see the work of God in and among His people, like the nations they’ll say, “The LORD has done great things for them” (v. 2). Our streams overflow and while marveling at all God has done for us in sending His Son, we can say right now, whether your experience is Hebrew or literally anything else:
The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.