Psalm 126 (The Psalms of Advent—Series B)
“He Has Done Great Things”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
December 20, 2017
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
During this Season of Advent, we have looked to God’s Word in the psalms as the basis for our meditations and prayers. Our Psalm text for this third week in Advent is Psalm 126:
1When Yahweh restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. 2At that time, our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with shouts of joy. At that time, they said among the nations, “Yahweh has done great things for them.” 3Yahweh has done great things for us. We are glad. 4Restore, O Yahweh, our fortunes like streams in the Negeb. 5Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy. 6He who indeed goes out weeping, carrying the trail of seed, shall surely come in with a shout of joy, carrying his sheaves.
Can you imagine what it must have been like for the Israelites to be in exile in Babylon for forty-some years?—deliberately transported away from your homeland to a foreign nation with a different language, culture, and a religion of idol worship. I was pretty homesick the first few weeks I was at the Seminary in St. Louis. I had never been that far away from home before, so far from family and friends, and the woman I would one day marry. But St. Louis is hardly a foreign country. Any homesickness I experienced was surely nothing in comparison to what the Israelites must have gone through.
If you have ever experienced homesickness, then you know the joy of coming home again. You’ve felt the elation of the reunion with those you love. It’s when you really mean it when you say, “It’s good to be home.” When Cyrus, king of Persia, issued the decree that the Israelites could return home, can you just imagine the elation, the joy, and the excitement? The psalmist says that in Babylon, they were like people who dream. They could only dream of home, but one day, their dream became reality. Then they laughed and shouted with joy. They were going home! And they went home! And it was God orchestrating the whole thing.
It was the Lord who had given the Israelites over to exile in the first place. They were in breach of covenant. The broke faith with God and had earned for themselves the punishment which God gave them. They had been warned to repent and to seek the Lord, but they would not. They continued to worship Baal and other false gods. They abused the poor and the weak. They had no faith connected to their religious festivals. But, along with punishment, the Lord also promised restoration. A remnant of His people would return, rebuild, and in time, God would do something even greater than bringing the people home from exile in Babylon.
All of humanity had been in exile from God because all people have inherited sin from Adam and Eve. People were no longer in communion with God. He no longer walked with us as He once did in the Garden so long ago. We became estranged from Him. Worse, sin made us God’s enemies. We did not fear, love, and trust in Him above all things; we, too, worshiped idols of our own making. We failed to love our neighbors. We have not kept the Lord’s commandments as we should. Like Israel, we deserve God’s punishment for breach of contract. We deserve nothing but death and hell. That’s what our sinfulness and our sinful actions, thoughts, desires, and words earn for us. We, like Adam and Eve, have been expelled from the Garden, cast away from the heavenly presence of God.
But Yahweh has done great things for us! God takes a dessert like the Negeb, and causes streams of fresh water to flow in the desert. God changes our tears shed over our sins and our lost and condemned condition and He changes them into shouts of joy at the very thing God has done. He restored our fortunes. He restored us and all people to His favor when He sent His Son Jesus to be our Redeemer.
When the time was right, God the Son was “incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.” Because God restored Israel to its home, one of the descendants of those returning people was Mary, who lived in Nazareth. By God’s grace, she was chosen to be the mother of our Lord Jesus. And it was Jesus, true God and true Man, who took our sins and our sinfulness upon Himself. He allowed Himself to be exiled from God, enduring death and hell on the cross in our place. Jesus shed His blood and made us clean from our sins, reconciling us to our heavenly Father.
Because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, which the Father received as the perfect payment for our sins, He invites us home to Himself. The Father tells us that our exile in sin and death is at an end. The punishment has been paid for by Jesus the Savior. You are forgiven. You are made children of the heavenly Father. And He has a homecoming already planned and prepared for you.
While we have already been brought near to God the Father through faith in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, one day we will be with the Lord face to face in the joys of paradise. When Jesus comes again, He will make for all His faithful people a new heaven and a new earth. It will be like the Garden of Eden restored. God will again walk with us face to face. Our time of homesickness will truly be over and He will wipe away every tear from our eyes so that we will shout with joy to His praise and honor and glory.
Through the saving work of Jesus, Yahweh has done great things for us and we are glad. We look forward with hope and joy for the fulfillment of what the Lord has promised us when He fully restores our fortunes in His new creation. At that time, our mouth will be filled with laughter. We’ll shout for joy! For Christ our Savior will bring us home to stay with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit forever. At that time and on that day, truly we will say with all praise and thanks to God, “It’s good to be home.” Amen.