This sermon was given by Rev Caroline on Wednesday 27 August 2017
Our psalm today is a beautiful union of restoration and rejoicing. It is one of several “Songs of Ascents” thought, by some commentators, to have most likely been used by the faithful as they made their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. These pilgrimages would have involved a preparing of hearts and minds in readiness for arriving at the holy city.
The psalm starts out recalling God’s past acts whereby his people have been restored. As they remember so many restorations –
- the restoration of Sarah to Abraham
- the restoration of Joseph to Jacob and his brothers
- the restoration of the people to the land after the Exodus
- the restoration of the ark to the people after the Philistines captured it
They bubble over with joy and celebration. We, too, as followers of Jesus, add in those further, crucial divine restorations:
- the birth of the Messiah and
- the resurrection
We as, God’s children, join in with that celebration and the joy that we have through knowing Jesus. All these restorations reveal a greater and greater re-opening of the channels of communication between God and His children.
We are told that “we were like those who dream,” conjuring up images of the prophets but also the ecstatic joy of those who have received visions – like David dancing beside the ark as it was returned to Jerusalem. The words “our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy” paints a vivid picture of hearts filled with spontaneous joy at the wonders of God’s love as he restores them once again.
God’s wonderful deeds have also been noticed amongst the “nations” – those who worship other Gods. These people who have acknowledged “The Lord has done great things for them!” are offering a remarkable testimony in those times. There are many examples of profound displays of and recognition of God’s power and people throughout the Old and New Testament – from Elijah calling down fire on the altar (1 Kings 18:38) to the Roman centurion who announced, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” (Matthew 27:54). The nations acknowledging
The psalm continues with the people asking God to restore them once again, so that that they may rejoice yet again.
Then we have a beautiful picture of the super abundance of God – images of the dry desert river beds gushing with water, farmers sowing seeds in distress as they expect no crop then having a song in their hearts when the receive unexpectedly abundant crops and carry huge sheaves of grain home from the fields.
These images may reflect actual deliverance from physical or spiritual drought and be recalling their own joy and personal deliverance.
These images may also reflect a prayer for rescue from drought, but they also may simply be metaphors for a people in need of God’s restoring actions in many different crises–crises of spiritual drought, of national military defeat, of plague, etc. The list of times of need of the Lord’s intervention is endless – just as it is today
The people realise that, until the Son of God comes again, we will be in constant and everlasting need of God’s continued restoration.
Let us journey with them in a time of extended prayer using the words of the psalm:
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, •
then were we like those who dream.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter •
and our tongue with songs of joy.
Lord, we recall those times when we have truly known your blessing in our lives. Let us pause and allow the memory to build, reconnecting with the feelings of joy and gratitude.
As we get in touch with God’s blessing upon our lives, I invite you to bring to mind someone you know who you yearn to know God’s blessing in their lives. In a moment of silence let us hold these precious people before God asking that their lives be filled with the joy of knowing Him.
Then said they among the nations, •
‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has indeed done great things for us, •
and therefore we rejoiced.
Lord, as we read the papers and watch the news, it is hard not to feel the weight of all the challenges facing your people.
- We lift before you all that cause your children pain praying that hearts will be softened and ways will be changed
- All those bowed down by famine and war
- All those whose lives have been lost or torn apart by conflict and terror
- All those whose livelihoods have been taken away by recession or greed
- All those who are exploited or enslaved
Lord, we pray that, in your power, you would move in these situations. Protect and alleviate the suffering of your children and cause the nations to say “The Lord had done great things for them” and acknowledge your glory.
Restore again our fortunes, O Lord, •
as the river beds of the desert.
Those who sow in tears •
shall reap with songs of joy.
Lord, we play for those who suffer in body, mind or spirit…….
May they know your peace in their hearts, your love surrounding them and your healing touch.
Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed, •
will come back with shouts of joy,
bearing their sheaves with them.
We pray for the community, for those who struggle to find work, for those in financial difficulty, for who are lonely or sad. We pray that they would know your love, your comfort and your provision.