Reading: Psalm 126
If only we could see, laughter and joy would fill our mouths when we think about the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. I realize that is not the way many speak of the church today. In fact it is quite popular to speak disparagingly of the church as if God's great mission in the world had failed.
I am not suggesting that there are not reasons to be concerned–there are. But I am suggesting that there is much more to the picture. Psalm 126 gives us a glimpse into the picture.
When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. 2Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them." 3The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.
4Restore our fortunes, LORD, like streams in the Negev. 5Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. 6Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.
Joy at the Time of Ingathering
This psalm speaks of the time when the captive people of God were released from Babylon and returning to the land of Zion. The people returning were poor and displaced. They were unsettled. Yet there was joy; joy unspeakable; joy like a dream; joy that could only be expressed in a mouth full of laughter and singing. This was a time of ingathering—ingathering of God's people from where they had been displaced, dispersed, and dispossessed.
Their prayer was that the Lord would restore their fortunes like the cracked dry stream-beds in the dessert. When the rainy season comes, that which was cracked and dry is now the very source of life for all around. But notice they weren't waiting to be filled with joy until they were the flowing stream. They were filled with joy because the Lord was gathering them in and now they were praying with joy that they would be restored to become the source of life to all around.
“What does any of this have to do with the church?”
I'm glad you asked. The prophets looked forward to this time of gathering God's people from where they had been scattered. Here are just a couple from numerous examples.
Hear the word of the LORD, you nations; proclaim it in distant coastlands: “He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.” (Jeremiah 31:10)
He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth. (Isaiah 11:12)
Notice where they will be gathered from? From the four quarters of the earth. In the scattering and regathering of God's people, there is a transformation envisioned by the prophets. They left the and rather ethnically Jewish and they are re-gathered from the nations of the world. This of course is fulfilled in the Gospel as the Gospel goes into the world gathering Gentiles as well as Jews so that all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:25-26).
Do You See?
If you are a believer in the glorious Lord Jesus Christ, you are one of the disinherited and dispossessed that God has brought back to the land. God has gathered you into his inheritance. Paul prays for the church in Ephesians that we would see this.
18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead. (Ephesians 1:18-19)
What is the hope to which He has called you? Certainly heaven, but more than that. He has made you part of a family. He has restored you to a place in which you now have an inheritance. You are part of something not only much bigger than yourself, but something eternal. This hope is a community of love in which sins are forgiven, offenses are born with patience, and humility guides our interactions.
Do you see the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people? Do you see that in Christ you have been joined to a family, a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9)? Do you see that as a part of God's holy nation you have received a hundred times as much “houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields” (Matthew 19:29)?
Do you see the power he has made available to you–that same life-giving power that raised Christ from the dead–in order that you can be transformed like the streams in the Negev? You can be transformed so that you are no longer a dry, fruitless tree (Isaiah 56:3) but now a life-giving, fruit-bearing tree? Our lives are to be transformed by the river of Living Water that flows from Jesus Christ into a life giving agents in this broken world.
Like the people in Psalm 126, we may still be poor and displaced in many ways. Our lives and churches may still be unsettled. But our mouths should be filled with joy, laughter, and singing because we are no longer displaced, dispersed, and dispossessed. We have been restored to the inheritance God has for us! If only we could see, laughter and joy would fill our mouths when we think about the church of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,