Intro: Joy—a sense of wholeness and well-being—is a beautiful gift the world cannot give anyone. Therefore, joy is not the same as happiness. We can experience happiness in the world, but it is fleeting, because what may make us happy today could change by tomorrow. That is the danger of living by our will or emotions; we are fickle and finite. I find happiness in many relationships, but not every relationship leaves me with a sense of well-being or joy. The fullness of joy, on the other hand, is only found in the presence of God, through Christ, and in the Spirit. Joy is always inexpressible and overwhelming, because it is supernatural (Ps 16:11).
In our passage for today, Israel is returning from their second exile due to God’s judgment; the first exile was in Egypt and the second was in Babylon. The Israelites have learned the hard way that God means what he says about idolatry. When God is finished teaching them about his sovereign rule and why they should honor him above all, like Moses leading the people through the wilderness, God mercifully leads his people toward freedom in Zion and a new beginning.
The freedom before the Israelites seems surreal, because their past 70 years have been so awful. The Lord moves them from sorrow into joy and laughter. So, they praise the Lord with shouts and singing. But, beyond their praise, the people cry out for God to restore not only their freedom, but deliver them into a prosperous and new spiritual life. The exile left them spiritually empty, broken, and in need of restoration.
Jesus does this for every believer, because the world does a devastating number on our souls. We can very easily find ourselves captives to sin and the destructive behaviors of ourselves or others. Yet, Jesus comes to rescue us and deliver us into the shalom of God, so we may be restored by his presence and walk in his plan and purpose. Praise God, it is never too late to call on the name of the Lord for salvation. Rise up, pilgrims!
Psalm 126 NLT A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.
When the Lord brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream!
We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, “What amazing things the Lord has done for them.”
Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy!
Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert.
Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.
They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.
Prayer: Lord, you truly do amazing things for us as your children. Thank you! Please restore the weary souls of your sons and daughters and cause us to be filled with your joy, today. In Jesus’ name.