“1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
3 The LORD has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.
4 Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
5 May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.”
Most likely, this psalm expresses the joy of the Babylonian exiles being set free to return to their homeland.
In 539 BCE, King Cyrus of Persia conquered the Babylonians. A year later, Cyrus issued a decree that the Israelites were free to return to their homeland, Judah. No doubt, when the news first reached the settlements of the exiles, you could hear them saying, “I must be dreaming. Pinch me to make sure it’s not a dream!”
Then, the reality set in that after nearly fifty years in exile, they were going home. Joy expressed in uncontrollable laughter broke out among the people. Yahweh was acting once more to “restore the fortunes” of Yahweh’s people.
While verse 5 and 6 can be taken several ways, I believe the “tears” and weeping” were expressions of gratitude and joy. Imagine returning to your land after a lifetime away and getting to plant your seeds in the ground for the first time after your return. What a sacred moment that must have been for the people. I can envision families walking slowly, stepping lightly on their ground out of reverence for what God has restored to them. I can see them drop to their knees and bend down to kiss the ground in deep gratitude for this blessing of God. Their “tears of joy” water the first seeds as they are carefully, respectfully planted.
The second half of verse six should sound familiar. So, sing it with me, “They shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves!”
Be a blessing to someone today!