When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like streams in the Negeb!
Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him. Psalm 126 ESV
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. John 20:11-18 ESV
Oliver Twist was an orphan whose mother died shortly after he was born. He lived the first nine years of his life in an orphanage, where he and the other boys didn’t get enough to eat, and then he was transferred to a workhouse where he had to work very hard and also wasn’t given enough food or clothes. Later he ran away to London and fell in with a gang of rough, violent pickpockets. Oliver had some very hard times in his young life, but in the end things turned out well for him. He was adopted by a wealthy and kind family and went to live with them in the countryside.
Oliver Twist is only a story, but the way he came through his troubles is a little like the way the Jewish people came through their troubles to a happy and good future. Their land had been invaded and their capital city and temple destroyed, and they had been taken into exile. After many years of living in a foreign country they were finally allowed to return to their ruined home. When more years had gone by they were able to finish rebuilding their temple. When they had finished their building project, the people were very happy.
Psalm 126 might have been written around this time, or it might have been earlier, when the exiles first came home. It talks about a joy so incredible it felt like a dream, the happiness the people felt when the Lord restored his people and blessed them with good things. God gave them laughter and shouts of joy, and they felt as if their tears had been like seeds planted in the ground, that grew up into a harvest of joy that they carried home with them. They said, “The Lord has done great things for us.”
God brings his people through troubles and hard times and blesses us with joy, but it’s not our going through the hard times that brings us God’s blessings. All of the good things that the Lord gives us are gifts of grace and mercy. Because of our sins, we don’t deserve the good things God gives us, but he sent Jesus to die on the cross to pay for our sins. When Jesus died, it seemed as if all hope was gone, and his followers cried tears of sadness and pain, but on the first Easter morning Jesus came out of the grave and turned their tears into joy. In Jesus, God has done great things for us, and we are glad!
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending us our Savior, Jesus, who turns our tears of sorrow into joy. In His Name, Amen.
Dickens, Charles Oliver Twist London: Chapman and Hall, 1838.