I am currently doing a Beth Moore Bible study called "Stepping Up" (available here), which is a study of the Psalms of Ascent (Psalm 120-134). She always has so much spiritual meat to chew on, but her study on Psalm 126 struck me in a new way. If you have a Bible handy, read through it real quick.
One of the exercises she had us do was to draw a time line. This was great to see the outline of the Psalm....and it also shows the pattern of Hebrew poetry. This is what my time line looks like:I learn best through pictures and visualizations so I thought this was helpful. At one point in time Israel had been prosperous and it was a land full of laughter and joy. But when the psalmist wrote this psalm they were in a time of tears and weeping and wondering what God was doing. But God promised them that once again their fortunes would be restored and that there would be joy and laughter.
Of course, my first application of the psalm was to our life in Tera. When the six men chose to follow Christ there was great joy. Then they turned back and now we are in a period of weeping. And even the entire time we were in Tera we went through a lot of difficult periods of tears and wondering what was going on. But someday (God has promised it!) there will be rejoicing and we (or whoever God has appointed to do it) will harvest an abundant crop.
But Beth Moore also points out another application to this psalm that I had never really thought of. I had always applied this psalm to missions and to soul winning. And I still believe that application is right, but now I think it is just one application.
But it also has a more personal application. She talked about how she made a visit to Africa and an African leader of a food-distribution project told her how people get so hungry that they eat their seed grain. Then when the rainy season starts they have nothing to plant. That made sense to me since the same thing happens in Niger! The hungriest time of year in Niger is the time between just before the planting of the grain and the harvest. In desperation, while waiting for the first big rain, families often eat their seed grain.
She made the application that we, too, often eat the grain, the seed, the Word of God without letting it come to harvest in our lives. The Spirit speaks to us about an issue....a bad habit, a sin, an addiction, a broken relationship, something He wants us to do...and we take in the Word and are blessed by it and challenged by it, but that's as far as it goes. Instead we need to take the seed and plant it with tears and water it with tears and let it grow and let God give us a harvest. No matter how desperate or hungry we are, we must not just eat the seed! In Niger the seed is generally planted in June and harvested in October, but when we are speaking of what God is doing in our lives, the harvest may be a few days or it may be years. We are to be like the seed in Mark 4:20 "Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop...." And Mark 4:26-29 is a short parable of a farmer who sowed his seed and then it sprouts and grows up and then comes to be harvested. But all he does is sows and weeds....he can't make it grow.
And that, my friends, is what we do. We plant the seed of God in the area of our life that needs to be dealt with. We water it, we weed around it, but we leave the growing of it to our Lord. And He will make it grow so that we can harvest it and come again rejoicing!