Psalm 126 “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 mentions the restoration of Israel’s fortunes, a return from captivity and victory after a long period of defeat. It’s not specific to a certain episode of restoration; it’s about the people of God and our common experience. No restoration though, was as remarkable and complete as the great Exodus in Christ.
As it says in Ephesians 4:8, Christ led captivity captive and gave gifts to men. All the things that hold us captive – the captain of our woe; Satan, his entire host, his minions of sin; his entire army of death – was led into captivity. God took away our captivity and our sin. But God takes away to replace. He empties, to fill. Jesus gave gifts to replace what He’s taken and those gifts are greater than what he’s taken away.
Compare death to life. The emptiness of fallen humanity to the fullness of the self-sustaining Triune God. Compare joy to sorrow, laughter to tears, song to silence, fear to courage, faith to despair. Compare the taste of cake to the taste of ashes. Christ has come and in His wake is a startling, overflowing grace that drowns our death and numbs our hearts and baffles our intellect.
We are like those who dream. Is it true? Is it real? Are we, you and I, the inheritors of the stars? Are we perfect before the Father? Was our God a suckling babe? Was the Eternal one born in a Roman province under Caesar Augustus, to a virgin maiden? We are like those who dream and we blink in the brightness of the light like those struggling to wake up.
God’s goodness is like a dream because His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. Our limits can’t bind Him. With God all things are possible. We hear and see with our flesh. God’s actions and promises are contrary to our own experiences. God’s actions are nearly incomprehensible because our minds our created and finite, full of the creation’s limitations. Our flesh aches, our strength fails, our imaginations have borders and boundaries.
For instance, how can we comprehend the idea of eternity, when we live in a word with beginnings and endings? Furthermore, God was a man with two natures, conceived by the Holy Spirit, laid in a manger, honored by angles and shepherds. Its sounds too good to be true. As fallen creatures we are too weak to believe such wondrous things. So Christ came, cleansed us from the inside out and poured into us His Spirit. Christ cleansed and lined the interiors of our hearts with reinforced steel so that He could pour into us His infinite Love, his limitless spirit, so that drunk on 100 proof grace, we’d stagger about dazed with God’s glory.
He reinforced the cavern of our hearts so that the fullness of God could dwell there.
Ephesians 3:14-19 “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
God’s spirit gives us strength to comprehend, it’s not a dream; God’s love is ours in Christ Jesus. To us was born a baby, a God-child, who didn’t stay a child. No, He grew big enough and strong enough to carry a cross up a hill and lead captivity captive in His wake.
God’s work isn’t a dream. Satan’s is. Satan’s dream passes away as the sun of righteousness rises with healing in His wings, casting out darkness, nightmare and death. We are all undone, disarmed and defeated by the grace of God.
I’m not saying that God defeats Satan, sin and death and you just stand by as an onlooker. Jesus defeated your selfishness with His selfless sacrifice. Jesus defeated your self-righteousness with His perfect obedience to Our Father. Jesus defeated your worldly wisdom with heavenly foolishness. Jesus defeated your pride with His humility.
God came as a man to defeat death and you, who were an enemy combatant, are now a member of His body. Awake, blink away the doubt. It’s not a dream. We are undone and remade by God’s unmerited favor and compassion
A perfect example of what I’m talking about occurs in Acts 12:6-12. Peter is freed from captivity. God’s grace visits Him and he is like one who dreams. He goes through the motions, all along thinking it’s all just a vision. God overflows his ability to comprehend with blessing too good to believe.
They laid Christ in the tomb between worlds. A world of sleep, of limits and harshness and cold reason – and the world where anything and everything is possible for a good and loving God.
Think about when you first believed, when you first emerged from baptism, when the first flush of love reddened your cheeks, when you first realized God would hear your prayers, when the church’s fellowship first welcomed you, when you first opened the Bible and knew it was true, the first time you knew what a sin was and confessed it and felt no shame for you knew you were forgiven.
You were like the Apostles in Luke 24:10 Jesus “showed them his hands and His feet and while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, Jesus said to them, have you anything to eat?”
God has done great things for us, let’s eat; let’s feast. The blessing and grace of God is difficult to believe because it’s so glorious.
Douglas Wilson wrote in Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, his book on Christmas; “Our good God, our overflowing God, our God of Yes and Amen, has always been able to promise far more than we are able to believe. I am not here speaking of unbelief, or of hard hearts, which is another problem. I am speaking here of a true and sincere faith, a God-given faith, but one which is still finite, and which God loves to bury under an avalanche of promises. We serve and worship the God who overwhelms, who delights to overwhelm. At His right hand are pleasure forevermore – a cascading waterfall of infinite pleasure, with not top, no bottom, no back, no front and no sides. Nothing but infinite pleasure in motion and every one of those pleasures is attached to His promises.”
Consider what God has done for you and expect great things. Things too good to be true, that overwhelm your expectations. God has overcome us with a staggering provision of grace, to train our imaginations to run wild in anticipation and hope. Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
When I was a child, one of my favorite things to hear was my dad say, “watch this.” It was always followed by feats of strength, magic: the most unexpected wonder and delight. We believed my dad might do anything. Well, our Father in heaven, who caused donkeys to talk and seas to part and a virgin to conceive and stars to descend and stand at attention above lowly mangers, who loved you enough to slay His son on your behalf delights to say, “watch this.”