During the period of Babylonian captivity, the Israelites must have felt as though they were living a nightmare. Here, in this seventh psalm of ascent, Cyrus has set some of them free. They now feel as if they have exited the nightmare and are experiencing a dream.
"When the LORD brought back the captive ones of Zion, we were like those who dream."
No! This was really happening. The chains had fallen off. Their captors had handed them the key and the prison doors were flung wide open. The terrors of the night that had bound them for so long were vanquished and at long last they were free!
And what did their glorious freedom result in? Joy!!
"While the people of Israel were captives in Babylon their harps were hung silently upon the willow trees. But now that their captivity is turned they resume their song! Providence pipes to them and they dance."
I love that last sentence. "Providence pipes to them and they dance."
God has worked wonderful things for His people and their neighbors have noticed.
"Then they said among the nations, 'The LORD has done great things for them."
When God saws asunder the shackles that have bound you, people will notice. They may not like what they see - but they still will notice. How we should pray for God to be glorified by our response in the midst of our captivities (without grumbling and complaining and with trusting and expectant hearts) and how we should equally pray that He would be glorified in how we respond to our rescues from those captivities (joyful shouts of thanksgiving)!
There is a watching world. May they be left without an excuse regarding the promises of God and His power in performing them for His people.
The captives are set free. The dream is a reality. Laughter fills their hearts. Joyful shouting is on their lips. They are glad. However, they are also realistic. We should be as well.
The psalmist's prayer that God would "restore our captivity" immediately drew my thoughts to the prophet Joel and his words regarding God's restoring of that which the locust had eaten. In chapter two of this minor prophet's sermon we are told:
"Do not fear, rejoice and be glad, for the LORD has done great things. Do not fear, beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness have turned green, for the tree has born fruit, the fig tree and the vine have yielded in full. So rejoice, O sons of Zion, and be glad in the LORD your God; for He has given you the early rain for your vindication. And He has poured down for you the rain, the early and latter rain as before. And the threshing floors will be full of grain, and the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. Then I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the creeping locust, the stripping locust, and the gnawing locust.... And you shall have plenty to eat and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you; then My people will never be put to shame. Thus you will know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and there is no other; and My people will never be put to shame." (Joel 2:21-27)
Put in the psalmist's language: "Restore our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the South. Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him."
"These verses look forward to the mercies that were yet wanted. Those that had come out of captivity were still in distress, even in their own land (Nehemiah 1:3) and many still remained in Babylon.
"The beginnings of mercy are encouragements to us to pray for the completing of it. All the saints may comfort themselves with this confidence, that their tears will certainly end in a harvest of joy at last.
"Job and Joseph and David and many others had harvests of joy after sorrow. Those that sow in the tears of godly sorrow shall reap in the joy of a sealed pardon and a settled peace."
Beloved, Christ sets captives free. It is not a dream it is the truest of truths. Are you living in the nightmare of bondage or walking in the freedom of faith?
There is a redeeming rescue available from your captivity. Flee to the One who makes dreams come true and who turns tears into joyful shouting.