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DaySpring Presbyterian Church

Psalm 126 : The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

 

I picked this title because we all have dreams – and I don't mean the kind of crazy things you might dream about when you are sleeping – I mean your waking dreams – the mental picture of how you want things to be in the future - and those dreams are made of something – they might be made of the wrong things but we all have them. And sometimes those dreams become reality and we find ourselves struck with amazement and say things like “I can't believe this...Somebody pinch me.” That was the experience of the writer of Psalm 126. It was written after some Jews returned from exile and it describes the joy experienced by those who returned to Jerusalem many years after it was destroyed. Just in case you are not familiar with the history here is a brief description of the events in the background of our Psalm.

IN the year 586 BC the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem and carried off to Babylon thousands of Jews. This happened because the people had continually sinned against the Lord and would not heed calls to repentance. To be exiled from this land was a sign of God's hot displeasure – and they knew this. When I read this Psalm I can't help but feel that the Psalmist who wrote it had experienced the horror of the siege of Jerusalem, seen the destruction, the slaughter and was among those who were carried away from his homeland to Babylon. Those born in captivity did not know any better – they only heard the stories from grandpa who got choked up whenever he would talk about Zion and the Temple. I am sure those who did experience being deported dreamed about returning all the time but never thought they would live to see that dream fulfilled.

 

TRANSITION: So put yourself in his shoes – here he is living in a foreign land which is now under the control of Persia and then one day a notice is sent throughout the kingdom of Persia from King Cyrus himself: “‘The Lord, the God of heaven...has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you—may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem.  (Ezra 1:2-3) Huh? You must be kidding? We're being set free to return to our homeland to rebuild the Temple! It is almost too good to be true – like a dream come true...a dream fulfilled by God.

 

  1. God Has Fulfilled Our Dreams

    1. What is meant by “dream”?

  • What is the first thing that comes to mind? Disney World – its where dreams come true!

  • I've been there with our kids before and if you are dreaming of long lines at the Dumbo ride, $5 for a hot dog, cranky, crying kids then Disney is the place to fulfill your dreams.

  • Of course their idea of “dream” is really “escapism” like Neverland in Peter Pan.

  • But this attempt to escape reality is not limited to children – its something adults do too.

  • We might have in our minds a “dream house, dream car, or dream vacation.

  • This is also a form of escapism – that house, car, vacation puts us into another existence, into an alternate reality that seems better than our current one.

  • Nothing is wrong with desiring these things so long as they are not idols in your life.

  • It just that these are not the kinds of dreams I will be talking about. In fact I hope to convince someone today not to chase such dreams and also to dream bigger dreams.

  • What I will be talking about are dreams made of something entirely different, something of much greater substance which can be characterized by 2 words: hope and vision.

  • What I want us to do is two things: (1) Evaluate our dreams and see what they're made of, (2) Begin to dream kingdom dreams, to look to the Lord to make them reality and to commit ourselves to actively making them a reality.

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    1. The Dreams (Hopes) of the Exiles

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      • 2 weeks ago I preached from Psalm 115 and stated that we must not evaluate God's love, presence and involvement in our lives by his providences but by his promises.

      • The Psalmist understood this - his dreams were not arbitrary – for he held on to his hope that God would make good on his promise in Amos 9.

      • Amos 9:11ff - 11 “In that day I will restore David’s fallen tent. I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be...13 “New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills. 14 I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. 15 I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them,” says the Lord your God.”

      • Now the Psalmist was engaged in a little bit of escapism – he certainly wanted the situation to improve BUT his escapism was quite different.

      • His dreams were kingdom dreams and so his desire to escape reality was really a desire to see reality redeemed.

      • Specifically he wanted to see Israel restored as God's witness among the nations and part of this included being returned to their land.

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    1. What did the Land represent?

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      • First thing we should take note of is the Psalmist refers to the land as Zion.

      • Zion – another name for Jerusalem BUT carries deep theological meaning with it. According to DBI, Zion often refers to:

        • Yahweh’s dwelling place – it is where heaven and earth come together.

        • The world center from which God’s law will be promulgated and the place to which the Gentile's will come to receive God's blessing.

        • This blessing comes through the Davidic kingship leading to the idea of the Messiah.

        • This messiah will reign at Zion and renew the heavens and bring peace and prosperity to his people.

      • So Zion was much more than a homeland or place to live, Zion was where the two institutions of God's presence, the temple and the Davidic king, were found.

      • To dwell in Zion is to dwell in the safety and blessing of the Lord as a citizen of his kingdom and heir of his promises.

      • For the exiles, returning to this land meant God had removed their transgressions and was going to reestablish his mission to the world to bring renewal from Zion.

      • And reestablishing the institutions of Temple worship and Davidic kingship were essential in making this happen.

      • And when the exiles returned the nations saw it and said: “The Lord has done great things for them.”

      • God was calling them home – he was calling them back to himself and fulfilling their hopes and dreams of restoration and also got the attention of the watching world.

      • So we can understand then why the Psalmist declares “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.” (v2)

  1. God Fills Us With Laughter and Songs of Joy

    1. What we need to understand about joy is that it is a by-product of life with God.

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      • Often in the scriptures joy is a response to God's deliverance.

      • It is also associated with the nearness of God.

      • But joy is never seen as an end in itself – it is understood to be a gift – a gift God gives.

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    1. It is God who filled their mouths with laughter – who put songs of joy on their tongues.

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      • This is an occasion for singing – God has redeemed his people and is restoring them!

      • All of the major events in the OT were celebrated with music and song.

      • When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and witnessed the destruction of their enemies in the sea, they sang: “I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.” (Ex. 15:1)

      • At the dedication of the original Temple there was music, singing and dancing: The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the Lord....they raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang: “He is good; his love endures forever.” (2 Chr. 5:13)

      • Several hundreds of years later a remnant of Jews just back from exile stood at the same location and sang the same words as construction on the new Temple began.

      • And this is where the Psalm takes an interesting turn – he petitions the Lord: “restore our fortunes”.

 

  1. A Petition: Restore Our Fortunes and Bless Us

    1. Why this change? It seems everything is looking bright up until this point.

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      • If you know the history of those who returned – things did not get easier for them.

      • Yes it was like a dream come true that we returned to Zion – but Zion ain't what it used to be. We have a Temple being built but where is the Son of David?

      • Furthermore, our enemies are trying to stop us from building the Temple with threats.

      • And so he says: “Restore our fortunes,O Lord, like streams in the Negev.” (v4)

      • This is a very powerful image – for the Negev is in the southern part of Israel(NASB).

      • And this region was very dry most of the year and also had many dangers there.

      • Isaiah described it in Is. 30 as a a badland populated by lions and poisonous snakes.

      • So the image here is the total transformation of a desert wilderness into an oasis.

      • What he is dreaming about is a move of God's transformational power upon their dry, barren lives – he had a vision for the future and was calling upon God to fulfill it.

ILLUSTRATION: Francis was a dear elderly woman who loved Jesus and was a shut in. She lived in an assisted living facility – and her “apartment” was a one bedroom efficiency. During my internship the pastor and I would go visit her frequently. On a few occasions I went alone and I remember one time specifically I was deeply moved by her faith and her hope. She couldn't walk well and was nearly restricted to a wheelchair. And she was suffering from congestive heart failure and diabetes. And she shared with me her dream which had nothing to do with her mobility, her living conditions, or anything pertaining to her health. Her dream was that her sons would come to faith in Jesus before she died.

 

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    1. APPLICATION: What have you been dreaming about these days?

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      • If the first thing that comes to your mind is that dream house, car, job, vacation - forget about all of that – such dreams are made of trite, temporary things.

      • What I want to know is do you have a vision for the world to acknowledge Jesus as the only savior and Lord?

      • Do you have a vision for our church reaching our community with the gospel?

      • Do you dream about seeing these seats filled with people who have recently come to know Jesus? Do you dream about your loved ones coming to know Jesus?

      • Do you dream about that day when Jesus comes back to bring everything he has accomplished to its fullness and look forward to that day with great hope/anticipation?

      • If not, learn to dream bigger dreams and ask the Lord to make those dreams into reality BUT understand you and I play a role in making them a reality.

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    1. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. (v5)

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      • What the Psalmist is doing is using this imagery of sowing to describe what happens when we earnestly pray and work for our dreams to be fulfilled – its like planting seeds.

      • We are not to sit by idly – rather we are to be actively involved in doing the work of restoration by faith and in the name of Jesus.

      • See, vs 5-6 are pointing us to another dream, one that he is confident will be fulfilled.

      • He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. This is in a sense a promise we can and must live by.

      • The Hymn writer Knowles Shaw wrote these words in the 19th century: Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master, Though the loss sustained our spirit often grieves;
        When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

      • The picture we see here is reality – we are living in a difficult time, a time accompanied by hard work, struggles, trials and tears but also a time of promise.

      • And the Psalmist is confident of that - those who sow in tears will experience joy.

      • The promise for those who trust and serve Christ is: true joy will overtake all sorrows.

 

CLOSER: When I began I said we were not going to talk about our crazy sleeping dreams. But I think that our sleeping dreams can teach us something about how to dream big. Some of us have such wacked-out dreams where you do things and experience things that are completely unrealistic and sometimes mind blowing. Maybe you dream that you can fly, that you have supernatural strength or powers and you are conquering evil in the world. I think we need to dream crazy waking dreams like this. John Piper writes: Don’t dream too small or pray too small about what God may do to save sinners and glorify his name. Friends we already know how this all ends. We are in a sense standing on the banks of the Jordan looking across to the land that is already ours. We will come back from the fields rejoicing bringing in the sheaves.

Jesus summed so much of this up saying: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.... Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. Brothers and Sisters, we have nothing to lose and so much to gain! Let's start dreaming of how we might bring gospel renewal to this world and let us then ask the Father in Jesus name to bless our efforts. Lets go sow some seeds for the kingdom with the promise in our hearts that joy beyond our wildest dreams awaits us!

 

 

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