Psalm 126, 14 Dec 14

A light burden
Carving on a door of St Peter’s church, old town Zürich; probably 15th C

Sowing can be back-breaking work. If you are down in the dumps at the time, burdened by worries, tough conditions and long days, ‘sowing in tears’ as in this psalm, the harvest seems a doubtful and distant prospect.

But this is one of the psalms of Ascent. So there’s an inspiring promise there, one that echoes the promises of the last two weeks in Psalms 85 and 80:

Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves. (v. 6)

Why are the sowers weeping? The psalm recalls that the fortunes of Zion were restored after exile and captivity (v. 1). One commentator  summarises the psalm in a short tweet:

The return from captivity; a dream come true.
Sowing for Yahweh in tears; but the Lord reaps for all-round joy.

But the prayer continues in verse 5.

May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.

Baobab prison tree
‘Captivity of some sort’: this old baobab tree in the Kimberley was used as a prison, mainly for aboriginal offenders

So captivity of some sort still pertains — maybe it was drought, attackers or personal oppression? It could just be that things are off the rails within the family.

The answer always seems to be: ‘Keep investing’. How often have you said that to a friend or partner? Sometimes it’s all you can do, and the promise in this psalm reminds us that ‘his yolk is easy and his burden is light’. (Matt. 11:30)


Our male voice group is a little depleted this week (what’s new?) but we hope to present a four-part (or nearly!) setting of an old Slavonian Beatitude tune adapted for this psalm from the singing of the monks of Chevetogne.

The people respond with a brief affirmation of the joy of restoration and renewal that runs through the psalm, whatever the nature of recent burdens or anticipated harvest may be:

‘And our hearts are filled with joy’



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