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Responding to Suffering and Sowing with Tears

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Psalms 123–126

How blessed are we who follow the Lord. We know He is on our side because we are on His side. Opposition, attacks, and ridicule only strengthen our faith when we embrace the promises of God and realize that He is always in control.


Responding to Suffering and Sowing with Tears

Psalms 123–126


This time in our Wisdom Journey, we are covering four more songs the Israelites sang as they traveled up to Jerusalem for those three annual festivals of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.

Travel must have been quite difficult for these Israelites, as they carried all the baggage they needed for the journey. But here in Psalm 123, it is pretty clear the travelers also are carrying what we would call today emotional baggage. The psalmist writes in verses 3-4:

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt. Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of those who are at ease.

Maybe you can relate to this kind of baggage. You have had more than enough of contempt. That word carries the idea of disrespect from proud or wicked people.[1] The psalmist also writes of the “scorn of those who are at ease.” The word here for “scorn” refers to mocking or derision. [2]

People who seem to have it made in this world have nothing but ridicule and sarcasm for the followers of God. And this psalm very honestly says to the Lord, “We’ve just about had all we can take.”

Well, how do you as a believer keep traveling with that kind of baggage? How do you keep your head and your heart above water, so to speak, when you encounter hateful people?

First, it is a matter of expectation. Verse 1 says, “To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!” For God to be “enthroned” speaks of His total authority, and being “in the heavens” gives God infinite power to execute His authority. Beloved, contempt and scorn against us are no match for our God. We just have to lift up the eyes of our heart and trust Him!

Jesus expected to be crucified. And He told His followers to expect hatred and reminded them that the world hated Him long before it hated them (John 15:18). Those who follow God will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).

Much of the discouragement we feel as we live for the Lord comes from unmet expectations. Our expectations need to be anchored in the truth that God is in control and He will make everything right. Though our world wants to disturb us—and frankly our world is disturbed by us—the Lord’s throne in heaven is never disturbed. God is not wringing His hands, wondering what is going to happen next. As I like to say, there has never been an emergency meeting of the Trinity.

Second, a proper response to hatred is not only a matter of expectation; it is a matter of concentration. Verse 2 gives us an interesting picture. The psalmist says here, “Our eyes look to the Lord our God.”

I recommend that you spend less time watching the news and talk shows and following the latest crisis or the latest thing that has captured the public’s attention and spend more time serving the Lord, talking to the Lord, and talking to other people about the Lord.

Psalm 124 was written by David, and it comes from David’s own experiences of deliverance. It is still sung today during the festival of Purim, which commemorates the deliverance of Israel during the days of Queen Esther.

Like the other songs of ascent, this was sung while families traveled to Jerusalem. In verse 1, you can imagine some father opening the song by singing, “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side—let Israel now say.” And then Mom nudges the children to join her in responding in verse 2, “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side.” Then all together they would sing in verse 8, Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

What praise will you offer the Lord for His deliverance?

Now Psalm 125 opens with a bold statement of faith: “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.” The psalmist makes another statement of faith in verse 2: “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore.”

Just as the mountains form a natural hedge around Jerusalem, the Lord surrounds His people. He has hedged us in, so to speak; nothing can touch us, beloved, unless God lets it through.

What I find interesting about these two statements of faith is that they are sung here during a time of great oppression. Verse 3 says, “For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous.” The scepter is a reference to those on the throne of authority in the land. Here, the psalmist grieves that the royal authority in the land is wicked. It is unsympathetic to the people of God.

Today I speak to people in many countries where the people of God are oppressed and persecuted. I speak to people who live in countries where it is a crime to convert to Christianity. Let me tell you, the people of God are not welcome where the scepter—the royalty in the land—is wicked.

Yet the psalmist is not giving up and throwing in the towel. He is making these great statements of faith because he refuses to doubt God’s promises to His people. He says in verse 5 that the Lord will lead away into judgment those who turn aside in their crooked ways.

Beloved, the occupying forces of evil are going to sit on their throne of power only a little while longer. The ungodly rulers appear to be in control, but it is only temporary. Indeed, God is the one who is in control, and He is using even these wicked rulers to guide the ship of human history into the harbor of His ultimate plan and purpose.

By the way, Jerusalem and the mountains surrounding that city are still there. They have been there for thousands of years, testifying to the promises of God that one day will fully be realized. There is no Babylonian Empire over there, you cannot visit the palace of the Ninevites, and you have never met a Philistine; but you can go to Israel today and see what God has preserved and protected.

So, what do we do in the meantime, while we wait for the Lord to come back and rule the nations with perfect justice? Psalm 126 tells us. It uses this proverb to make its point:

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. (verses 5-6)

We might weep over our lost world, but let’s keep casting the seeds of truth. Let’s keep planting the seeds of the gospel of Christ, knowing that one day, all those tears are going to turn into shouts of joy.

I think of Robert Murray McCheyne, who moved the nation of Scotland to revival in the mid-1800s. He pastored less than seven years and died at the age of twenty-nine. Several years after his death, a young pastor visited McCheyne’s church and asked the old caretaker there “if he could tell him the secret of the amazing influence of Robert McCheyne.” The man invited the pastor to McCheyne’s old office and told him to sit in the chair. Then he instructed the visitor to put his head in his hands and weep. That, he explained, is how McCheyne did it.[3]

Listen, we can cry over the wickedness of our culture; we can cry over those ordained by God to leadership positions around the world. But are we crying over lost souls who need the gospel of Christ? (end)

Let’s focus on that great commission of our Lord—making disciples, sowing the seed with compassion and concern. The day is coming when the fruit of the harvest will be gathered and we will celebrate before our Lord with singing and shouting with joy.

[1] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Clarendon, 1978), 100.

[2] Ibid., 527.

[3] John Phillips, Exploring the Psalms: Volume Two (Loizeaux Brothers, 1988), 478-79.

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