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Turnings To God

Psalm 126

This seventh song of degrees probably follows the remnants return from the captivity of Babylon.
This is probably when it was written because in it we find the phrase: "the captivity of Zion."

If this is the particular event in which it was written, we do not have to limit this Psalm to this time in Israel's history.

Thankfully, God delivers us from our limitations and releases us from any bondage that would bind us.
The Lord liberates us and we experience turnings and returnings.

So spiritually speaking, this period is marked by a progressive turning or returning of Zion.
During this stage of one's Christian experience, the soul is progressively being delivered from
the bondage of flesh.

In short his soul is being set free for God. It is just as our Lord said: "You shall know the truth
and the truth shall set you free. If therefore the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed
."

There is a gradual emancipation of the soul from the hold of the flesh until it reaches that liberty
which the children of God enjoy in the Spirit.

To come to a real understanding of the 126th Psalm, we need to understand the relationship
between two metaphors which we find in this Psalm.

The Psalm begins with the captivity of Zion. To put it more literally, it begins with the turning
or returning of Zion.
It ends with the sowing and the reaping.
On the surface these two metaphors appear to have no connection between them.
What possible relationship could they have?
When we dig beneath the surface of things, we recognize the connection.

We learn that they are speaking of the same thing.

Our soul must be likened to a seed - a very precious seed.
We know that any grain, if it is ever to be increased and multiplied, must be sown.
Yet, it is not always easy for a farmer to scatter his seed.
For instance, in a season of famine every seed is extremely valuable to the farmer
and to his family.
Each grain is considered as food for his family.
So, a farmer would be reluctant to scatter his seeds as though he were throwing them away
only to decay in the field and become nothing.
The farmer knows that he must sow his seed if he wants it to multiply.
He must sow his precious seeds.
He must take grains of food away from himself and his family and bury them in the soil
and let them die.
That is the only way they will increase.

After the seeds are sown, the life within their hard shells is given the opportunity to multiply.
This is the only way that the life imprisoned in that hard shell will emerge and multiply.
If it is not sown, it remains imprisoned and limited.
Only as the seed goes through death can there be life.

This is an illustration of the captivity of Zion. Zion represents those who love the Lord
and symbolizes the Christ-life which is in us.
We know that the King dwells in Zion.
We know it is there that God dwells.
So, Zion represents the Christ-life which is in us.
It is that life which is full of power.
It is full of strength and authority.
It is a glorious and triumphant life.
It is a victorious life.

Christ lives within us.
We possess the life of Christ, but our flesh acts as an outer shell limited and surrounding
that life within us.
If we want this power to be increased and multiplied in us, that outer shell of self has to be broken.
That outer shell must go through death.
This selfish, carnal life of ours must be brought to nothing that Christ may be "all in all" in our lives.

This is the problem in many Christian lives today.
After years of belief in the Lord Jesus, there is not much growth.
Christ is not being increased in those lives.
They are living life in their own self-centered ways.
The mind of Christ is not being manifested in them.
The love of Christ is not being revealed in them.
When they make decisions, they are not seeking the Lord's will.
They are living life the way they want to live it.
In their everyday experience, the life of Christ is imprisoned within them and is not being released.

Our soul can not only be likened to a seed, it can also be likened to a farmer.
A farmer must carry his seed into the fields and scatter them or sow them.
As stated earlier, the farmer may be reluctant if faced with a famine to keep these seeds
for food instead of sowing them.

Therefore, the psalmist says that he may "sow in tears."
The psalmist says that the farmer scatters his seeds with tears.
Yet, he must sow.
But, when the rains come and the harvest time arrives, he will then reap with rejoicing.

Are we willing to throw ourselves away as though we were losing our life?
In this second stage of our Christian life, God will reveal to us by His Word the necessity
for a brokenness - the death of our flesh.
God may also arrange countless experiences and events for this brokenness
to be worked out in our lives.

We will discover that when we are truly giving ourselves to the Lord, the life of Christ in us
becomes so amazingly real and powerful.
This is the way the Lord is increased in us.
When such things happen, we discover that we are filled with laughter and joy.
We laugh!

Often, we do not have the right words to describe our feelings, but our inner feelings
find their expression in laughter.
We are overwhelmed.
We simply laugh.

Our voices are filled with rejoicing.
This is all happening because the Lord has made Himself real to us.
All the pains and sorrows of captivity are now forgotten, for this experience with the Lord
has more than compensated for all the troubles and sorrows.
The life of the Lord has been released in our life.

Then the psalmist continues with a prayer: "Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as the streams
in the south
."
This expression is used to describe the turning of captivity: "As the streams of the south."

The southern part of Palestine is a dry place.
There are streams there, but during the dry season they are all dry.
Since these river beds are dry, people can walk in them.
Also, since there is no water, there is no vegetation. It becomes extremely dry.
Then, suddenly, the rainy season returns, and every one of those dry river beds is filled with water.
The river beds become full of life.
They begin to flow, and vegetation starts to sprout up all over the place.

This is another very appropriate figure to represent our inward condition.
Our soul is like the bed of a stream. It was made for God, and it was made for Him to fill.
God, Himself, is our living water.
Our Lord is the Water of Life to us.

Yet, we often find the condition of our soul to be like those dried-up streams in the Palestinian southland.
There are many times in our spiritual experiences when we feel as though God is not with us.
We feel barren as though we had dried up.
We feel powerless and without purpose.
We are dissatisfied with ourselves.
We just want to crawl away and hide in a hole somewhere.
We know there is no place to run.
We are in a season of drought.
Everything about us is arid and parched.
We are ashamed that we are not what we should be.

Do you remember having those feelings?
This is when our souls need to be laid bare before God.

So, during this second stage of our Christian experience, we learn this matter of faith.
Even though we feel as parched as the streams in the south, we will still come to God in faith
and say, "Lord, do whatever you will with me. I want Christ to be increased within me.
I want self to be decreased
."
Then, the streams are full of water once again.
We read in verse five that when one sows with tears, he reaps with shouts of joy.
The sowing is at the time of drought, but the reaping comes after a season of rain.

Praise His Holy Name!

Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White