This Song of Ascents refers to the Exile and Restoration, but looks back upon it from a later date. Yet still fresh in memory was the giddy joy of the imperial announcement that the Judeans could go home and rebuild their city and temple. The terminology in the first refers to a restoration of something that was confiscated. But restoring the freedom to live in the place God granted their Father Abraham, and the ridge line where David built his royal capital, seemed almost too good to be true.
So even as they were preparing to depart, they were singing with irrepressible joy. The other nations crowded into the Babylonian ghettos around them were echoing the celebration in recognizing that Jehovah had finally called His people back home. Wasn’t it a wonderful thing to watch? Yes, say the Judeans, what a wonderful thing He has done for us and we can’t keep it to ourselves.
But everyone knows that when they did come home, it was anything like the dreams they had treasured for so long. There was trouble from every side and it seemed to take forever before they started rebuilding the city, and yet longer still to build the Second Temple. Frankly, there was precious little of the giddy joy left as the Returnees clustered around the city and the vast majority stayed behind in Babylon, never to return. Some Restoration!
Lord, can we go back and finish it? Can we even today, return to the purity of devotion that drove us back here, but keep our faith intact this time? It would be like that brief rainy season in the southern wastes of Judea. For most of the year the wadis were dry, but for just a week or so those watercourses were roaring torrents. We need a heavy rain of Your Spirit, O Lord.
Imagine the farmer who lives in troubled times. He faces great anxiety and serious hunger, but he must sow his grain on the ground when planting time comes. Once that harvest comes, though, the bad times are forgotten in the abundance of blessings.