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Sermon from Psalm 126 – Captive! June 1, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Joy, Psalms, Religion, Sermons.


Psalm 126:1-6

At the close of the Civil War, both the Army of the Potomac under General Meade and the Army of the Tennessee under General Sherman were to march in parade in Washington before the review of Lincoln and a host of dignitaries and common people. “…midtown Washington…had never been so crowded as it was on [the Tuesday and Wednesday that the two armies respectively marched]… All the national flags were at full staff for the first time since [the assassination of President Lincoln nearly six weeks before].

On May 23rd the Army of the Potomac marched. They were impressive. The cavalry alone formed seven unbroken miles…steel-shod hoofs clopping for a solid hour past any given point.” Sherman worried about his boys. They were by all accounts good soldiers but a motley crew. Sherman’s hope was that his veterans would not be sneered and laughed at by the crowds.

The next day as he led his six corps, from Capitol Hill to the White House, “he lacked the nerve to glance rearward…” until the parade route turned sharply toward the White House. He need not have worried. “They march like the lords of the world!“ spectators exclaimed. What set them apart from the Army of the Potomac, however, were the reminders of their battles and marches during the past year. “Some were grim…Hushes came…when ambulances rolled past in the wake of each division, blood-stained stretchers strapped to their sides.” Other reminders evoked laughter, “…however: not the kind Sherman had feared – each corps was followed by a contingent of camp followers, Negro men and women and children riding or leading mules alongside wagon filled with tents and kettles, live turkeys and smoked hams. Pet pigs trotted on leashes and gamecocks crowed from the breeches of cannon, responding to cheers. ‘the acclamation given Sherman was without precedent…The whole assemblage raised and waved and shouted as if he had been the personal friend of each and every one of them.’” Why? The captivity of war was over.

This is how this psalm opens, with a recounting of the parade march of the captives who had been set free. However, we find that the memory of what God has done for us becomes the basis for our life here in a troubled world.

The LORD (Jehovah) has done great things for us in the past (verses 1-2). There is nothing in this psalm by which we can decide its date, further than this, — that it is a song written during a captivity looking back at a time of captivity. The history of Israel is a history of deliverance from captivity. The nation that was birthed through captivity and deliverance in Egypt has suffered captivity multiple times. In fact, a major component of God’s covenant with Israel is captivity. If you disobey me, I will send you into captivity but I promise, “I will deliver you.” This tells us a couple of important facts. During the time of this captivity, Israel was suffering as a direct result of their disobedience but God by allowing them to suffer in captivity was keeping His part of the covenant. Secondly, this psalm is the result of an attitude of faith. The writer of this psalm knew that they deserved what they were getting but were confident that God would not leave them there.

The LORD’s great acts restored those in captivity to a joyful circumstance (verse 1). Now we are not under the covenant that God made with the Jews but certainly we can learn from their situation. God wants us to rejoice in what He has done for us. Joy in the LORD is produced by a recognition of what God has done for us. I came across in Spurgeon’s “Treasury of David”, a recipe for holy laughter.

Recipe for holy laughter

. —

1. Lie in prison a few weeks.

2. Hear the Lord turning the key.

3. Follow him into the high road.

4. Your sky will burst with sunshine, and your heart with song and laughter.

5. If this recipe is thought too expensive, try keeping in the high road.

W. B. H.

The question is this, “How do you stay in the high road? How do you retain the joy of the LORD in your heart?” By remembering what He has done for you. Again, this brings us back to why we are memorizing Scripture. We memorize and we meditate on God’s Word so that the Holy Spirit can produce the fruit of joy in our lives through the remembrance of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.

The LORD’S great acts were obvious to those who saw them (verse 2). One of the most neglected truths of both Old and New Testament is the fact that God’s working in the lives of His people is noticed by the heathen. We see this in Jericho where they shut the gates of the city because of fear of the God of Israel. We see this in the New Testament where Paul gives testimony in place after place how that the Holy Spirit took their lives and what God had done in their lives and made it a testimony to the transforming power of the resurrected Christ. People need to see in our lives the transformation that Jesus Christ has performed in our lives.

We are glad and confident during our present troubles because of the great things the LORD (Jehovah) has done for us (verses 2-4).

Gladness based on the LORD’s great acts is sustainable (verses 2-4a). Gladness is not just a positive feeling about something. It is the heart attitude that produces the singing and laughter of verse 2 and the joy and rejoicing of verses 5 and 6. Those words describe the outward act based on gladness but gladness is the attitude of the heart that is produced when we realize what God has done for us. Like I mentioned earlier, we normally use the term joy. What I want you to notice is that joy and gladness are sustainable during times of trouble. The writer of this psalm is in captivity himself. The troubles that surround Him are great. His people are oppressed, perhaps even enslaved. Yet He has gladness, not because circumstances are good but because his God is both good and great.

Confidence based on the LORD’s great acts reveals itself in our prayers (verse 4). Verse 4 is the prayer around which this psalm is centered. “Do it again, LORD! Do it again, LORD!” How? As the streams in the south.

The South Country of Judah was a dry area but there were certain times of year when the rains would come and the wadis would be filled with water. The psalmist is saying, “I know we are in trouble, we are in a barren place, it looks like God has deserted us. LORD, will you not revive us again? Will you not send the rains and the snow that brings life into this desert land?” How could he be so bold in his prayer? Because he knew the covenant of God, he knew what God had done in the past, and he knew that God would keep His promise.

Even in our present trouble we can look forward to the LORD (Jehovah) again doing great things for us (verses 5-6).

Our troubles produce genuine sorrow (verse 5a). Now I want you to notice that tears are not what is sown. This psalm is not teaching that if you cry enough, God will answer your prayers. What this psalm teaches is the reality of tears in the life of one who is trusting God. In this case, the sorrow is a result of the sin of the nation. The psalmist is expressing faith that God will deliver them even from their desperate situation. What is being sown here is the prayer for God’s deliverance. The harvest is the deliverance of God and that harvest produces joy.

God’s answers produce singing (verses 5b-6). The word for “joy” and “rejoicing” are the exact same word that we find in verse two translated “singing.” The concept here is a ringing cry. When I was living in the college dorm, someone decided that they would allow the boys to serenade the girls’ dorms at Christmas time. This supposed to happen from about 10:30 to 11 in the evening. I got off work about 10:15 and as I arrived on campus about 10:30 I could hear a noise that the like I had never heard before. It is around fifteen hundred girls crying out at the top of their lungs. I know it was the girls because you could hear the high pitch of their voices. There was over a city block between our dorm parking lot and the nearest of the three girls’ dorms. The sound of was a ringing cry. That is what we are talking about in these verses. The expression of joy is not a quiet confidence of the heart but a boisterous rousing cry of joy that can be heard all over the countryside. There is a place certainly for quiet confidence, for inner joy but when God does a mighty work in our lives, especially in response to great sorrow of heart, there will be no reason to cover our joy. We will be glad to shout or sing loud with joy in our worship of Him.

What is the basis of your prayers? Are they based on God’s past deeds? Are you confident because of what Christ did on the cross that your prayers will be answered? The reason we sometimes pray without believing is because we do not remember what God has done for us in the past. That is why we get disappointed when God does not answer the way we expect or the way that we hope. We have forgotten the ways of God.

When, however, you remember what God has done in the past in His Word, through Christ, and in your life and in mine, you will not lose your confidence. You will be able to sustain your joy. Not because you are a strong Christian but because He is a strong God.

If you are an unbeliever, you are a captive. This psalm is not talking about your captivity but according to the Word of God you are captive to sin. Paul describes this captivity in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”

That is a terrible picture but there is hope. In another place, Colossians 1:13-14, Paul speaking of Christ writes, “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

How then do we release ourselves from the blindness of Satan? Paul continues in that same chapter in verses 21-23a, “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight–– if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard…”



1. Leah Smith - June 2, 2008

Hello from Georgia ! to Pastor Talley,
I am still amazed at the internet! I am a 47 year old wife/Mom who seeks the Lord daily.He speaks to me “sometimes” with one word….the word yesterday (while putting on make up to go to Church LOL) was…”mordecai”…I gave it a glimpse of thought and proceeded with my a.m….today I heard it again…I googled the name and found your sight! I learned what I needed , thanks to you. I also read your sermon from yesterday which spoke to me. The Lord seems to be leading me into a songwriting career….and has been since 2005….HE is amazing…I know he speaks in my quiet time…and thru the internet from GA to VERMONT!!! WOW!
Thank you and God bless

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