Psalm 126 would seem to be linked to Psalm 137 as it refers to the return from the Babylonian captivity, but we’re not really certain Psalm 126 alludes to it. New American Standard Bible says, “When the LORD brought back the captive ones of Zion,…”, but the New International version has, “When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,…”, and that doesn’t sound like the captivity. Now what we have here is an example of a word translated one way that may really have multiple meanings where the phrase “turned again the captivity of Zion” may mean something besides the Babylonian exile. You might want to see the use this phrase in Psalms 14:7; Psalms 53:6: and Psalms 85:1 where the word “shuwb’ appears, and which means to ‘to turn back’. It’s used so often Jeremiah chapter 4; the ideal of the covenant people repenting and turning back to God which is so obvious here. It’s the idea of a time of pressure; a time of problems, and the people of God who already believe turning back to God in repentance and faith. And that seems to be the context here. Some try to make it Cyrus’ proclamation of 538 BC, and i know that’s a possible allusion because the same phrase is used in verse 4 where to calls on the people to return again. I’m not sure it fits automatically the Babylonian captivity though that would be one example of the kind of setting this Psalm was written to. “When the Lord brought back the captive ones to Zion, we were like those who dream” – it seemed so unreal, they thought they were dreaming when they were released under Cyrus by virtue of the decree that let all the peoples go home. Not just the Jews, but all the peoples. Basically, what the Persians did under Cyrus was that they had totally reversed the policies of Assyria and Babylonians who tried to keep control of the captive populations by deporting them to different areas, but the Persians tried to keep these captive people loyal by letting them go home and even paying the cost of rebuilding these national indigenous temples. And the Jews were one of the many that benefited from it that they could not contain their joy and exuberance so much so they exclaimed, “Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the nations, The LORD has done great things for them.” – you know the Jews have always been a witness to God. If God can be seen in how He’s dealt with Israel, i think He chose the Jews they’re so stiff-necked and rebellious. That’s what the book of Deuteronomy says, and God’s grace shows so clearly, and how He’s worked with the Jews and God’s faithfulness to the Jews can be seen in our modern world, and i think it’s a real showcase of God’s faithfulness.
Notice as it says in verse 3, “The LORD has done great things for us; and we are glad.” – remember that when the Jews went into captivity, God’s Name was in disrepute because the gentiles thought He couldn’t save His own people, and therefore considered Marduk was stronger. But here God shows He is the powerful One. He is the Controller of history. He is the One that has all power in Him as His people were restored. Now look at verse 4, “Restore our captivity, O Lord,…” – this is the idea that “the Lord turned Himself to the turning of Zion.” meaning, God returns to His people when they return to Him in repentance. Martin Luther thinks this verse is messianic and refers to the church. Others have said this refers to the historical setting of the return of the exile from Babylon under Ezra, Nehemiah, and Zerubabbel, and all the pressures they faced after they got back in the land. And that the second prayer is for God to sustain them. Some say, no it refers to the idea that the Jews were praying for more of their brother Jews to leave Babylon and come back to the Promised Land because they needed them. Now, which one of those i’m not sure; maybe it’s all three because i believe in prophetic foreshadowing in the Old Testament where a contemporary event foreshadows an eschatological event. Now, “…as the stream-beds in the South” – these are the dry river beds in the Negev that only ran certain times of the year. Water being a sign of God’s blessing was used as God fully restoring this desert land to abundance. Now, verses 5 and 6 speak about the idea that the Jews were saying that they were going forth weeping in repentance; the tears being a symbol of that, and God who is in control who is in control of history will seal our hearts, and in our repentance will bless us. Even in hard times we need to entrust our lives to God; continue to do things of faith and continue to live for Him. God is going to bless us if we’re true to God in times of stress, and failure, and problems. God is going to bring us to a time of blessing because we’ve trusted in Him. I think that’s the witness here, and whatever particular historical setting is, God can be trusted even at a time like the Babylonian exile. I don’t know what you’re going through, but you haven’t experienced anything that bad and that confusing that God can’t be depended on. If we turn to Him, He will restore us! Hallelujah!