Unlike what you might think on Monday morning, work itself is not a result of the Curse on our first parents. Before the Fall, God gave them an assignment to tend his Garden. But it’s a sad fact that one result of sin is futile work. Work was never supposed to be back-breaking, or with a low rate of return, or a waste of time. But because of one foolish decision, our sowing and reaping sometimes produces thorns.
And unfortunately, that futility overshadows most human endeavors. Men build a home, a city, an empire, only to have it eventually collapse into dust and ashes. I think one of the great conceits of modern Americans is the foolish notion that this nation will last forever. When you compare this country’s history to a timeline of human existence, it’s barely a “blip.” On Wall Street, companies and corporations which were at the top of their game a few generations ago are now fading into the background or completely gone.
It can be especially tragic in the “micro” level. Starting around the latter part of 2008, we began to see some major problems in the housing/banking industry. These fault-lines were eventually revealed to run throughout our entire economic structure. It’s one thing to laugh at big “fat cat” bankers who lost their shirts, but we quickly learned that in this modern economy we’re all connected, and it’s impossible for one section to fall apart without all of us getting hurt. And since a majority of Americans have some type of investment in the Stock Market for their retirement, thousands of people who'd meticulously planned for their sunset years found all their savings were gone. All their financial hopes and dreams—gone.
But there’s good news. It doesn’t have to be that way. And that’s what today’s reading, particularly the last two verses, reminds us. The setting for this Psalm apparently was a return from Exile, but we’re not exactly sure of the date. The Lord, because of their rebellion and sin, had given them over to their enemies who had carried them away from their homeland.
Now they were allowed to return, and they were so awe-struck that it was like a “dream” to them. Their mouths were filled with laughter and songs of joy, and even the pagan nations around them were noticing how good the Lord was to them. It’s a Psalm of Ascension, so this would be very poignant—this is a song to be sung as you approach Jerusalem for worship.
Now here comes the punchline. They had surely thought that they would be experiencing nothing but tears for the remainder of their lives. They had gone out to the “fields” of life and sown their seeds while weeping, anticipating that nothing would come of it. And. . . surprise!!! The gracious and compassionate God had turned their sounds of weeping into joyful songs of worship. They'd come back in from the fields carrying sheaves of a fruitful harvest.
Maybe someone who’s reading this feels like those workers. You’ve sowed seeds, and sowed seeds, and then sowed some more seeds, and it looks like you’ve wasted your time. You haven’t, if you’ve been doing it for him. Hold onto Hebrews 6:10 and don’t let go: “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” Or maybe you need to reread 1 Cor. 15:58—“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” In due time, in his timing, you’ll bring those sheaves in, and this’ll be your testimony too: “The Lord has done great things for [me], and [I’m] filled with joy!”
Father, it’s so hard sometimes. Please give me the strength to keep working in the fields until you’re ready to give me the harvest. And patience too, please?