September 29 (Daily reading: Nehemiah 11-13; Psalm 126) The theme of joy continues in today’s reading. When the time came for the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, Nehemiah organized a joyful celebration. He brought Levites “to Jerusalem so that they might celebrate the dedication with gladness, with hymns of thanksgiving and with songs” (12:27). He put the leaders on top of the wall, and they followed two choirs which went in opposite directions as they sang and gave thanks. The choirs ended up in the temple, along with the officials and the priests, who offered sacrifices to God. They “rejoiced because God had given them great joy, even the women and children rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar” (12:43).
Psalm 126 (NIV) was written to describe the joy of the exiles who returned to Jerusalem. “We were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy” (vv. 1-2). The surrounding nations sang, “The LORD has done great things for them,” along with the people of Judah: “The LORD has done great things for us; we are filled with joy” (vv. 2-3). The psalmist reminded them that the joys of harvesting would come after the labor of sowing: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him” (vv. 5-6).
I grew up singing the hymn (sing with me): “Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master, Tho’ the loss sustained our spirit often grieves; When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.” (“Bringing in the Sheaves,” words and music by Knowles Shaw and George Minor, Broadman Hymnal, 1940). “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Lk. 10:2).
– Al Gary