“When the Lord restored his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, ‘What amazing things the Lord has done for them.’ Yes the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy!” (Ps. 126:1-3).
To the Israelites, Jerusalem represented not only their homeland but their special relationship with God. Year after year, going back to Jerusalem had been the dream of many who had been forcibly moved far from their home. And now their dream was a reality. Their sense of elation seemed to bubble up from the core of their being, and it filled these returning people with laughter, songs, and joy.
But before the Israelites experienced the full joy of returning to Jerusalem, they had to make the long, arduous journey to get there. Although they did not know what this journey held for them, their knowledge about their homeland gave them a clear understanding of where they were headed, and that knowledge alone brought much happiness and anticipation.
It was a good thing that they knew about and longed for their ending destination, for as we have seen in prior passages, their journey to Jerusalem was dangerous and filled with many hardships. The prayer of the people became, “restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert” (Ps. 126:4). This prayer was not merely a figure of speech, for their long journey taught them much about the grueling demands of traveling through a hostile desert inhabited by equally hostile people. Every step they took toward Jerusalem would have been made only through gritty determination and faith.
But the people were not left to bear these hardships alone. Having their loved ones and friends on the journey would have brought some comfort. And knowing that God was with them and guiding them had to bring reassurance, even if it did not eliminate the pain of their circumstances.
What must it have been like for these weary, beat-up travelers when they first glimpsed their homeland? The joy of anticipation at the beginning of the journey could not compare to the joy of finally being home. The joy of this homecoming was beyond their imaginations; it had to be experienced.
The Israelites were traveling to Jerusalem. Our life’s journey is toward Heaven. But the two journeys share many similarities. There will be difficulties on our journey, many of which we will never foresee. Our relationship with God can give us assurance and hope as we struggle through these difficulties. Our relationship with loved ones can give us support and encouragement. Our anticipation of Heaven can help us to keep moving forward, even when it is hard to do so.
And when the journey is over, the joy of coming home to Heaven will far surpass anything we can imagine now. The difficulties of the journey will dissolve into the joy of reaching the destination. And part of that joy will be sharing a home with God, for He has promised that “I will make my home among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Ezek. 37:27).
It is a home where our laughter and joy will lead to the same conclusion as the Israelites’ about their homecoming: “Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us!”
© 2010 Arlina Yates