Rejoicing

After the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem was completed, there was a celebration in which the wall was dedicated. Nehemiah’s description of what took place showed that it was a very joyous occasion. He said, “And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgiving, and with singing, with cymbals, psalteries, and with harps” (Nehemiah 12:27). Nehemiah choreographed a sequence of steps and movements that involved dividing the Levites into two great companies. According to Nehemiah’s plan, “One went on the right hand upon the wall toward the dung gate…with the musical instruments of David the man of God, and Ezra the scribe before them…And the other company of them that gave thanks went over against them, and I after them, and half of the people upon the wall” (Nehemiah 12:31,36,38).

Nehemiah went on to say, “Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off” (Nehemiah 12:43). One of the songs that was likely sung at the dedication of the wall was Psalm 126. This short psalm is part of a collection of psalms known as the songs of degrees which were sung by Jews that traveled to Jerusalem for festivals. Psalm 126 focuses on the fulfillment of God’s promise that his chosen people would return to the Promised Land after their captivity was completed. It says:

When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them. The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the south. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. (Psalm 126)

A key statement in this psalm is actually a promise that reveals God’s intent in sending his people into captivity. Psalm 126:5 states, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. God dispenses his blessings based on a system of sowing and reaping. Jesus eluded to this in one of his teachings known as the beatitudes which means supreme blessedness (Matthew 5:3-11). Before they went into captivity, God’s people lacked faith and were unresponsive to his warnings about the dangers that lay ahead of them. After they returned to the Promised Land, the Jews were thankful and felt extreme joy even though they were dealing with great affliction and reproach from the nations around them (Nehemiah 1:3).